There is more than one way to skin a cat…or so I’ve been told. Similarly (or maybe not) encouraging your children to develop a lifelong love of reading involves a variety of approaches and audio books can be an important addition to your bag of tricks.
Audio books are not an alternative to reading to your child or encouraging your child to read for themselves. However, listening to a book can fill in some gaps for your child in the following ways:
The child listening gets an opportunity to hear what reading expressively sounds like. I am sure that you are a wonderful story-teller, but it’s great for the children to hear a variety of voices. One of the best audio books that we listened to when the children were younger was Harry Potter. They were mesmerized by the narrator’s interpretation of the story. Don’t take my word for it, though, the narrator, Jim Dale, won a Grammy for his work.
Children get an opportunity to hear difficult words pronounced correctly. My daughter often reads above her grade level and, as a result, would often encounter new words. She would understand the words, but the pronunciations that she conjured in her head were quite inventive and often incorrect. For example, for years she thought ‘psyche’ was pronounced something like ‘p-sigh-a-ch’. It’s even better if they look at the book while they listen so they can see how the words are spelled.
If you are listening in the car, you can listen together and discuss the book. Seeing that their caregivers enjoy a book is one of the best ways to get children to love books as well. Listening to a book together, sharing the humorous sections, and discussing themes are great ways to show your children how important you think reading is. It also opens an opportunity to discuss difficult topics.
Listening to audio books (like reading aloud to your child) provide an opportunity to introduce children to books above their reading level. Children can enjoy books that are appropriate in terms of the content but may be too difficult for them to read on their own.
Listening to audio books sharpens our listening skills. When we listen for enjoyment, it trains us to truly listen to understand instead of listening while preparing a response. And wouldn’t the world benefit from a generation of better listeners?
Audio books provide similar benefits as reading when compared to more passive means of gaining information such as watching TV and looking at a screen. Listening to a book is neither an alternative to reading, nor a substitute for you reading to your children no matter how talented the recorded story-teller.
Finally, time with nothing to do is valuable. Children with free time on car trips, waiting in line, etc have the opportunity to spend that time dreaming, inventing, and observing the world. But there is only so much that can do for some young people, so when that boredom sets in, giving your child the option to listen to an audio book is a great alternative to screen time.
Do your children enjoy audio books? What are some of their favorites?