Listen Up! The Importance of Audiobooks

July 12, 2021 – Sharon Anderson, Youth Services Coordinator

Audiobooks are great for young readers. Here’s a list of reasons to fall in love with listening to stories!

Audiobooks are portable—and they go with so many activities. Pop one in when you’re on the road together. Listen to one while you cook dinner. Audiobooks can help make mundane chores enjoyable—have your child listen to one while they clean their room or do the dishes. It’s hard to juggle doing dishes and reading a physical book, but listening is a perfect way to find the balance between work and pleasure.

We’ve all heard those reading purists (dare I say snobs?) who argue that listening isn’t really reading. That’s not what the research says. Once your child is past the decoding stages of learning HOW to read, there is very little difference in how words are processed in the brain. The exact same areas of the brain are activated whether you are reading a story yourself or listening to someone else read. For some young readers, listening to an audiobook while following along with the book can actually improve reading skills. Reading specialists note that listening to audiobooks can enhance vocabulary, but listening while following along with the book does even more—enhancing word-recognition abilities and helping with comprehension. 

This comprehension boost is why audiobooks allow children to “read” more complicated topics. From an early age, children are able to understand stories that are written above their reading levels. Listening to audiobooks strengthens those comprehension skills, particularly for children who have reading difficulties. An added perk is that there is no stigma associated with listening to stories. Struggling readers are often reluctant to read below their grade level for fear of being seen reading a “baby book” and being picked on, but with audiobooks, no one has to know what you are listening to. 

The final motivation for sharing audiobooks with children is that they are so much fun. The premise of the children’s book Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is that there are readers who have the magic ability to read and make stories come to life. The best audiobook narrators have that particular magic. Don’t believe me? Listen to Stockard Channing read the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. Or marvel at Jim Dale’s award-winning narration of the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling—the man created over 200 distinct character voices over the course of the series. He’s a shapeshifter! If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

You’ll find a display of great audiobooks for children and families on display now at the library. Or download the Libby app where you’ll find hundreds more for your listening pleasures. There’s nothing quite like the decadent pleasure of having someone read you a story. Happy listening!

 

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