Audiobooks are a great way to engage reluctant readers in the classroom. While some might suggest audiobooks aren't "real reading," research suggests audiobooks can reduce the anxiety of struggling readers so these kids have a better chance to improve listening skills and reading comprehension.
Why would teachers consider audiobooks over the reading of traditional print books?
It's easy to remain fixated on print, but audiobooks are a wonderful way to engage students in the classroom.
Audiobooks provide an immersive experience that allows children to visualize the characters and scenes in a story as they hear them described. Not only is this a fun way to engage the content, but it also takes the pressure off students who might otherwise struggle with the material, giving them the chance to benefit from the read even if they've had a hard time with some words.
But do audiobooks help with reading?
They definitely can.
When students listen closely and engage with the material, audiobooks will require practice of the same critical thinking skills used when reading traditionally printed text.
Teachers can expect a wide range of benefits for their students:
Enhanced Vocabulary through Word Exposure
By listening to audiobooks, young readers will be introduced to new words with context clues to help them determine meaning. Listeners will be expanding vocabulary just as they would if reading books for themselves.
Increased Engagement from Struggling Readers
Some readers are intimidated by text on a page. Audiobooks are a great way to ensure these struggling readers can access the same material the other kids are reading in class without the worry of falling behind.
Improved reading comprehension skills
When students struggle with unfamiliar words, they are often pulled out of the story. Audiobooks give these readers a chance to stay focused on the narrative, helping them to build comprehension skills that are sometimes forgotten when students spend too much time sounding out words.
Strengthened Focus and Working Memory
There's no turning back to see what you missed or forgot with an audiobook. This forces students to stay focused on the material so they don't fall behind. The need to remember key points can help young students hone their memory skills, leading to greater success in the classroom.
How can a teacher successfully use audiobooks in the classroom?
As with any other classroom activity, a teacher's success will depend largely on how well they have planned the lesson...
- Choose an audiobook that is appropriate for the reading level of every student in class. If you go too far outside the comfort zone of struggling readers, these students are likely to lose ground.
- Find a book that has an interesting story, exciting plot, and engaging character. Students are more likely to tune out a boring narrator talking about events in history than they are an animated reader sharing an action-packed adventure. Hi-lo books are a great place to start.
- Use audiobooks that include sound effects and music if you can. You'll be stunned at how just the hint of background music will push your students to sit up straight and pay attention.
- Stick with human readers. AI is getting better every day, but nothing turns off a listener more than a narrator who sounds like a robot.
- Establish a routine so your students have the chance to become better listeners over time. Enjoying an audiobook will take practice just like reading from any other book.
- Discuss the material after students have listened. In fact, ask what THEY think of audiobooks.
What challenges might a teacher face when introducing audiobooks to their students?
Some students may treat listening to audiobooks as a passive activity. Teachers will have to keep an eye on these kids as audiobooks don't provide a chance to start over at the beginning. If a student falls behind while listening to the audio, he or she may struggle to catch up.
The best way to sidestep this problem is to make sure your students recognize they will be asked to demonstrate an understanding of the material they heard. Create lesson plans and other activities related to the audiobook that encourage kids to stay engaged.
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The best place to find additional audiobooks for your kids
While you can often find audiobooks available to stream for free on websites like Spotify and YouTube, Audible.com has become an invaluable resource for teachers with thousands of high-quality audiobooks for students at any reading level. A free trial gets you access to everything in the Audible plus catalog.