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Use Audiobooks to Build Fluency and Comprehension

Have you discovered audiobooks? Are you using them regularly with your child(ren) and your students? Audiobooks, or recorded books, have exploded in popularity since the days of clunky cassettes and scratchy CDs. Today, you can download audiobooks for your classroom computer, iPod, iPad, Kindle, Nook, or Smartphone . . . meaning almost everyone has an audiobook player in her pocket! 
With engaging narration, background music, and even sound effects, audiobooks have become a staple of “digital entertainment” . . . which is fabulous news for teachers for two reasons:

1 – Audiobooks can hook reluctant readers, helping them fall in love with an author, a series, or a genre! Students who have the misperception that they hate reading quickly change their attitudes when they discover audiobooks! Teachers can harness the power of audiobooks to help students increase their interest and engagement with captivating stories, then use the printed book and the audiobook simultaneously to get students reading! When students are really engaged in a story and they cannot access the audiobook for any length of time, it’s amazing how quickly they want to grab the printed book to pick up where the audio recording left off!

Use audiobooks to help struggling, reluctant, or second-language readers discover books they love, and then give them a hard copy of the book to read while they listen. Soon, your reluctant readers will become motivated readers!

2 – Audiobooks help students build fluency! Fluency is not about being able to read a lot of words accurately and quickly. It is about using our voice to give meaning and feeling to the words. We do this by pausing appropriately at punctuation and –most importantly – making the words on the page come alive!

Fluency is a difficult skill to teach and nearly impossible to teach without modeling, modeling, modeling . . . of course, the problem is teachers do not have time to model every day for each student at his or her reading level and with books (s)he is specifically interested in . . . that is exactly what audiobooks do! They model fluency in a way that teachers just do not have time to do every single day!

If you are working on fluency with your child or your students, audiobooks can be your best friend! However, they must be used in a unique way to build this skill:

Have the student listen to an audiobook they are really interested in while reading the printed book at the same time.

Periodically, have the student rewind the recording and read a section of the book aloud while listening to it. Prompt the student to make his voice match the voice on the audio recording.

Students must be listening to the audiobook, looking at a hard copy of the book, and reading the book aloud all at the same time. Fluency is modeled and students are practicing with a better understanding of what their voices should sound like when they are reading fluently. Ideally, struggling readers will practice fluency skills this way every day. Start with a minute of reading aloud and gradually increase their time to five minutes a day. Students will listen to audiobooks much longer, of course – these few minutes are strictly their time to focus on and practice fluency skills.

Additional Bonuses:

Audiobooks can help students hear the correct pronunciation of words or phrases that are difficult to decode, often providing students with an “a-ha moment!”

Students are absorbing the printed text with a variety of senses and modalities, dramatically increasing their understanding of the text, as well as their ability to remember details of the text for a longer period of time.

Audiobooks can help readers understand and appreciate texts that are above their independent reading level – this is vitally important if you are working with older readers reading at beginner levels.

As fluency and decoding skills increase, comprehension skills naturally increase!

Audiobooks allow teachers to differentiate instruction for several students a day in a way that secondary teachers usually do not have time for.

The use of audiobooks in primary and intermediate grades may be common; unfortunately, it is nearly non-existent in middle school and high school. If you’re not using audiobooks as one tool to help struggling, reluctant, and second-language readers, give them a try . . . they can be one of your most powerful tools in helping adolescent readers become better readers!

Happy Listening!


  1. Hey Sherri! Welcome to bloggy world! Love the new blog design, and I'm looking forward to reading your posts. I am making assumptions here, but I'm guessing you're a fellow reading specialist, and I love finding other reading specialist blogs. :-) Mine is Comprehension Connection, but I also collaborate with 18 others on Adventures in Literacy Land. I hope you'll keep in touch!

    1. Hi, Carla! Thanks for taking the time to reply! Yes . . . I am a Reading Specialist . . . and quite passionate about it! I'm so happy to connect with other bloggers AND other Reading Specialists!! I'm off to check out both your blog and your collaborative blog -- I'm excited to see all the resources and insights available on both!

  2. Hi Sherri!

    I love your new blog. It is really well designed. My Masters degree is in Reading Education and I enjoy connecting with other reading teachers.

    For the past 9 years, I have been teaching preschoolers. It is fascinating to watch them as they blossom into little readers and writers. My students love audio books. At the moment (well, actually for the last two years), they are infatuated with Pete the Cat. We are always "Rocking in our School Shoes"!

    I look forward to following your blog. Good luck with the new adventure.

    1. Hi, Jamie! I'm so happy to connect with you and your blog! I LOVE that your preschoolers are already practicing their fluency skills by listening to audiobooks! Don't you love it when they fall in love with a series?!?

      Have your kiddos discovered "I Stink" and "I'm Dirty!" by Kate and Jim McMullan? Several of their books have audiobooks. I imagine they'd love the series! :)

  3. Hi! I love your blog design and enjoy reading your posts. I have nominated you for the Liebster Award.

    TEACHING With a Touch of Honey

    1. Natalie, thank you for letting me know I'm not posting solely to myself in these early stages of blogging! I love your blog name, by the way! It reminds me of "Thank You, Mr. Falker" by Patricia Polacco! :)

      The Leibster Award? I'm really honored and humbled . . . thank you for the nomination!

  4. Thanks, Sherri, for this informational post. I just ordered a few Belkin headphone splitters to use with audio books for book club reading to support my lower readers. I've been considering what to do with individual students during this time. I do whole-class reading where everyone reads with me, but I love having the student read a section aloud with the audiobook! Also, your bookshelf is awesome! Love the visual. I have Good Reads on my blog. Not as appealing. I just finished Chains...WOW! I'm looking forward to Forge. Thanks again for your post.


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