A recent article in the University for Arizona News says that only 16 percent of Latino students in Arizona are proficient readers. And studies have shown that by 8th grade, Latino students fall way behind in math and reading. This is odd because these same studies show 4th grade Latino students scoring above the international average. So what happens in these 4 years?
Perhaps it is the shift that occurs in 4th grade where instead of learning to read, students must begin reading to learn. This is why it is so critical for all children to become proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade.
One valuable tool that parents can now use to help their children develop their literacy skills is audiobooks. But many parents are reluctant to use them. When I was growing up, books on tape were frowned upon because many parents and teachers considered them a setback for children who were learning to read. They thought you were cheating; too lazy to read the book, so you decide to listen to it instead. But today, research has shown that children who listen to audiobooks benefit greatly in many areas, including reading comprehension.
It is ironic really that we have always championed parents reading aloud to their children, but haven’t seen similar benefits in a child listening to an audiobook. Which is why today, on World Read Aloud Day, we are exploring how audiobooks may in fact be a valuable resource for parents of struggling readers.
The simple act of listening to a story has a powerful impact on a child’s literacy skills. If you have a child who is struggling to understand what he is reading, using audiobooks in conjunction with their daily reading practice could actually improve their ability to remember what the story is about, and help them internalize the meaning. Take a look at Scholastic’s article about the literacy benefits of listening.
Too many parents worry that a child is simply memorizing the words to a story. But that memorization actually helps when your child goes back to read it again. If you are worried that your child is not reading, but rather reciting from memory, ask her to point to the words as she reads. Remembering the story will actually help her to remember word sounds and decode what is written on the page. Her eyes are seeing the words, and her brain is remembering the sounds and the meaning behind each one. Next time she runs across that word, it will be easier to read.
Audiobooks also help children learn the rhythm of a well-written story. As they listen to the words, children learn about inflection and intonation. It trains their ear, so that they will begin to look ahead as they read so that they can read aloud in a similar manner.
They are also a wonderful way to introduce young children to literature that is too difficult for them to read, like many of the Classics. Waiting until a child is old enough to read some of the Classics can be a mistake. Children have to learn to appreciate well-written literature while they are young, before their minds get used to the easy “candy” on the bookshelf. Many books today don’t inspire the imagination or incite thoughtful consideration. Instead, they are written purely for entertainment’s sake. There is a time and a place for a mindless story, but we ought to train our children’s minds to savor the challenge and sophistication of well-written literature from the start. And a well-read audiobook of good children’s literature can capture and entertain a child’s mind quite easily.
There are many more benefits to using audiobooks with children, which you can read about in this article. But audiobooks aren’t just for struggling readers. They can be a resource that everyone can use, including gifted readers. Reading Rockets has a great article discussing the benefits that audiobooks have for all students.
It’s time to get creative and be more open-minded in order to boost our children’s literacy skills and help them succeed academically. Happy reading!
Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and the founder and publisher ofMommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.