What are audiobooks?

‘Approximately 80% of students with learning difficulties struggle with reading’
– Shaywitz, et al. 1990.

An audiobook, as I’m sure most of you are familiar with – even if you do not use them yourself – are voice recordings of a book that you can listen to, instead of reading. Audiobooks can be word-for-word versions, or even abridged depending on what you prefer, or what you wish to listen to, and can be used on any digital device.

‘The availability and quality of audiobooks has improved dramatically over the past decade’
– Johnson, 2003.

Why your children should use audiobooks:

Audiobooks can be very important to children struggling with learning difficulties, as like the text-to-speech applications, they can impact the way children learn by helping them gain confidence and independence when doing so.

‘75% of children with intellectual disabilities spend an excessive amount of time decoding grade level text’
-Boyle, 2002.

Listening to a text, rather than reading it, can have an effective impact on children as it keeps them interested in the text as they can understand the thought and emotion behind the wording more clearly.

Audiobooks can also be particularly helpful with skills such as fluency when reading and speaking, it allows children to understand the basic speed at which texts are often read.

When considering using audiobooks for educational resources, they can be even more effective. Although some children will find it more appealing to read out of a textbook or off a handout, some students – with or without learning difficulties – will benefit more from listening, especially if reading is something that they struggle with. Commonly, children with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, become discouraged from reading as they may not understand the pronunciation of certain words in a text, whereas when this word is read to them their understanding is perfectly clear.

‘Assisted reading approaches provide scaffolded support by using a fluent model as an example of effective reading practices’
– Esteves & Whitten, 2011.

a model of a person sitting on some headphones, reading a book. Symbolising an audiobook

A man sat on a pair of headphones reading a book, inferring the description of an audiobook.

Do audiobooks interfere with your child’s ability to learn to read?

Absolutely, definitely, one-hundred percent NOT. Do not get disheartened by the idea of listening to a book, rather than reading one, as it does not affect the way children learn to read.

As shown above, there are many different reasons why audiobooks should be used, and making reading ‘easier’ is not one of them. It develops skills that most children take for granted, for example, fluency, speed, and pronunciation. These skills could, in fact, encourage children with learning difficulties to try an actual book before an audiobook as it will help them to feel more confident with reading.

Benefits of audiobooks:

  • Improves pronunciation.
  • Helps students understand mood and other nuances hiding between the lines of text.
  • The accessibility of audiobooks – easily stored, transportable, cheaper than actual books.
  • Makes remembering a text easier for students with learning difficulties – as listening to a text has been proven more effective for retaining information.
  • Adds to the variety of ways children can learn at school.
  • In terms of teaching, it gives teachers the chance to use a wider range of techniques to try and suit all students.
Audobook logo: blue bubble with a white image.

Logo of audiobooks.

Where can I find audiobooks for my child?

It is always easy to find audiobooks for your child, for example, their school’s library, and perhaps your local library. However, there are also lots of places online that offer free or cheap audiobooks, some even recommended for children with learning difficulties.

Storynory is one website that offers free audiobooks for younger children, which include all the classic tales!

Lit2Go is another, which has a free online collection of stories and poems. This website also includes the written text so that your child can read along with the audiobook, and it categorises the texts based on their readability – giving your child chance to challenge themselves by choice!

LearningAlly  is another website that has been designed especially for children with learning difficulties. It has a grip on the challenges that your children face when it comes to reading and can offer specific audiobooks based on their needs.

Other wesbites such as; AudibleOverdrive and Downpour have also been voted as some of the best websites to get audiobooks from – it is a great way to learn, even if your child does not have learning difficulties!

From my own experience of audiobooks – I would definitely recommend!

Just click here to see the next blog post on Word Prediction Software!

References (in order of use): 
1. Shaywitz, s., Shaywitz, B., Fletcher, B., and Escobar, M., 1990. Prevalence of reading disability in boys and girls: Results of Connecticut Longitudinal Study [online]. 264. 998-2001. 
2. Johnson, D., 2003. Audiobooks: Ear-resistable! [online]. USA: The Berkeley Electronic Press. 
3. Boyle, E., 2002. Reading's SLICK with new audio texts and strategies [online]. 50-55. 
4. Esteves, K., and Whitten, E., 2011. Assisted Reading with Digital Audiobooks for Students with Reading Disabilities [online]. 51 (1). 21-40.