Audio books are a great way to teach children to love reading. Who doesn’t love to be told a story? I don’t know of anyone. Reading to your child is great, but having them listen to audio book is also good for their brains.
Audio books are extremely effective for improving reading comprehension and fluency. With technology today, audio books are so readily available, easily portable and have excellent narrators. While teaching some struggling students I found that audio books helped them.
I was using Classroom Book Clubs in my classroom on a regular basis, but I was experiencing a problem when it came to book selection. Many of my 5th graders were signing up to be in groups with difficult books that I knew they couldn’t read on their own. What to do? Require them to choose an easier book that didn’t interest them?
Or let them choose a difficult book, knowing that they would probably drop out of the group later?
Fortunately, I discovered a simple solution to this problem: audio books. I located audio versions of some of my favorite student books like Hatchet and Shiloh, and I allowed students in those groups to listen while reading their books each day.
To manage the problem of multiple users needing the same audio player, I figured out how to connect several students via headphone adapters connected together. I assigned one student in each group the role of “Audio Captain” who would start and stop the audio player as needed.
All students were expected to have their own copy of the book open and follow along, tracking the text visually as they listened.
My students were very excited about the program, and the audio materials were constantly in use during reading class. After just a few weeks, I noticed something amazing. I could tell that the students who were using these audio materials regularly were becoming better readers!
They weren’t just becoming better listeners – their reading comprehension and fluency skills were improving, too!
These results intrigued me and I wanted to know more. I was in graduate school at the time, so I conducted an action research study to gather data about what I was observing. I selected eight struggling readers for my study, and I provided audio materials for every book that they read over a two-month period.
I compared their reading comprehension test scores before and after the study, and every single student made significant gains. The average score rose from 41% of their reading comprehension answers being correct in September to 60% correct in December!
I know it was just a small, informal study, but the results convinced me that I needed to continue using audio books. I began to wonder how listening to audio books could translate to improved reading skills. I finally realized that audio books can introduce students to a world of reading they’ve never known.
Fifth graders who can’t read well probably aren’t motivated by a steady diet of picture books and easy chapter books. But hook them up to an audio version of Hatchet, and the words begin to work their magic.
As students track the text with their eyes and listen with their ears, they see words they’ve heard before but were not able to recognize in print. They can apply the strategies that good readers use, from visualizing the events to making predictions. In the process, they discover the joys of a great book!