If your child has trouble with reading, it can help her to hear books read aloud as she looks at the words printed on the page. You can find audio versions of everything from textbooks to children’s classics to current best-sellers. And these audiobooks don’t have to cost a lot, either.
Some programs provide audiobooks for free to students with dyslexia or other disabilities that make it difficult to read print. If your child hasn’t been formally evaluated for reading issues, there are still several places you can find free or low-cost audiobooks.
Different Types of Audiobooks
Some audiobooks are very basic—just a simple recording of the text. Other audiobooks come with more bells and whistles. Here’s a quick look at the different formats:
Audio CD: This works in standard CD players and uses a chime or other system to let your child know when it’s time to turn the page. Audio CDs can be great for family road trips!
MP3 files: These audio files can be played on a smartphone, tablet computer or other mobile device.
DAISY: This is the gold standard for audiobooks. DAISY is short for Digital Accessible Information System. Many book providers use this format, which has more features than regular audiobooks. With DAISY, your child can:
- Skim the book forward and backward, by word, paragraph, page or chapter
- Skip to certain sections, pages or chapters
- Click on a chapter heading in the table of contents or a term in the index and jump right to it inside the book
- Take notes in the margin, in a manner similar to using a highlighter in a printed book
- Listen to the audio file on a computer, smartphone, MP3 player or a more specialized assistive-technology device
Free or Low-Cost Sources of Audiobooks
Whether or not your child has a documented reading disability, there are several places where you can get audiobooks for free or for a relatively low price.
Bookshare: This nonprofit has the largest online library of accessible reading materials. To join, you need to provide proof that your child has a disability that affects reading, such as dyslexia, blindness or physical disability. Members can download an unlimited number of accessible books, textbooks, newspapers and magazines. Membership is free to students in the U.S. Bookshare provides books in multiple formats, including DAISY audio (just the sound), DAISY text (which has a text-to-speech feature) and MP3 files. Bookshare files can be used on many kinds of devices. Its Read2Go app is easy to use on smartphones and tablet computers.
Libraries: Your local library can be a great source of free audiobooks. Library audiobooks don’t usually have the same features as DAISY books, but your child can listen to a CD or downloadable digital book while reading the print version. Libraries get books from a number of online audiobook services, including Bookshare and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Talk to the librarian about which audiobook programs are available for your child’s use. You may want to try those first before joining Bookshare.
Lit2Go: This is one of several sites that provide free audio versions of books that are no longer protected by copyright laws. Anyone can use sites like Lit2Go, LibriVox and Project Gutenberg. Lit2Go has fewer books than the others do, but it offers downloadable PDFs of the print versions so your child can read along as she listens to classics like Anne of Green Gables and The Call of the Wild.
In addition to these resources, many smartphones and tablet computers have built-in features that can read text aloud and also highlight each word as it’s being read. Explore other free or low-cost resources for your child.