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Listening to Audiobooks Helps Children Learn Better

Updated on October 19, 2017
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Audiobooks are NOT Cheating.

Lots of parents think that listening to audiobooks is not as valuable to their children as having them sit down and read the book by themselves. While reading is a skill that every child needs to learn, audiobooks are a good way to support that skill.

We all recognize the benefit from a bedtime story for small children. The reason for this is that part of learning language is learning comprehension. In fact, that skill comes long before the actual speech part of language skills.

Human history is steeped in the oral tradition. Long before books were available, important information and stories were passed down orally.

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Studies Show that Audiobook Listening Helps Kids

Many studies and articles support the process of listening to books as beneficial to children.For instance, there are the significant 1985 report from the Commission on Reading; "Improving Reading Skills Through Audiobooks" by School Library Media Activities; "Listening to Learn: Audiobooks Supporting Literacy, ALA Editions; and "Audiobooks for Children: Is This Really Reading?" by Children and Libraries 5.1 among many others.

See Why Listening is Good for All Kids..., A Bridge to Literacy (both available in AudioFile Magazine's on-line archive,) and Becoming a Nation of Readers (also available as a book in book stores.)

How Can Audiobooks be Helpful?

Despite the mounting evidence supporting the benefits of audiobooks for kids, many parents and educators think that audiobooks, although helpful for those with learning disabilities, are not really appropriate for other children.

Here are a few of the many reasons why they are:

  • Create Pictures from Words - Listening to audiobooks help stimulate the auditory part of our brain to create pictures from the words. This skill is essential to children's development, especially in a world of picture books and TVs.
  • Allow All Students to Participate in Discussions - Listening to audiobooks in the classroom helps put everyone on equal footing for class discussion of the assigned books. For instance, slower readers may fall behind and not be able to participate in important discussions in class, depriving them of the social and esteem building skills.
  • Learn New Vocabulary - Listening to audiobooks allows the listener to hear new words, hear how they are pronounced properly and hear the vocabulary used in context. While reading, it's easy to skip over that difficult word and never learn a thing about it .
  • Develop Active Listening - Listening to audiobooks helps children develop ACTIVE listening and critical thinking skills. TV and music tend to be passive activities to our brain. Active listening is important in all aspects of life as are critical thinking skills.
  • Enjoy Literature - Reading Shakespeare is not everyone's cup of tea - the language is strange and can frustrate even the most avid reader. This frustration can make even adults give up on the book. But listening to the language allows for the mind to open up and hear the poetry in the words and concentrate on the big picture of the story instead of the minutia of each difficult word.

Children Have Different Learning Styles

It's also important to understand that people have different ways of learning and taking in information. Although there are many styles identified, the three basics are still:

  • Auditory,
  • Visual, and
  • Tactile/Kinesthetic

It's generally recognized that people are some combination of the three. I can see that I am visual and tactile - the act of writing and then seeing a name is a far more successful way for me to remember peoples' names. One of my daughters is VERY auditory, while the other is much more visual!

For kids that are auditory learners, audiobooks can be a godsend! But for others, they may not be as effective unless used in conjunction with other learning methods.

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Interested in Trying Audiobooks?

There are many ways to try out audiobooks without spending a fortune.

Most libraries have physical and digital audiobooks you can borrow. There are also services like Simply Audiobooks where you just rent the audiobooks (Netflix Style.)

For discussing what you love (or dislike) about audiobooks, have a look at AudioFile Magazine's Facebook Page. Often publishers have free samples or whole audiobooks to download.

Free Audiobooks For Young Adults (and You)

SYNC is a special summer listening program for young adult listeners. Librarians and schools participate, helping their patrons and students discover the fun of modern and classic literature.

This five year old program offers a thematically paired set of audiobooks each week starting May 7th. The audiobooks are available as digital downloads and are available for a week, but once downloaded, they don't expire. Anyone can download these - though occasionally there are restrictions by the publishers for residents outside of the United States.

You can visit http://audiobooksync.com/ to try audiobooks for the first time or add to your library.

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    • Deborah Minter profile image

      Deborah Minter 

      2 weeks ago from U.S, California

      Good article! There is many benifits to listening to audiobooks.

    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      3 years ago from Maine

      They really are great fun! Can sometimes kill the gas mileage when you have to circle the block again in the car to listen to the exciting part!

    • profile image

      Jacobb9205 

      3 years ago

      Audio books are great! I'm going to try listening to them more, I listen to music all the time so why not audiobooks, they can be very useful!

    • Pennypines profile image

      Lucille Apcar 

      6 years ago from Mariposa, California, U.S.A.

      As a long time tour guide I can attest that people of all ages love to listen to tales, to instruction, to history. Even aboard the motorcoaches I used to keep a running commentary mostly about everything we were seeing en route. It seemed to have almost universal appeal. In my business office I installed a music system, tuned low, to a good music and commentary station. It works very well.

    • profile image

      dulcevidas 

      6 years ago from London, UK

      Yes audio are effective learning aids. Not only for kids but for adults too. I tried learning Spanish over the years but for some reasons, time constraints being the main one, I couldn't get past the most rudimentary level. I found a Spanish audio course which I could listen to while commuting from and to work and any other time on my Ipod while engaged in other things. It greatly improved my grasp of the language way beyond all my previous efforts.

    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      6 years ago from Maine

      That's great! I think a combination approach is brilliant.

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 

      6 years ago from California

      My 7 year old loves listening to classics that I download from Librivox on her mp3 player. She reads a lot and I read a lot to her, so it's one more way to get her exposed to books.

    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      6 years ago from Maine

      Eric Calderwood - I agree that kids definitely need to learn the skill of reading. Listening to audiobooks are just a great additional way to enjoy books.

    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      6 years ago from Maine

      Thanks yoginijoy! I often let my auditory daughter do some of her summer reading with audiobooks!

    • yoginijoy profile image

      yoginijoy 

      6 years ago from Mid-Atlantic, USA

      As an auditory learner myself, I agree with your premise wholeheartedly. Listening is an active skill and needs to be developed over time. Great topic! I enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks for writing it.

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 

      6 years ago from USA

      You raise some very good points about audiobooks and learning. The fact that they can learn the longer words and know how to pronounce them correctly (instead of just making up a pronunciation), also, how historically stories were handed down orally (in the past people may have had much better memory capability than we do now because of this). And I totally agree about adults experiencing books that they never would have read otherwise. I listened to the unabridged audio version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, I don't know if I ever would have read this book otherwise. One thing though, it is still going to be important for children to develop their reading skills to complete their education (besides, they have to be able to read to pick out the audio book they want to listen to). Thanks for a well written hub!

    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      6 years ago from Maine

      Thank you Robert and Paul! I used to work for a magazine that reviewed audiobooks. I learned so much and developed a great love for listening! My "auditory" listener daughter was highlighted in the magazine 2 years ago in their "Listening With" feature that shows the many ways that people integrate audiobook listening into their lives.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      mbwaltz, You have written a very interesting article about the utility of Audioboooks. I have used some in my EFL teaching and they have been very useful. Like you said, there are different learning styles, and some kids learn better with auditory stimuli. Voted up and sharing.

    • Robert Erich profile image

      Robert Erich 

      6 years ago from California

      mbwalz, this is a great article with some great points. I have never really thought about audiobooks helping with vocabulary, but it is absolutely true! Voted up and shared.

    • mbwalz profile imageAUTHOR

      MaryBeth Walz 

      6 years ago from Maine

      Hi Pennypines, Yes, I remember some of that with great fondness too! Audiobooks make a great addition to all of those "lessons" and joys!

    • Pennypines profile image

      Lucille Apcar 

      6 years ago from Mariposa, California, U.S.A.

      While I grew up a bookworm, which persists to this day, I still remember with great fondness the storytelling hour every evening sitting on the floor by my grandmother's chair. I also remember our nursemaid coming to our beds to tell us stories before we fell asleep.

      And our school teachers frequently made us stand in turn and read aloud to the class.

      If audio books take the place of all of the above I am enthusiastically in favor

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