Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Value of Audiobooks

© Helder Almeida -
 Since I have dedicated this week to audio books, I want to take a moment to explain why and to sing their praises. Growing up, the only experience I had with them was a small set of cassettes that someone gave me when I was about three or four years old. It was a set of two or three cassettes and the accompanying children's books, the only one of which I can remember was Sinbad ("Don't worry about me men, I'll be all right!"). So I never REALLY enjoyed the beauty of listening to a book on tape. Back then, it was sort of frowned upon. Like you were cheating; too lazy to read the book, so you decide to listen to it instead.

So I never really thought much about them. But a little over a year ago, my mother sent my kids a copy of The Polar Express...and it came with a CD. One evening, too tired to read to my kids, I popped the CD in and laid down on the bed with my kids. Moments later the sound of Liam Neeson's voice swept me and my children away and off to the North Pole. That was their favorite book for weeks. Maybe even months.

The thought that maybe I was missing the boat and depriving my kids slowly crept into my brain and began to take hold. I began to notice little snippets of conversations by other homeschoolers and articles would catch my eye. And then, through my work with the Latin Baby Book Club, I was contacted by a publisher who was selling bilingual books with an accompanying CD (more about them later). I received samples and listened to the tapes.

And I was SOLD.

This past Christmas, I purchased several books from Barefoot Books during their Winter Sale. Both of them came with a CD. My children LOVED them. And I learned a valuable lesson: Audio books are a valuable tool to increase literacy in children. In fact, I would go so far as to say that ALL children should have access to audio books.

The act of listening to a story has such powerful impact on a child's literacy skills. I could see in my own children how it refines their listening skills and helps to build reading comprehension. If you have a child who is struggling to understand what he is reading, using audio books in conjunction with their reading practice could actually improve their ability to remember what the story is about, and help them internalize the meaning.

My husband asked me, "How do you know he's not just memorizing it?" I don't. Yes, he might be. And that's okay, because when I go back and ask him to read it again, pointing to the words as he reads, he remembers the story, which in turn helps him to remember word sounds and decode what is written on the page. His eyes are seeing the word, and his brain is remember the sounds and the meaning. Next time he runs across that word, it will be easier to read. Makes sense, no?

I think audio books also help children learn the rhythm of a well-written story. By listening, they learn about inflection and intonation. It trains their ear, so that they will begin to look ahead as they read so that they can read aloud in a similar manner.

They are also a wonderful way to introduce young children to literature that is too difficult for them to read, for example, the Classics. I think if we wait until children are old enough to read some of the classics, then our kids will be bored. They have to learn to appreciate well-written literature while they are young, before their minds get used to the easy "candy" on the bookshelf. The garbage that doesn't really inspire the imagination, or incite thoughtful consideration, but rather just evokes a good laugh and is written purely for entertainment's sake. I'm not saying there's not a time and a place for a mindless story, but I think we ought to train our children's minds to savor the challenge and sophistication of well-written literature from the start. And a well-told audio book of good children's literature can capture and entertain a child's mind as easily as the next book.

If you'd like to read more about the benefits of using audiobooks with children, take a look at the following articles:

Benefits of Audiobooks for All Readers on Reading Rockets

The Literacy Benefits of Listening: Use audio books to bring life and depth to your child’s reading experience on Scholastic

8 Teaching Benefits of Audio Books on Ezine @rticles  (A great article!)

Con mucho cariño...


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