Everyone loves a good story. While I love reading a good book, I also like to listen to a good audiobook from time to time. I also encourage our daughter to listen to audiobooks. She has truly enjoyed the Adventures in Odyssey audiobooks, and I want to incorporate more audio stories into our homeschool time this year.
But are audiobooks a good idea for kids? Are they really READING? Do they help or hinder kids’ reading skills?
The Benefits of Audiobooks
Audiobooks are a fabulous way to immerse kids in books. They can sit back, relax, and be transported to another time and place as the story unfolds. There aren’t pictures. There aren’t commercials. Instead, kids have to picture the story in their minds, forming their own images of the characters and setting.
My favorite perk of audiobooks is modeling. As kids listen, they learn so much about storytelling. They hear the expression of the narrators. They hear their voices rise and fall, changing slightly from character to character. I’ve heard our daughter do this in her own reading, even adding a British accent for one story’s character. 😉 You can’t beat that!
Audiobooks also build critical listening skills. I want our daughter to be able to listen to people and truly understand what they’re asking or saying. It’s such an important life skill. I’ll often ask her questions about the audiobooks she listens to. I’ll ask why a character did something or what the character’s response to a situation was. I’m always amazed at what she shares as she recounts the plot of the story and shares her insight into why characters behave the way they do.
Audiobooks for Reluctant & Struggling Readers
As a former 5th grade teacher, I’ve worked with my share of struggling readers. I’ve also worked with kids who could read but who just weren’t interested in books. Audiobooks effectively draw these students into a story. I’ve been amazed to see kids get excited about a story after they listen to it.
When we’re teaching reading, we’re not just teaching decoding skills. We also want kids to be able to analyze plot, character, theme, setting, all the pieces of a story. If kids get hung up on the decoding skills, it’s difficult to dive deeper into a story’s parts. By offering some stories in an audio format, you can let them experience the story and then pick apart the pieces. This is a great confidence-booster.
Audiobooks for Avid Readers
Many people thing audiobooks are just for kids who struggle with reading. They need someone there to help them figure out the words, right? I heartily disagree. There’s a reason people used to gather around the radio to listen to Sherlock Holmes solve a mystery or Orson Welles tell about a War of the Worlds. Stories are powerful.
Kids who are already avid readers can stretch their comprehension skills by listening to stories that are above their current reading levels. Even if your 3rd grader is reading at a 6th grade level, she might enjoy listening to a book that’s written on an 8th grade level. Odds are good that she’ll also pick up some new vocabulary words along the way.
Kids might also be willing to try an audiobook from a genre they’re not familiar with. Does your kiddo always read action books? Maybe he would be willing to try a classic if it was in audiobook format.
Where to Find Audiobooks
If you’re interested in shorter audio stories for kids, check out Storynory. Each week they share a new audio story for kids. There are classics, fairytales, Bible stories, life lesson stories, and some Storynory originals. You can have them email you new stories each week, or you can subscribe in iTunes.
AudioBooks for Free
AudioBooks for Free offers a smaller selection of stories, but many are classics like Alice in Wonderland, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Call of the Wild, and Goldilocks & The Three Bears. You have to register here before you can download any audiobooks.
Wired for Books
Wired for Books is a product from Ohio University. The site has stories from Beatrix Potter and other classics. You can download these or listen online.
Your Local Library
If you’re a local reader, odds are good that your library is part of the SEO Library Consortium Digital Catalog and Download Center. You can sign in with your card and then explore all the ebooks and audiobooks they have available. If the book is popular, you may have to get onto a waiting list. They notify you by email when the book is available. Then you get it for two weeks, and it’s automatically returned.
If you’re not local, be sure to check with your local library to see what resources might be available.
Do you have any favorite audiobook or audio story sites? Feel free to share them in the comments.