Yes, Audiobooks Are Real Reading. Here Are the Best Ones for Kids

(EdSurge) Tucked in, snuggled up, I still remember the hours I spent listening to my mother read aloud “The Hobbit.” I must have been about 8-years-old, and while I was a pretty strong reader, the complexity of that text (and certainly its length) would have made the story inaccessible to me. I hung on every word, fascinated by these new characters, blissfully lost in a whole new world.

As a preschool and elementary school librarian, I’ll tell you that there’s nothing more foundational for literacy than time spent snuggled up with a trusted adult, soaking in a story, sharing the words, laughing (or crying) and learning to love the way the words unfold in a well-told tale.

Recorded books may lack the lap and snuggles, but they definitely have their perks, and audiobooks have come a long way from the simple books-on-tape of years gone by. They have evolved a true experience through the use of talented narrators, well-chosen sound effects, and the integration of music.

I would argue that audiobooks are most definitely reading, offering rigor of a different sort and that these types of materials not only provide a path to story and information for kids who have visual impairments, dyslexia diagnoses or learning disabilities, but that they are powerful learning tools for all of us.

Listening to an audiobook requires a different kind of focus; it’s all about listening actively. And for those for whom traditional text comprehension is elusive or presents a struggle, audiobooks open up a whole world of possibilities for enjoying amazing literature. Their minds grow while exploring interwoven plotlines, character development, story arcs and themes. These concepts and constructs, so critical to growth as a reader, would likely be beyond their reach if they are only permitted to interact with the work through print.

Listening to an audiobook, especially while being able to follow along with a print copy, increases fluency for some students. And last but certainly not least I have found that students have the confidence to explore new genres in an audiobook format because their upfront investment of reading ability is lower. They soak up new vocabulary, improve their visualization skills and engage with above-grade-level texts.

Audiobooks are for everyone—the busy professional who wants to enjoy a story on their commute, an active kid who can’t (or won’t) sit still but who loves an adventure, a struggling reader who just wants to know the same stories her peers do.

My elder son is an active type of kid and not much of a reader. When we would listen to an audiobook as we ran errands as a family, and pulled into the grocery store parking lot in the middle of a chapter, he would beg for us to sit in the car until the chapter wrapped. He hung on every word. We bonded as a family over those stories, and my boys will tell you to this day that those are some of their favorite memories of childhood.

Let’s give all our students the chance to hang on to the words of a talented narrator, to get lost in a world that is new to them, or to revel in the twists and turns of an adventure. After all, it’s entertainment that is truly good for them.

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Publication:      EdSurge
Author:             Kimberly Rues
Publish Date:   2.16.2021