Is it really reading? (Take 2)

We’ve posted before about concerns that listening to a book isn’t the same as reading it. So we’re still asking you: Is it really reading?

Here’s what we think: Listening isn’t the same as reading the print, but it is still reading! We always advocate following along with the print book while listening, so students are still reading in their heads while listening. (If you haven’t tried to listen and read yourself, try it and you’ll see how it can help your students!) Listening to audiobooks helps students enjoy books they otherwise would have struggled with—or never read in the first place.

Even adult audiobook listeners struggle with the stigma, despite the fact that audiobook listeners are often more educated and more likely to read that those that stick to print only. In a 2005 article from the Washington Post, we read “‘I haven’t read this much since I was in college,” said Mr. Harris, 53, a computer programmer in Memphis. And yes, he does consider it ‘reading.’ ‘I dislike it when I meet people who feel listening is inferior.'” And while audiobooks help proficient but busy readers finish more books, they are invaluable to students who are struggling with reading.’s Learning Disabilities editor advocates the use of audiobooks, saying “one way to help your child continue to learn content in the classroom despite having a reading disability.”

Perhaps most eloquently, a suite101 writer says ” The audiobook is a wonderful way to get through material that is difficult to read. Sometimes the problem is dialect or accent, sometimes the problem is unfamiliar terms or words (especially in books from a different era or culture), and sometimes it is simply an issue of style. Often, a good audiobook will take a book that you couldn’t slog your way through in the traditional paper format and make it an enjoyable experience. While audio books do not allow us to scan text and they eliminate other types of mental exercise that comes from deciphering the text, they do give us something very important. They allow the reader to appreciate the rhythm and sounds of words, which sometimes actually facilitates understanding and allows subtle nuances to come through.”

So the next time you encounter someone who tries to pshaw your audiobook lessons, share some of this information to enlighten them on another effective way to reach and engage their students. More resources to back up your audio education plan are available under the Teacher Resources tab at the Recorded Books website.

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2 Responses

  1. Reading by definition is decoding and comprehending. The audiobook narrator is decoding for the students. Meanwhile, the students are imaging, making the mental picture, and, essentially, comprehending. In my opinion, they comprehend far better than reading alone.

    Not only are students reading, but they are reading more. They line up to borrow books overnight, over the weekend, and over vacation. Many times, the audiobooks also give the students confidence to read alone. A confidence they didn’t have before.

    • Great explanation, Kristina! Today, we are all glad to inspire reading any way we can. And if these kids enjoy reading and become confident readers today because they listen & read with an audiobook, that’s an invaluable skill and a feeling they’ll have for the rest of their lives.

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