Question: My third grader struggles with reading and isn’t reading at grade level. Does listening to audiobooks make it harder for kids to build reading skills?
You’ll be happy to hear that the answer is no. Listening to audiobooks won’t slow down the development of your child’s reading skills. In fact, many experts will tell you it can help kids get better at reading.
The first thing to know is that listening to audiobooks isn’t “cheating.” The main purpose of reading is to get information. It doesn’t matter how that information gets to the brain.
It’s actually a good thing for kids to read with their eyes and their ears at the same time. This makes reading “multisensory.” And that can help kids gets better at sounding out words (
) and reading comprehension.
Decoding involves learning what sounds each letter makes (
). Hearing words while seeing them helps kids make those sound-symbol relationships.
But reading involves more than just decoding. Kids also need to understand the meaning of what they read.
When decoding is hard for kids, they might put all of their energy into sounding out the words. With audiobooks, kids don’t have to do this. That frees up their energy to focus on the meaning.
One of the greatest benefits of audiobooks is that they can motivate struggling readers. When kids aren’t reading at grade level, they might not yet be reading the same books as their classmates and friends. As a result, kids like your child might feel really frustrated.
When kids listen to those books, it can make them more engaged and motivated. And that can keep frustration from taking over. At this age, it’s important to develop a love of books. Kids need to be willing to become better readers for their skills to improve.