I love reading and I have to say I love listening to audio books, but I have always felt like I am cheating. Likewise, when I play a book for reviewer Sam I feel like I should be reading to him, or he should be reading it himself. But still, when he is sick I love to play him audiobooks, and he enjoys listening. To my surprise I have found that audiobooks are still reading, and that they improve literacy.
One of the questions I get asked most when I am selling books is ‘What have you got for someone who does not like reading.’ Most children are excited about going to school and learning to read, but so many get put off as their peers surge ahead and they find they cannot keep up. This may be for many reasons, but the effect is the same. When kids talk ‘in the school yard’ about Percy Jackson and you are still reading Zac Power you feel left behind and lose interest. So why not let your child listen to the audio Percy Jackson? They can then at least keep up with the others.
Well apparently it does more than just allow your child to talk with the other kids. While your child is listening to the story they are developing their core language, as we learn language first through listening. If a child listens to a story rather than read it they can still participate in discussions about plot and characterisation, which is where we are really trying to get to with literacy. In fact research has shown you can develop a deeper understanding of a story when they listen as they do not have to decode the language.
And ‘reading’ an audiobook does not need to be limited to fiction. One of the things we parents worry about is if our child does not read then how will they cope when they have to study textbooks? Well text books can also be listened to.
While listening will not replace reading requirements, it will help literacy skills develop, and research has shown that it can even turn non-readers into active readers. So when you get in the car with your children for that long trip, leave the devices in their cases and turn on and audiobook and sit back and enjoy.
I read quite a bit to write this blog. Here are the links if you want further reading.