If you have a school-aged child, they have probably been assigned 20 minutes of reading for homework. Your child has probably also been assigned summer reading. If you have a kid who loves to read, great! This is a piece of cake for you. But for MANY, this is a huge challenge, and you feel like it’s like pulling teeth to get them to just sit down and open the damn book.
If this resonates with you - stop forcing it! Let your child listen to an audiobook or a podcast instead. Does this “count” as reading? YES! It does!
Let me tell you why.
You’ve probably heard that reading comprehension is the ultimate goal of learning to read. When faced with written text, we need to be able to read the words, understand what they mean, make sense of them, and be able to think about the text in meaningful ways.
There’s a little something called the “Simple View of Reading” that uses a multiplication equation to show us the 2 big factors we need in order to become skilled readers with strong reading comprehension. It shows us why listening to spoken language is not only ok, but is exactly what the doctor ordered for many.
The Simple View of Reading uses this formula:
D x LC = RC
Decoding (word recognition) x Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension is the PRODUCT of decoding skills and language comprehension. If just one factor is zero, the product is also zero. Most people are somewhere in between.
Take these 2 examples:
How can Max and Bella benefit from listening to audiobooks or podcasts?
The books Max is able to read on his own are most likely less engaging than what he is really interested in. He probably chooses books that seem exciting and age-appropriate but quickly becomes frustrated that he can’t get through them. He may even “fake read” during independent reading time to appease his teachers and classmates. (He probably needs to be receiving a reading intervention that includes direct instruction in phonics, by the way). Having Max sit down and forcing him to muddle through a book he can’t read accurately is not going to help him. Allowing him to listen is going to give him access to the content that interests him and allows him to build his vocabulary and knowledge that he is not able to access through reading print.
While Max listens to audiobooks to cater to his strength, Bella listens because this is her weakness. Bella might not be thrilled to listen because she has trouble staying engaged, but listening to a high-interest topic might help her build her listening stamina, leading to strengthened language comprehension.
I was more on the "Bella" end of the spectrum when I was kid. I love to read, but I don’t consider myself a great listener, and even now, I sometimes have to read the same page 3 times because even though the voice in my head was “reading” the words, I was actually thinking about something else. For me it's more of a weakness with attention than language itself. I avoided podcasts for several years because I considered myself a bad listener, but now I listen to them all the time and am surprised at how much I enjoy them.
So next time you’re faced with the task of getting your “reluctant reader” to open a book, think about why they might be frustrated with reading, and offer them a high-interest audiobook or podcast instead!
Am I saying to give up on opening books all together? Of course not!. . . But allow room for both and don’t brush listening aside just because it seems like the easy way out.
In fact, this week is the perfect time to try it out. This week’s assignment for the Winding Way Literacy and Plymouth Macaroni Kid Summer Reading Challenge is to listen to an audiobook. Check out this post to see how your child can be entered into a drawing to win $100 cash just for listening to an audiobook this week!
Do you have a Max, a Bella, or somewhere in between? What about you as a reader? Did any of this resonate with you? If you have a “Max” or “Bella”, message me for tips!
Want to get your little one started off with strong decoding skills? Check out my Reading in Action Video Lessons - combining reading instruction and physical movement, appropriate for pre-k through grade 1.
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Erin Sharon. Mom & Reading Specialist.