Do you listen to stories as a family? Whether your children typically read independently or love listening to you read aloud, audiobooks are a great way to interact with stories. From chapter books featuring familiar characters to collections of short stories, you and your child can listen to audiobooks that cover a range of topics and formats.
Audiobooks bring traditional printed texts to life with engaging narrators, the ability to pause or slow down the recording, and even more helpful features. If you’ve explored audiobooks in the past, you might also catch yourself saying “books on tape.” I know I do when I talk about audiobooks. But instead of checking out a box of cassette tapes at your local library like in years past, it’s now easier than ever to access high-quality audiobooks on your mobile device.
Some notable features of an audiobook set it apart from how children typically consume a picture book, novel, or other types of print reading material. Kids can press play and listen on a speaker phone, personal headphones, or even use Bluetooth speakers connected to their devices. Your child can listen to a story on their own in a quiet space at home or with another family member as they run errands, make dinner, or sit in a cozy spot together.
In this blog post, I have seven tips to share with you. These tips can help you make the most of audiobooks as a way to support your children as they build their listening skills. These
strategies aren’t specific to one age level or type of text, so you might want to ask your child’s teacher for book recommendations or reading lists that align with their instructional goals this school year.
Connect to Familiar Characters
If you are introducing an audiobook for the first time to your child, you may want to start with a book from a series they already know. This can help them transition from a traditional print book to an audio-only experience. Then, you might expand upon this strategy and alternate reading one book in a series in paperback, then listening to the next one as an audiobook.
To help your child build listening skills, pause during different parts of an audiobook to ask questions. This can help your child make the connection between reading a story in print format and listening to a story in audio format. They can use the same comprehension skills they’ve learned as readers in these listening situations.
Pause and Chat
Although it can be tempting to ask a question and then immediately resume listening to a book together, you might build opportunities to chat, too. To help kids develop their listening stamina, you can pause every few minutes to talk about what you’ve heard so far and recap what has happened in the story.
Rewind to Listen Again
As readers, your children might be familiar with the strategy of rereading a passage or turning back a few pages if they need clarification. You can model this same strategy for them as listeners by showing them how to rewind. In addition to pointing out the option to jump back 15 or 30 seconds, you can share why this might happen. For example, you might say:
· "Let’s rewind a minute. I got distracted hearing the recycling truck go by the window."
· "I’m not exactly sure what happened there. Let’s jump back a little bit and listen to this part again."
Listen and Sketch
Sketchnoting is a popular way to create a visual out of information shared in audio format. You might introduce this concept to your child with a piece of paper and one single colored pencil and ask them to draw what they hear. This might feel overwhelming at first, so it’s great to start off with a familiar story they might have read in paperback format before or a story they are listening to for the second or third time.
Read Along with Print
If the concept of an audiobook feels very new to your child, you might want to introduce the concept along with the print version of the book. For example, you might hold a copy of a paperback book in your hands as you sit together. At the same time, you can press play on the audio version and turn the pages as you listen to the story unfold.
Repeat New Words
One of the benefits of listening to an audiobook is that you get to hear the narrator read the words aloud. This might seem like an obvious feature of an audiobook, but one of the perks for readers is that they can hear the pronunciation of a new word or one they don’t use all the time. To help reinforce this listening strategy, pause and rewind to hear the narrator say the new word again. Then say it out loud together to practice the pronunciation.
Listening to audiobooks is a great way to help kids build listening skills. Books of all genres, lengths, and formats are available as audiobooks. Finding audiobooks is easier than ever, and I encourage you to try out your local library to see what type of stories you can borrow in audio format.
Many libraries include audiobooks in their catalog of offerings. You can borrow an audiobook from the library, just like you would borrow a physical copy of the book. To do this, you may need to download a particular app to your smartphone or tablet. Most libraries have directions on their website on how to do this, or you can ask a local librarian to take you through the steps.
Ready to introduce your children to audiobooks? Audiobooks are a great choice to help kids build listening skills alongside reading comprehension. In addition, audiobooks can allow children of all ages to experience stories in a new way while growing as listeners. If you have a favorite audiobook or a strategy you’ve tried as a family, share it in the comments below!
About Dr. Monica Burns
Dr. Monica Burns, Ed.D. is a curriculum and educational technology consultant, and founder of ClassTechTips.com. She hosts the Easy EdTech Podcast and is author of EdTech Essentials: The Top Ten Technology Strategies for All Learning Environments.
Photo description: A young child is wearing headphones.