It was early one Saturday morning as I put a box of books on the driveway where the kids’ stuff would go. Our garage sale was about to start when my daughter glanced inside the box and recognized a book from years ago… The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh. I pulled the book from the pile and saw under the empty flap, the CD version was missing. Later that day, the book was bought by a mom who pointed to her youngster sitting in a wagon and shared they would have loved to hear the words read out loud together.
As a mom myself, I remember wondering if I provided the right tools to encourage my child to learn to read. I noticed patterns emerging resembling early childhood reading skills such as repetitive words and sounding letters out, and it seemed like I had given my child the world of literature. Sure, we had collected books from birthdays, book sales and numerous hand me downs from friends and family, but had I missed a key element to help my child become a skilled reader?
"Exposing young children to audio language improves literacy introduction even before they start to read."
Looking back at my child’s reading development, I wished I has researched and realized the power of audio stories and the life-long learning benefits of promoting auditory language to a child. Exposing young children to audio language improves literacy introduction even before they start to read. Babies begin listening to stories from their parent’s own voice. As audio stories are introduced, toddlers react with a more emotional response to the content from a different reader. As they listen they often parallel play with an object or stuffed toy, and they are more likely to do a better job of listening critically to story pacing, vocal nuances, comedy, and laughter when hearing another human speak. They begin to develop the concept of time and space relationships; the beginning, middle, and end of a story become an expected concept.
Being able to listen well to more complex language expands a child’s fluency. Audio stories are a popular way for children to benefit from hearing complex words and sentences used in a correct form and listen to what reading should sound like with the pacing of sentences and ideas and introduces students to stories about their reading level. Children tend to listen to the same story over and over again as they look for a consistent tone and pace; it’s something they can depend upon.
"They hear firsthand the proper pacing and intonations of reading, how punctuation should sound, and how reading should sound."
According to A. Mascott’s article, Listening and reading: it's a multi-sensory approach to reading that works, “they hear firsthand the proper pacing and intonations of reading, how punctuation should sound, and how reading should sound.” Ideally, in the future, they will transfer that knowledge to their own reading, both independent and aloud. Audiobooks have been used successfully with second language learners, those with learning disabilities, and non-readers but they are actually beneficial to those who are average and gifted as well.
When listening to audio stories, children use their own imagination to develop a mental picture of what is being described to them. Listening to descriptive stories invites their imagination to create the story in their minds. They begin to learn to critically think in order to interpret context clues. Even though they are no written words, any interaction with literature is positive.
"As they hear audio stories unfold, their understanding of language and sense of narrative structure improves."
When children listen to audio stories, they are doing more work than we, as parents, realize. There are fewer demands on a child to process language or decode written words and they are free to form pictures in their minds based on what they hear. They develop brain muscles when bringing the images of a story to their minds. When children hear an audio story, they are invited to use listening skills to hear the tone and pace of the words. Instead of having to focus on looking at the words in a book, children listen to voices emphasizing the story which engages the reader. That connection builds the enjoyment of stories which often makes children eager to develop their own reading skills. As they hear audio stories unfold, their understanding of language and sense of narrative structure improves. When a child experiences listening to different narrators’ reading styles, their concept of reading grows. Audiobooks can be a welcome addition to any preschool program. Many children are beginning readers while others are struggling to begin to be interested in reading. Audio stories have something to offer all soon to be readers.
The power of audio stories gives children a better understanding of how language works and conveys meaning through the way it is consistently spoken and heard. Listening to audio stories is one of the best ways to prepare your child for many stages of reading success. Listening to audio stories during a group play date or together with your child reinforces social interactions and provides a bridge to important topics. After all, listening to stories helps children become good listeners and listening skills are vital for communication.
| By Jodi Mixon
Guest Writer at Jooki
Jodi is a STEM Specialist who has built a global career in Education Technology