Listening for Literacy

Many people harbor the misconception that listening to audiobooks is cheating and not really reading. Many parents and educators also think that audiobooks, while helpful for those with learning disabilities, are not appropriate for other children. 

But there’s a reason that audiobooks are impacting readers at every level, and mounting evidence clearly demonstrates that audiobooks have literacy benefits for ALL children.

Young readers are an incredibly varied lot, from new and emergent readers to fluent readers to those struggling to keep up. But no matter the reading level or stage of reading, audiobooks make stories more accessible, providing an invaluable tool to students, teachers and librarians. 

The following video lets you hear firsthand from students describing how audiobooks are improving their ability to read and learn: 

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Children enjoy listening to stories. This can be seen in parent-child interactions and in reading time at libraries and schools. People may not be aware, though, that reading print while following along with an audio narration increases recall 40% over print alone. Audiobooks thereby provide a boost to knowledge acquisition, comprehension, and self-confidence.

In an infographic on audiobooks and literacy, Sound Learning reported these findings:

While there are many benefits of listening to audiobooks, the following are some of the more noteworthy:

Audiobooks Build Listening Skills

By sharpening listening and concentration skills, audiobooks enable students to become better readers and listeners. Introducing audiobooks to the classroom helps students build 

•    listening skills
•    attention span 
•    ability to focus 

The following quote from a Scholastic article demonstrates the effects of audio on a particular student:

“Hearing a book read on tape helps her see how the words on the page can come alive in a fluid, expressive way. It helps her focus on the sounds of words read without interruption and provides a model of fluent reading. Audio books also give her an important introduction to listening—a skill that she must master in order to learn to read.”

Audiobooks Help Readers Become More Effective Learners

When listening to audiobooks, students can process the meaning of the words without having to decode the words themselves on the printed page. This is especially beneficial for dyslexic students, whose listening comprehensive might be stronger than their reading comprehension. When listening to audio, students are also able to access texts above their current reading level, which opens the gateway to a wider selection of reading options. 

Parents and educators often express concern about the amount of time students spend immersed in passive activities, such as watching TV and listening to music. Audiobooks, however, engage children in an active listening experience, which helps to develop critical thinking skills in all areas of life.

Audiobooks Improve Reading Skills

A number of benefits result when students receive information both visually and audibly. These benefits include an increase in the following: 

•    word recognition
•    fluency
•    vocabulary
•    comprehension

It might come as a surprise to many that audiobook listeners read more print books than non-listeners. Whether students are reading Homer or Shakespeare, daunting language can be enough of a roadblock to cause students to discontinue reading. Listening to challenging works provides students with the opportunity to experience books that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. 

The following APA 2010 consumer survey provides an eye-opening look at the reading habits of listeners and non-listeners.


Audiobooks Increase Self-Esteem and Confidence

An inability for students to keep pace with their peers can adversely affect both classroom reading and reading that’s just for fun. A recent case study, involving 166 students, demonstrated that students who used audiobooks in conjunction with print

• improved their ability to read
• became more motivated to read
• reported improved self-confidence

Audiobooks Enhance Family Time

In audiobooks, families find an activity ideal for road trips and bedtime reading. Much of the appeal of audiobooks undoubtedly lies in off-the-page features such as sound effects, music, multiple narrators, and dramatic enhancements. But audiobooks also lend themselves to reading as a fun activity rather than as a skill that must be mastered.

For parents, the benefits of audiobooks for children are twofold. First, they help children develop a love of reading. Second, audiobooks impart a better understanding of language and narrative structure, thus contributing to a lifelong appreciation of literature.

Audiobooks Improve Pronunciation and Vocabulary

When reading a print book, it’s all too easy for a child to simply skip over difficult words, but when this happens, a valuable learning opportunity is lost. Listening to audiobooks enables readers to be introduced to new words without having to decode the words on the page. Listening allows readers to hear how words should be pronounced and to hear the words in context, both of which contribute to retention and understanding. With the wide variety of available reading materials, listening to audiobooks also provides readers with an easier way to process unfamiliar dialects and accents.


Evidence shows that audiobooks are a powerful tool for increasing literacy; supporting comprehension; improving listening, reading, and learning skills; helping with vocabulary and pronunciation; boosting confidence; and ultimately leading to better outcomes.

For more information or to add titles to your library’s audiobook collection, visit Downloadable audiobooks are also available from Recorded Books through our eAudio and eBooks platform, OneClickdigital.



Written by

Rebecca -

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