7 Ways Audiobooks Benefit Students Who Struggle with Reading

Students really can read with their ears.

When students in grades 3–8 have reading skills that are below benchmark, they lose ground more rapidly. As they move up in school, reading becomes all about learning new information and content. Providing access to human-read audiobooks can support reading skill development. Audiobooks allow students to hear explicit sounds of letters and letter patterns that form words. Audiobooks also help students engage in text and gain exposure to more words, ultimately improving vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking skills. Here are seven reasons why audiobooks are the perfect accommodation for struggling readers. Because listening to an audiobook accomplishes the following:

1. Increases word exposure and improves vocabulary.

When students are offered the opportunity to have audiobooks in the classroom, their world can finally open up. Having books read aloud helps these struggling readers move beyond the decoding and right into learning. The more words they learn and incorporate into their knowledge-base, the better able they will be to access grade-level materials.

2. Builds background knowledge.

Students in grades 3-8 come to the classroom with differing experiences for sure, but those who’ve also struggled with reading arrive even less prepared. Human-read audiobooks expose students to academic vocabulary and the language of books. This exposure helps build their background knowledge, an essential component to an evolving student. It also helps develop higher-order thinking skills. The ability to build background quickly through audiobooks cannot be underestimated. If students are left to read only materials at their reading level, they lose out. They lose opportunities to get access to content and information that represents their capabilities and intellect. This is not only frustrating and causes emotional stress, but also limits learning experiences.

3. Reduces working-memory deficit.

Students who struggle with decoding and the mechanics of reading spend so much time focusing on sounding out the words that it is difficult for them to retain the information they are reading. By eliminating the focus on decoding they are now able to retain, remember, and understand the content. When students begin reading with their ears, they start building their working memory. This helps them respond to questions about the text more readily. The more often this happens, the more confident a student gets around the one subject that has plagued them, reading. Building working memory helps make other reading tasks easier and improves reading ability.

4. Removes printed word decoding anxiety.

As soon as the pressure to read the written word is gone, students are open to learn and happy to find out they can. Audiobooks allow students to be immersed in the meaning of text. They also remove the lag time of decoding, which becomes increasingly important as texts become more rigorous. Anxiety plays a huge part in a struggling reader’s entire school experience, so the introduction and regular use of audiobooks can actually help students enjoy school more.

5. Increases comprehension.

When students can hear the story or information as a whole, read by a human being, their comprehension increases. Reading books word-by-word doesn’t help create a whole experience. Kids in grades 3-8 who can finally put all the pieces of information together at one sitting, begin to make meaning of text.

6. Develops grade-level appropriate content knowledge.

Giving students access to grade-level materials by providing an audiobook accommodation improves their self-esteem and increases their participation in class and peer discussions. They are now able to work alongside their peers and get hours of time back. Just because a student can’t read the words in the same way as their peers, doesn’t mean they aren’t developmentally ready to learn this information. Listening to audiobooks brings the information to the student when they are ready for it, not when they can read it.

7. Gives students educational independence.

When students get access to the content and are able to work independently, it gives them the confidence to become successful learners and control their educational outcome. Students who are given the audiobook advantage as an accommodation also have more continuity of learning in the classroom. This means peer relationships can develop normally and students can feel more like insiders.

Learn more about using audiobooks in the classroom to improve reading scores.

Kimberley Moran

Posted by Kimberley Moran

Kimberley is an editor at weareteachers.com. She used to teach first graders. She lives along the Penobscot River in a little yellow house and starts her day with a blueberry muffin. Her work has appeared in parent.co, Good Magazine, and Public Radio International. Her book Hacking Parenthood is coming out in October 2017.