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Enhance Your Child’s Reading with Audiobooks

 

Audible© "The Mysterious Benedict Society" by Trenton Lee Stewart

Audible© “The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart

Using Audiobooks to Raise Your Child’s Reading Level 

As a homeschooling mother of four, I spend a lot of time trawling through curriculum resources searching for ways to enhance my children’s learning.  One of my favorite ways to supplement reading, bring it to life and make it enjoyable for my kids is to add audiobooks to their reading.  Although I read to my children almost every day and we always have a few audiobook projects in the works — it never hurts to add in additional time with the audio version of the book while they follow along with the print version (e-book or traditional).

 

Audiobooks Model Correct Prosody

Audiobooks have a wide array of subjects including fiction, non-fiction, plays, autobiographies and biographies, science, history and much more — we are never lacking in audio choices.  Some of you may be thinking:  I understand audiobooks are fun, but do they really count towards reading?  Yes, they do.  Audiobooks are a great resource that can be used to enhance your child’s reading comprehension, fluency and raise their reading levels.  Some people consider listening to the audio version of a book an ersatz substitution that shouldn’t be classified as “reading.”  While I do agree that audiobooks should not be used as a substitute for reading in and of itself, this incredible resource definitely has it’s merits and place in the literary world.  Audiobooks model correct pronunciation, intonation, reading prosody and offer endless listening opportunities.

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Audible’s Winnie-the Pooh by A. A. Milne

 

Shortly after joining my college cycling team I learned to draft.  For those of you that are not familiar with drafting, it’s a technique used in cycling (and car racing) that allows the cyclist to exert less energy while gently pulled forward by the cyclist or cyclists in front of you (And the more cyclists in front of you, the better the draft).  Depending on which way the wind is blowing, you may line up your front wheel to the right, left, or directly behind the wheel in front of you to latch on.  The Texas sun can be brutal, add to that a New Yorker with little exposure to weather outside the northeast, and a thirty or forty mile practice ride in 102 degree weather could be rather draining.  I think of audiobooks in a similar way to drafting.  Does a thirty mile bike ride count when you are drafting from the guy (or guys) in front of you?  You bet.  Would you be in better shape if you were out in front leading the pack without any benefit of a fantastic draft?  Yes.  Does it still count as exercise?  Most definitely.  The same holds true for reading via audiobooks.  It’s phenomenal if your child reads epic novels day and night, already has flawless pronunciation and perfect reading prosody — but if not, don’t feel bad that he or she is human.  Instead, formulate a plan to add audiobooks to your child’s reading schedule and help them achieve a nice effortless pull forward — some easy help akin to the perfect draft.

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Signs Your Child Could Benefit From Audio Books

Is your child often frustrated when he or she reads aloud?  Do they read too slowly, make too many mistakes and struggle with pronunciation?  If your child is complaining that books are boring, exhausting and a waste of time, consider adding audiobooks to your child’s reading repertoire to help address this literacy issue.  

As any parent knows that has tried to teach their child to read, reading is a complex process.  Many steps comprise reading fluency.  Fluency is defined as reading with correct speed, accuracy and proper expression.  When a reader is constantly stuck on words — trying to decode, pronounce and make sense of them — the student begins to lose the overall meaning of the sentence.   If this is happening sentence after sentence then reading comprehension is not achieved.  Fluency is increasingly important with each passing grade and by the time a child reaches the 4th or 5th grade their reading assignments increase to encompass many of their school subjects.  If your child is struggling to read at an appropriate speed, does not express correct intonations and doesn’t comprehend what they have read, then adding audiobooks should help your child’s reading skills and may improve their attitude toward books.

Why Adding Audio is Important to Improving Reading Comprehension 

Reading with expression, also known as prosodic reading, is a critical skill that allows the reader to correctly master the nuances of speech.  Prosody relates to correct rhythms and intonations of the reader.  Studies have shown a direct correlation between decoding reading skills and reading prosody.  Prosodic reading is considered a hallmark feature of reading fluency.

Reading with Audiobooks

Reading with Audiobooks

Intonations are important signals that allows the reader to distinguish the subtle variations of spoken pitch that are used to indicate the emotions, feelings and attitudes of the speaker.  For example, intonations are the sounds the speaker makes when they raise their voice up at then end of a question, allowing their voice to fall on the last syllable of a phrase or cluster of words.  When a reader comprehends intonation, they can distinguish between questions and statements and surmise the speaker’s meaning — are they angry, happy sad — or something else?   There is a direct link between understanding intonation and mastering reading comprehension.

We can help our children learn intonation patterns by reading aloud to our children, having them read aloud to us, and adding audio as another tool to aid our readers so they can hear correct intonation as spoken by masters of the English language.

When children listen to audiobooks they improve their prosodic reading by hearing the language correctly modeled by the speaker.  Just like when a child is read to, the more often he or she listens to audiobooks while following along with the text, the more likely he or she will learn correct pacing, pronunciation, and intonation.  This in turn strengthens their own expressive reading.

Benefits of Adding Audiobooks to Your Child’s Education

1).  It allows your child to independently access a literary world that was previously off limits due to their reading level.  Adhering to the same principal as when you read to your child, listening to books via audio allows your child to understand reading content that is above their existing reading ability.   

"The Westing Game" by Ellen Raskin

“The Westing Game” by Ellen Raskin

 

2).  Quality audio books are yours for the taking with today’s wide array of professional recordings read by some of todays (and yesterdays) best performers.

Some of my favorites include:

  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and performed by David Hyde Pierce
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and ready by the author
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle performed by Sir Derek Jocobi
  • My Early Life by Winston Churchill and ready by the author.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and The Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr. Fox written and read by Roald Dahl
  • Kate Winslet’s reading of Roald Dahl’s classic Matilda.
  • The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde as read by Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons, Sinead Cusak and others…
  • The Wizard of Oz read by Anne Hathaway
  • James and The Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons
  • Great Expectations written by Charles Dickens and read by Hugh Laurie

3).  Some literary works were just not meant to be read by yourself.  If you can’t see a play like one of Shakespeare’s live in the theatre — then consider the audio alternative:  Why read King Lear alone when you can follow along with Kenneth Branagh performing this tragedy?

4).  Audiobooks open up a world of literary options to your child — books before that were too difficult for them to read or grasp are now available to them.

When paired with the book or e-book via their tablet, Kindle, Nook, phone or computer they can improve your child’s reading fluency and comprehension.  This occurs when they can hear the correct pronunciation of words, speed, expression and rhythm of the language.  It helps auditory learners make connections that they would be difficult to make otherwise.

5).  Introducing your child to new genres is easy with audiobooks.  Have fun picking out various non-fiction books, autobiographies and biographies, dramas and challenging fiction.

6).  Audiobooks model fluent reading.

Resources for Adding Audio to Your Child’s Reading 

I always pair the audio book with either the e-book or traditional book so my child can follow along with the recording.  We do this by either checking out the book from the library via traditional print or e-book (more on this to follow), by using a copy that we already own, or accessing a copy via my Kindle account.

Using Your Library for Free Audiobooks

It’s no secret that I love the library — and using the library for free audiobooks is no exception.  Most libraries have decent collections of books on cd — and if you would like to start of with this method and transition to the downloadable version, I understand as this is where I started with audiobooks many years ago.  Last year I  transitioned our family from these to wireless downloads that are delivered to either my Kindle, computer, phone or one of the children’s tablets.   The reason we prefer   the downloadable version to the former audio CD’s is because it is so much easier, faster, there is never a CD that skips (which would always ruin a story and frustrate one of my kids), we never have to worry about damaging or losing a CD, and we don’t have to worry about return due-dates and late fees.  However, almost all libraries also has the latest wireless audio versions as well!  Usually this is through a subscription to Overdrive.  Overdrive has different subscription levels, so what you will have access to will depend on what subscription plan your library is using.

How to use Overdrive From Your Local Library to Access FREE Audiobooks : 

1).  If you don’t already have a library card, get one ASAP!

2).  Sign in to your library’s website.  Find the section for e-books, audiobooks, and e-audiobooks.  You should be able to find a link for Overdrive as part of your library account.  Sign up for an Overdrive account via your library account (which you access through your library card).

3).  Once you have set up your Overdrive account through your library card, begin to browse through the selections.

4).  Download the FREE Overdrive app for your device.  Overdrive is accessible with your Windows based computer, Iphone, IPAD and other MAC devices, NOOK, Kindle, smartphones,  tablets, and other devices.

Here are some tips for how Overdrive works:

A).  If the book has an icon with headphones then this signifies you may borrow the audiobook.  If an image of an open book appears instead,  then this means your library’s Overdrive collection contains that e-book.  If the icon is a light grey color — then the item is currently checked out.  You can still get it, however, you would just need to place it on hold and wait for it to become available.  If the color is shaded dark black this indicates the item is available now for you to borrow.  Just click on “Borrow Now” and follow the steps to access it.  You can chose to send to your Kindle, Nook, begin reading on your computer or other device.

B).  Since different libraries have different plans with Overdrive, your library may have a different limit on the number of items you are allowed to check out at one time.  For example, our local library allows us to have six items per library card — this includes either any combination of e-books, audiobooks, or e-audiobooks (the e-book and the audiobook combined together).  Overdrive also allows you to place a large number of items on hold and will email you when they become available.  You may also select the option to download it and add it to your “Bookshelf” the moment it is available, saving you adding time and steps.

 

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