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Assistive technology basics

Will Listening to Audiobooks Make It Harder for My Third Grader to Learn to Read?

By Jamie Martin

My third grader still struggles with decoding and isn’t reading at grade level. Will listening to audiobooks make it harder for her to improve her reading skills?

Jamie Martin

Assistive Technology Consultant and Trainer

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 make her a better reader.

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 what path that information takes to reach the brain.

It’s actually a good thing for your child to read with both her eyes and her ears at the same time. That kind of multisensory reading can help with two main aspects of reading. It can improve both her decoding skills and her comprehension.

Decoding involves learning what sounds each letter makes (phonics). Hearing words while seeing them helps her make those sound-symbol relationships.

But reading involves more than just decoding. Your child also needs to understand the meaning of what she’s reading.

Right now, since decoding is hard for her, she may be putting all of her effort into sounding out the words. She may not be able to put them together in her mind to understand what they’re saying. Audiobooks can remove the need for decoding so she can focus on the meaning.

One of the greatest benefits of audiobooks is that they can motivate struggling readers. Since your third grader isn’t reading at grade level, she may not be able to read the same books as her classmates and friends. She may be frustrated.

If she listens to those books, it can increase her engagement and motivation and keep that frustration from taking over. At her age, it’s important to develop a love of books. She needs to be willing to become a better reader in order for her skills to improve.

It’s important to find books that will draw her in and hold her interest. Check out suggestions for kids her age. Explore tips for motivating reluctant readers. You may also want to look into where to find free audiobooks.

About the Author

Portrait of Jamie Martin

Jamie Martin is an assistive technology consultant, specializing in finding AT solutions for students and adults with dyslexia.

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