July 27, 2017

Back to School with Audiobooks: Helping Struggling Readers Succeed

It’s back to school time! Teachers and parents are checking off their lists, but there is one thing you don’t want to forget for the struggling readers in your classroom – audiobooks.

Some of you may be thinking: “Audiobooks to help struggling readers? Isn’t that cheating?!?” 

According to recent research, the answer is no, and actually, denying students access to grade-level text can have a negative effect over time.

Have you ever heard of the Matthew Effect? Basically, in reading – the rich get richer. If reading comes easily to you, then you often want to read more. As you read more, you learn more. Knowledge builds up over time.

But what about the child who struggles to read? If not exposed to grade-level literature, this child is at a higher risk of falling behind in all areas – not only in reading.

Graph showing reading more gains more vocabulary words

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The story changes dramatically when we introduce audiobooks. They can be used alongside your current reading intervention to help students access grade-level learning while still working on their decoding skills.

Here are some easy ways to incorporate them into the school year: 

Amanda Madden from the blog Teaching with Maddeness uses headphone sound dividers to create a listening center for her elementary aged students. She also has several additional ideas on organizing earbuds and tablets.

Students Listening in a Center

Getting started early fosters a deep love of reading and a connection to peers who have read the same book.  

By middle and high school, students want to blend in with others. The beauty is that audiobooks are no longer clunky machines, but they can actually work on current classroom devices like tablets or chromebooks. And with booming technological advances, middle and high school students can even cite evidence directly within the audiobook itself.

Tween studying with audiobook

One of the biggest benefits for high schoolers who are behind in reading skills is the time-saving factor. While struggling readers have a weakness in decoding written words, most can understand material when listening.

A seemingly simple classroom assignment to read the next chapter may take a student who has dyslexia six hours to grapple through, and she may not remember much of what she read afterwards due to the strong focus on decoding the letters and sounds. 

However, audiobooks give that time back so students. With this access, they can now come to class prepared and focused on learning, not full of anxiety and worry due to their area of weakness.

student listening at practice

One of the best things teachers, parents, and peers can do to support students who learn differently is to offer the tools they need to succeed. Audiobooks are not cheating. They are an avenue to success in school and in life.

Find out how to get started with audiobooks for struggling readers in your classroom by visiting LearningAlly.org/Educators.

Learning Ally LogoLearning Ally is a leading nonprofit ed-tech organization that provides over 80,000 human-narrated audiobooks to students who have learning or visual disabilities. Not a member? Find out how to sign up your school or your individual student today.

 

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– Jules Johnson


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