My daughter has dyslexia, and I'm unsure how to balance her time in reading audiobooks vs traditional reading. I know both are important. Help! For the answer, we turned to Nicole Vella, an Orton-Gillingham tutor who is part of the Learning Ally tutor network: Balancing audiobooks with traditional reading depends upon the age and ability of the student, so it's not going to look the same across the board. In the early K-2nd grades, most of your time will be spent on eye reading with audio reading sprinkled in. However, for later grades, 3rd and higher, audiobooks become even more important.
Once a student with dyslexia hits that 3rd grade level, he may be thousands of vocabulary words behind his typically reading peers.
Students must get multiple exposures (ear or eye reading) to the same word before they begin to recognize it, and maybe even use it in their own vocabulary. Educational experts often site the "three tiers of vocabulary." These include: Tier 1 - common words that are used in everyday vocabulary. Tier 2 - Mostly words seen in print; words that you wouldn't necessarily use in everyday language. Tier 3 - Words that are context specific to a subject, such as "trigonometry" or "thermodynamic." Audiobooks, for 3rd grade and up, give dyslexic students exposure to vocabulary that is academic in nature - vocabulary that is predominantly found in print. For these words, if you don't hear/read it, you don't get it. Even in families that talk a lot, these words typically are not found in everyday conversations.
In fact, a 1998 study found that children's books contain 50 percent more rare words than conversations between college-educated adults!
In reading and writing, dyslexics are robbed of time. They can become very accurate decoders, but typically they don't decode as quickly as a non-dyslexic. Sometimes, kids decide the struggle with pleasure reading isn't worth the time (even if they like books, in general). Audiobooks can give them back that time, allowing them to keep up with the rest of the class in both vocabulary and comprehension. So, how do I recommend using audiobooks to the students I tutor? If I have a 3rd grader, we will work on traditional decoding and fluency during tutoring time. However, when my student brings home an assigned book-list from school - that's a perfect time to use audibooks! Learning Ally audiobooks give my students the idea of the story, and thrill them to the idea of reading. It's for the love of reading and vocabulary building, not for the "work" of decoding/fluency, which is where a parent/tutor/teacher would step in. How do I know if my child is ready to eye read a specific book? What I’ll do is open the book, and have my student read a page to me. I silently read along with her for one minute. As I'm doing this, I keep a tab of the words she read. How many were right? How many were wrong? Afterwards, I tally up the numbers to find out what percentage of words my student read accurately. In my experience, if she can read 95% of the words accurately, then she can read it with her eyes. However, anything less than 95% accuracy, for me, would be a good one for ear reading via an audiobook format. Anything less than 95% tends to be a struggle, and it takes the joy out of reading. Getting Started with Learning Ally audiobooks If your school offers reading lists, that's a great place to start an introduction to audiobooks. However, if your school does not offer that, my suggestion is to pick a couple of good books, and then one good strong classic type book. I like the Mensa Reading Lists, personally, because they break it out by grades (K-3, 4-6). I use that for my kids. Then, I let Learning Ally push them beyond what they can read. Can they comprehend it well? What is their ability to understand the complex language?
Sometimes the tone of the human author’s voice helps with context. Is the author laughing? Sounding serious? You can push deeper with Learning Ally.
In closing, I love Learning Ally! I think it’s such a great resource for dyslexic kids. It helps on a lot of levels. When it comes to the balancing act between audiobooks and traditional reading, it's really not either/or, it's both. Wondering where to start with audiobooks? Here are some of my favorite ones to get you started: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen This is an intense and fast-moving read for the older end of this age range. 13 year old Brian's parents are divorced. On the way to visit his father, the small plan Brian is riding in crashes into the Canadian wilderness. Finding himself alone, he must use the hatchet his mother gave him to survive. Average Age: 10+ A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle In this Newberry Medal award-winning classic, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother, Charles, and their friend, Calvin, on a most dangerous and fantastic journey. Average age: 9+ Holes by Sachar Louis In this wonderfully inventive novel, a young boy named Stanley has a family history of bad luck. In one such incidence, he lands in a boy's juvenile detention center where the punishment is to dig holes every day. However, he discovers the warden is using the boys to dig for loot buried by a wild west outlaw! Average Age: 10+ Wonder by R.J. Palachio A New York Times Bestseller, Wonder is about a young 5th grade boy, August, who was born with a congenital facial difference. After being home-schooled, he enters school for the first time to a range of reactions. Goodness wins out in this inspirational story. Average Age 10+ Interested in learning more about Learning Ally? We are a national non-profit that offers nearly 80,000 human-narrated audiobooks for people who have print disabilities. We have a wind range of both textbooks and books for pleasure reading. Join Today! About the author: Nicole Vella is a tutor specializing in teaching students with reading and writing difficulties. Nicole holds an Associate Level certification with the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. She is pursuing a master’s degree in reading science, in an IDA accredited program, at the University of Mount Saint Joseph.