Audiobooks are an excellent way to bring even more stories into your life. There are audiobooks in every genre and on a wide range of reading levels. So why do some people think of audiobooks as “cheating” or “not real reading”?
As noted in “The Benefits of Audiobooks for All Readers” by Deborah Johnson of Reading Rockets, it comes down to one’s definition of reading. If you only define reading as its core definition––to decode symbols into language––then you may feel audiobooks aren't real reading. However, while we shouldn’t ignore the important role of decoding in reading, it can be argued that reading is more than just decoding, it is “understanding the message, thinking critically about the content, using imagination, and making connections”. These elements are critically important because they are what make kids fall in love with reading at a young age which helps them to become lifelong readers and learners.
There are many other benefits to “ear reading” audiobooks. Audiobooks can help listeners easily explore new genres and read books beyond their reading level, expanding the options of what one would normally select to read. They are also great tools for increasing vocabulary as listeners become exposed to new words. Listeners also learn from the act of listening to books in the same way that readers do when they read a book. And, as we know, “the more one reads, the better reader one becomes and the more knowledge one accrues."
Audiobooks are also wonderful tools for individuals with reading differences like dyslexia, a neurological condition that makes it more difficult for an individual to process language. You can read more about dyslexia in this dyslexia awareness blog post. Dyslexic individuals may not be interested in reading books as the act of decoding the words can be much more challenging (and understandably frustrating) for them. By introducing audiobooks to dyslexic readers, we can keep them engaged in the same books their peers may be reading, exposing them to the same stories, knowledge, and vocabulary. This exposure will help the individual’s self-esteem as well as keep them on level in the classroom, a sentiment echoed in Dr. Joanne Pierson's article “Keep ‘em Reading: The Importance of Audiobooks for Dyslexics”, in which they identify that audiobooks "simply level the playing field for dyslexic students so that they have the same opportunities as their peers who can read with ease."
Another great feature of audiobooks is that they are often read by professional actors. For example, the series Wizards of Once is read by the actor David Tennant (Dr. Who fans don’t need to be told that he plays The Tenth Doctor). Tennant does an excellent job of reading with expression as well as using different voices and accents for the various characters. Listening to actors and authors isn’t just fun, it can help listeners learn how to read with expression and increase exposure to a variety of accents.
You can sometimes also find audiobooks narrated by the author! Roald Dahl recorded several of his books including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Enormous Crocodile, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Magic Finger. There is something indescribably magical about hearing the author read their own work!
Audiobooks come in a variety of formats, including books on CD, eAudiobooks, and Playaways. Playaways are self-contained, including a small MP3 audio player. To play one, you will need a AAA battery and a set of headphones, or you can plug it into your car using an AUX cable. Playaways are small enough to slip into your pocket and are great for listening to when you are taking a walk or working on other tasks.
There are so many different ways to listen to audiobooks and they have so many wonderful benefits! If you’ve never given audiobooks a shot, why not try one today? Look for your favorite titles in our Audiobook eLibrary, search the catalog for Playaways or Books on CDs. Not sure what to choose? You can ask for audiobook recommendations using our personalized recommendation service! Happy listening!