I was talking to a friend the other day about an impending long car ride she would be taking with her five-year-old granddaughter. She was wondering how she could help pass the time and I mentioned the possibility of getting some audiobooks for the trip. “I forgot all about audiobooks! Do they make those for kids too?”
Indeed, audiobooks are available for ma
ny children’s books. Searching my local library and online audio download sites, I found a wealth of great audiobook possibilities. The titles varied from short picture books (in which the child can follow along with the picture book) to larger chapter books. I found some of my favorite classics from when I was a child (Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, the L. Frank Baum Oz series of books, etc.) as well as many popular current titles.
There are many benefits to having your child listen to audiobooks. While I wouldn’t want it to supplant the daily reading your child does independently and the nightly read-aloud time you have with your child, I think audiobooks can be a great supplement to your child’s literary experience.
One of the main benefits of audiobooks is that it models verbal fluency. Most of these audiobooks have incredibly talented, professional actors who help bring these stories to life in a fluid, expressive, captivating manner. Whereas when your child is reading on her own, she might need to stop to sound out a word or reread something that was confusing, an audiobook provides a model of reading without interruption. The more exposure children have to these type of literary experiences, the better their own fluency will become.
Children will also discover the fun and joy in literature by getting swept up into these audiobooks. Many audiobooks have multiple narrators, sound effects, and other dramatic enhancements. Listening to these books allows your child to become immersed in this book’s world—an experience that will no doubt inspire them to become lifelong learners.
There are also some specific reading strategies that can be developed and strengthened by listening to audiobooks. Listening to an audiobook will help your child internalize narrative structure. Audiobooks also will reinforce certain writing mechanics, such as the use of quotations and speaker tags in stories. Your child will also be exposed to new vocabulary—he’ll hear these new words pronounced correctly and can use context clues to gather the meaning.
I’ve spoken before in this column about the importance of listening comprehension. Not enough time is spent on this in the classroom. Being able to be an active listener is a skill that is essential for success in life. Listening to an audiobook requires your child to pay careful attention to what’s going on in the story. She can’t get distracted by multitasking or daydreaming or she’ll miss important plot points. It will force your child to practice staying focused on one thing. Audiobooks can also build up your child’s listening endurance. Many of the chapter books are quite long and if you play the book for increasingly longer stretches of time, your child will be exercising that part of her brain.
Listening to audiobooks together as a family is yet another way to promote a love of reading. How wonderful it would be for the whole family to listen to a book together and then discuss it afterwards. You’ll be amazed at the high-level conversations you can have with your children about a common book.
Do you spend a lot of time in the car shuttling around your child from activity to activity? Are you looking for an activity for your child to do for some downtime while you’re cooking dinner or cleaning up? Instead of turning on the television or some other screen, consider trying an audiobook. You won’t be disappointed.