Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pairing Audio Books with the Hard Copy Book To Get Children Reading

Kwame Alexander, the award-winning author of Lionheart's favorite book

In a rush to get Lionheart ready for his Creative Writing class last fall, I checked out the required book from the library.  Because Lionheart started late and had to cover a lot of chapters in a short amount of time, I checked out the audio book too.  He loves stories, but doesn't always like to sit down with a good book.  I had no idea what would happen next.  He read the entire book in one night.  Actually, I fell asleep and he woke me up at 1 a.m. to excitedly tell me he had finished the entire book.  It was Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  I was on to something.

It filled me with such joy to see him sitting and actually enjoying the book, as opposed to laboring through the assignment because he had to do it.  For some right brain learners, reading uses what Diane Craft calls "a lot of battery energy," and can suck the joy out of reading in the process. No child will learn to love something that leaves them depleted by the time they are done.  When I pair the audio book with the hard copy book, Lionheart listens to the story and he follows along in the book.  In the process, he is developing the skill of creating a movie in his head, which aids in comprehension, according to Diane Craft.  When it was time to finish the last two chapters of The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street, Lionheart said to me, "I wish this book were a movie!" Then he asked if I could find a sequel. This is just what I wanted.  More importantly, as he follows along in the book, he is exposed to challenging vocabulary and proper pronunciation. What I love most about pairing the audiobook with the hard copy book is that we get to experience the book together.  When it's time for a comprehension discussion, we can have meaningful dialogue because I've essentially read the book too.

When I plunked down the next reading, As Brave As You, by Jason Reynolds, instead of moaning, he was excited about the sheer size of the book.  When I broke out the audio book, he smiled and rubbed his hands together and said, "Let's go!"  That is precisely the reaction I want to elicit about books, not drudgery.  What's extra special about this book is that we'll also get to meet the author, Jason Reynolds, who happens to be the friend of a fellow homeschool dad.

Another important benefit to pairing audio books with hard copy books is that I can help him understand heavy topics.  When we read the story of Claudette Colvin, I'm sure we'll be pausing the CD a lot and I'll be answering lots of questions.  Through this process, I see his vocabulary and reading comprehension expand with each book he completes.  My vocabulary expanded in much the same way.  I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness. I had to attend Bible study, Theocratic Ministry and Sunday was the Kingdom Hall (think church service).   To keep from being bored, I followed along in whatever printed material was being used by the speaker and along the way learned all kinds of words.  I recall being the only person in my 2nd grade class that knew how to spell reign, rain and rein - all from reading along.  My goal is to develop a love of reading.  I am confident that eventually he'll gravitate toward the hard copy book without the audio book.  In the meantime, I'll keep digging for great books that have an audio book companion.


  1. That is an awesome idea!! Something I am going to do with my reluctant reader that's 13 yrs old. His speed is there because he does an online AceReader class, but his joy of reading isn't.

  2. Thanks for confirmation.... We have been using audiobooks for years but not consistent with having the hard copy present.