For many homeschooling families, the library is the bedrock of learning. The pages of books hold vast treasure troves of knowledge. Mining that knowledge, though, requires a skill known as reading comprehension.
Understanding written text is an ability that seems to come easily to some kids. Others struggle mightily to absorb meaning from the words they read. If you have a kid that falls in that second category, it can be tempting to stick more and more books under your child’s nose in the hope that comprehension will suddenly click.
Instead, maybe it’s time to try a new approach: audiobooks. For a parent who’s committed to growing voracious readers, audiobooks may feel a bit like cheating at first. Once you get to know the benefits of audiobooks for reading comprehension, though, you’ll realize that they’re one of the best tools in your literacy arsenal.
1. Audiobooks boost vocabulary.
It’s easy to identify words that kids have encountered only on printed pages. Young readers tend to speak them using pronunciations that make sense phonetically but are far from how the words are actually said.
Along the same lines, kids may come across words in books that they don’t know they know. If they listened to the word spoken aloud, they’d recognize it instantly. On paper, though, it doesn’t seem like anything they’ve heard before. As a result, the meaning of the text gets lost.
When kids meet words in audiobooks, they’re spared these troubles. From the outset, they hear the words exactly as they’re meant to be said.
There are at least three benefits to this:
● Children file new words — with proper pronunciations — into their mental word banks.
● Kids don’t stumble over-familiar words just because they don’t stick to conventional spelling rules. Instead, young readers instantly recognize those words when they hear them.
● Because readers aren’t struggling to puzzle out the pronunciation of unfamiliar words, they can invest their efforts in understanding what the words mean in context.
To enhance these benefits, have your kids follow along with printed words while also listening to the audio. When kids see and hear the words at the same time, the flashbulbs of comprehension may light up again and again.
2. Audiobooks help kids understand nuance.
Young readers don’t always grasp nonliteral language, especially in written text. While readily apparent to an adult reader, written sarcasm may go right over a kid’s head. Hearing the tone could make all the difference.
Audiobook narrators can convey the subtleties that kids might otherwise miss in the text. When the author’s intended tone becomes apparent, the story starts to make a lot more sense to struggling readers.
3. Audiobooks encourage visualization.
Reading printed words requires kids to engage their eyes. They can’t easily absorb the words and the pictures on the page at the same time. On the other hand, kids can take in the illustrations while also listening to the words read aloud. A 1981 study from the Journal of Verbal Listening and Verbal Behavior supports this idea.
Even when it comes to books without pictures, listening may help kids experience richer visualization. Without the struggle to understand the words on the page, kids have more brainpower available to build whole worlds in their minds. The more complete their mental images are, the better they may understand the story.
4. Audiobooks stir an emotional connection.
Struggling readers often find books dry and boring. Developing an emotional connection to a story can turn that attitude right around. When a tale grabs hold of kids’ hearts, it’s hard for them to get enough of the book. They’re driven to invest effort in understanding the story.
According to a 2018 study out of University College London, hearing books read aloud may be one key to invoking an emotional response. The researchers found that listening to a read-aloud stirred greater responses than watching a video portrayal. The listeners experienced faster heart rates and warmer body temperatures as they engaged with the story.
According to the researchers, this may be related to the visualization that happens as listeners hear a story read aloud. As your kids listen, they make themselves part of the story’s world, and they care about what happens there.
5. Audiobooks drive kids to higher-level texts.
Kids’ listening levels don’t always match their reading levels. According to the Audio Publishers Association, it’s common for students to comprehend audio texts that are at least two grade levels above their current reading abilities.
For struggling readers, this can be an invaluable asset. Students who read below grade level often end up stuck with simple texts that are short on meaning. As a result, they miss out on important details that other students their age are receiving.
With audiobooks, it doesn’t have to be that way. When kids listen to texts that are on the same level as what their peers are reading, they’ll take just as much — or more — from each lesson. In fact, you may find that your reluctant readers begin to devour complicated texts when they’re presented in an audio format.
6. Audiobooks grow confidence.
For a struggling student, the ability to understand challenging books can be an instant confidence booster. Over time, that may develop into a greater love for printed books, too.
Sometimes, it just takes falling in love with one audiobook to help break down students’ reading anxiety. Before you know it, you may have a kid who just can’t get enough of books, no matter the format.
This article was provided by LightSail for Homeschoolers’ team of experienced homeschool moms/writers. LightSail is an adaptive online language arts program for grades pre-K through 12. A foundation in the science of reading and writing combined with the experience of a team of home educators creates a family-friendly learning experience advancing skills in reading, writing, vocabulary, and fluency. LightSail provides tens of thousands of ChildSafe books and multimedia resources from leading publishers such as World Book and Lerner Publishing, including thousands of audiobooks in multiple formats: standard, text highlighting by word, and text highlighting by sentence.
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