Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Research about the Benefits of Audio Books.

Attached is an interesting link from The Book List Reader about new research demonstrating the impact that audiobooks have on literacy development:  Audiobooks Have Powerful Impact on Literacy Development

I've also attached the body of the article below (underneath my blog post).

This research is fascinating to me, for at least a few reasons:
  • Three years ago, at a homeschool conference, the speaker (a literacy expert who also h/schooled his children) talked about the importance of out-loud reading to our kids.  He suggested that a minimum of two hours/day was what was required, and said that the impact on vocabulary, grammar, and language comprehension gains was very significant as a result (I forget the stats).  I remember him so clearly because I've always been an out loud reader to my kids, but not typically at a rate of two hours/day.  I was vastly comforted when he assured parents that audio books counted as reading out loud time; at the time, Matthew was listening to at least two hours of audio books/day, and Seth and Lizzie were just beginning to be interested.  Today, Lizzie also listens to audio books every day (usually begs to listen) and her vocabulary and grammar and comprehension is remarkably good given her language deprivation background.  Anyway, the information that the h/school speaker provided was/is very consistent with this new research, and I'm thankful I had the opportunity to hear that information a few years ago already.  I think I'm on my fifth or sixth year of paying $22.95/month for our audible.com subscription, which is where we get most of our audio books.
  • I have often wondered about Matthew's reading ability.  If you've been reading my blog for a few years already, you'll know that Matthew really didn't begin reading until he was ten years old, but that he has been a voracious audio book listener from the time he was four or five years old...and he loved me to read out loud to him as well.  When Matthew did start to read, he progressed from virtually nothing to almost grade level in four days (yes, you read that right).  It was an unbelievable (really) experience to watch him.  Over the past two years, there have been times (months, sometimes) when his interest in reading has waned, and there have been a couple of periods of time (during our busy Shakespeare month, for example) when I haven't required him to do much (or any) out loud reading to me.  Every single time that he's experienced an extended, total break from reading, his reading has improved when he has begun to read again.  Every. Time.  I have puzzled and puzzled over this, and recently even joked aloud to Geoff that we should just stop having him read every other month or so because we're pretty much guaranteed to see an improvement in his reading during the opposite months.  It's remarkable...it's almost like his reading brain improves every time it gets a rest from reading; suddenly he's able to read more complex words, and the flow of his reading is improved.  It's remarkable.  This audio book research might help to explain things, though, because even during those times when Matthew is doing absolutely nothing to practice his reading skills, he is always always always listening to audiobooks.  He goes from one to the next and loves it.
  • Seth is hit and miss with audio books; he goes through waves of interest in listening to audio books; it's mostly been because Matthew has been interested that he's sort of, sometimes, been into it.  His language/vocabulary/comprehension reflects his lack of interest in reading; it's not all that great, largely due to his deprivation background; his lack of interest in being read to or in listening to audio books at times is, I believe, one of the reasons for this.  This new research, which supplements what I've suspected ever since I heard that h/school speaker, is encouraging me to think of creative ways in which I can get this middle child of mine to listen to more audio books (in addition to listening to me read out loud, which is a normal thing).
Anyway, it's a short article summarizing the recent research...and worth a read!  Enjoy.


By April 28, 2016sRead More →

New Research Shows Audiobooks Have Powerful Impact on Literacy Development

AudiobookerLooking for scholarly research on the power of audiobooks in literacy development? A study released today has great information for parents looking for ways to keep reading skills sharp over the summer months, librarians seeking increased funding for their audiobook collections, educators who need strong statistics for audiobook grants, or teachers planning next year’s reading program. Click here to find details of the study, along with a survey of prior audiobook research and a useful bibliography.
This 28-page report on the impact of audiobooks on vocabulary development and reading achievement in second- and third-grade students looks at the use of Tales2go’s streaming audio service in the San Francisco Bay Area school district’s after-school program, which is economically and ethnically diverse with approximately 42% of elementary students receiving free or reduced-price lunch and 15% identified as English Language Learners. The study was performed by Kylie Flynn, Ph.D., Bryan Matlen, Ph.D., Sara Atienza, M.S., and Steven Schneider, Ph.D. for WestEd, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and development service.

The impact of purely listening to books is striking.

For me, the most important part of the study is that the researchers focused on just listening, with no follow-along-in-the-book or other reading intervention added. The impact of purely listening to books is striking. Two notable findings are that students using Tales2go attained 58% of the annual expected gain in reading achievement in just 10 weeks, putting them three months ahead of control students. Plus, the study group outperformed the control group across all measures, by three times in reading comprehension, nearly seven times in second-grade vocabulary, and nearly four times in reading motivation. These increases came after students listened for twenty minutes three times per week in the afternoon program at school, and an additional two twenty-minute sessions at home.
Girl with headphones
These results would be comparable with including any audiobooks in a young person’s literacy development. I would guess that many parents spend twenty minutes in the car with their kids five days a week in the summer—what if those minutes were spent listening as a family? Sounds like audiobooks are a perfect way to combat the “summer slide” and prevent the loss of hard-earned classroom reading skills by just listening. Check out the titles I suggest in “Summertime Family Listening” for great audios. Summer’s here, and the time is right for listening in our seats—car seats, that is!


  1. I would love to get my son who is in grade one (and a reluctant reader,or just not quite ready yet) hooked on audio books. Any suggestions for that age group, or for his younger brother who is starting kindergarten in fall?

    1. Hi Anonymous -
      Yes, absolutely I have some suggestions based on books that my boys liked at the beginning (and my boys were both five/six when they started listening to audio books). Try:
      - Pippi Longstocking
      - The Boxcar Children
      - Nate the Great books
      - any of the Beverly Cleary books
      - any of The Magic Treehouse collection.

      That's maybe a starting point. My kids loved all of these a few years back, and my daughter still listens to them over and over.

      But my kids might be different than yours and they may not like one or more of them. I'd suggest listening to the audio books WITH them for the first few/several books, at least, so that you get an idea as to their interest level in a certain type of books. We did a lot of early listening in the car together...a time that's otherwise a little boring and this gives them something to 'do.'

      And if they don't enjoy a particular book(s), I would also suggest that you not force it...try another one, and another one, and try to get an idea as to what captivates them.

      I also found that asking my boys questions periodically (later at the dinner table, for example) helped, because it kept the book uppermost in their minds.

      Oh, and something that REALLY worked in the early days (I still do this when I'm reading out loud to them) was to stop the audio book at a climactic moment, whenever possible, and announce that it's time to do something else. I would shrieks of aguish from them, because they wanted so badly to hear what was coming next...and when I'd later put it on again it was usually after they had been begging for it. But this may happen a wee bit down the road.

      I'm so excited for you! If you can get them onto audio books, it's just so awesome, and is a huge booster of vocabulary/imagination/language/grammar, etc.

      And don't worry about your 'reluctant' reader. He's so young yet. My oldest didn't start reading until he was 10 (!!!!) and now, at 12, he's reading a full grade above his grade. When the kids are ready to read, they're ready to read. Just try not to push it or make him feel badly about not reading yet. It's tough, I know very well, waiting for a reluctant reader to learn to read...but it happens!!

      Anyway, I hope something here helps. Let me know if you need more info, or anything else.



    2. Let me just add one thing: It doesn't matter if one of the audio books contains a few words that your son(s) might not yet understand...when they hear the word in context with other words, that's one of the things that build language development...so they may not understand the word definition today but just hearing it in context helps to build language comprehension, etc. I always try to have at least a few books on the go for my kids that are just a little ahead of where their comprehension is.