Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Five: 5 Reasons to Love Audiobooks

Audiobooks are getting short shrift! It was my experience as a fourth grade teacher that whenever I would encourage my students’ parents to make audiobooks a part of their children’s reading life at home, I would get blank stares and surprised exclamations. That always baffled me, as I love audiobooks so! Here are 5 reasons why.

1. Audiobooks build fluency and expression by providing a (usually) excellent model of fluent and expressive oral reading.

2. Audiobooks build vocabulary by allowing students to hear new words pronounced correctly and in context, without having to struggle with decoding. How did you learn to pronounce Hermione’s name? I learned it in an audiobook before the movies ever existed!

3. Audiobooks let students take a break from decoding and get into the story. It’s so important that students grow to love reading and value books; this facet of audiobooks can draw in a reluctant reader.

4. Audiobooks show kids that they, too, can be excellent readers, since so many children’s audiobooks are narrated by very capable, often precocious, child readers.

5. Audiobooks allow struggling readers to enjoy books at their own interest level, even if their reading ability is at a lower level. I have known several ten-year-old students who read at a first grade level, but none of them were particularly fascinated by Biscuit or Eric Carle.

These are just a few reasons to make audiobooks a part of your curriculum and a part of your own children’s reading experience. There are several ways to carry this out. Some children may benefit from reading along in a print version as they listen. This works well for books with illustrations (like E.B. White), or for readers who are listening to books at or slightly above their own reading levels, but can be frustrating for children who are listening at levels much higher than they can read. Voracious readers might enjoy having a print copy on hand so they can continue reading when listening is not an option, such as during class. They will not necessarily want to read along while they listen. Some families find that car rides or bedtime are great times for the whole family to share in the audiobook experience together, and this can also facilitate discussion. Teachers may consider offering students the option of using audiobooks combined with print copies for book reports. I often suggested to parents of reluctant readers that they choose a really exciting audiobook--maybe even one in a popular children’s series--as the subject for our classroom book share project, and then choose a print book for the next project.

If the cost of downloading audiobooks or purchasing books on CD makes you cringe, check out your local library! The OverDrive Media app for iPhone and iPad allows you to “check out” audiobooks from your local library’s collection by downloading. Both audio and digital print versions are available. Many large library systems provide the capability of requesting a “hold” on books online, and receiving a notice when they are available for pickup. A few school media centers are also beginning to provide digital media checkout, and some even allow you to check out the device (such as a Kindle or iPod)! Call your school’s media specialist to inquire. Teachers who are interested in bringing this technology to their schools can talk to their Media-Technology Committees.

Picture courtesy of Chris Carey via Pics4Learning.

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