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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Enhancing Summer Vacations with Audiobooks

April showers may bring May flowers, but it also brings spring break for school kids and the fleeting thoughts of imminent summer vacation. While children look forward to a lengthy break from school, we all know that the cries of “I’m bored!” aren’t far behind. One solution to this familiar complaint? Audiobooks. Libraries can provide relief to kids and adults with their robust selection of hot new titles and familiar favorites.

Versatile Entertainment
The great thing about audiobooks is that you can listen to them anywhere. Both kids and adults alike can pick one out to listen to around the house or take them along on the go. While a multiple-disc audiobook itself may be a little unwieldy, it can always be loaded onto an MP3 player; or there’s the convenient Playaway format.

Of course, “I’m bored!” is just one of the dreaded cries of summer vacation. For families that may be taking long car trips, another is “Are we there yet?” Audiobooks are a great way to make the miles pass more quickly. Instead of everyone being isolated their own earbuds, smartphones, or games, an audiobook played on the vehicle’s stereo system is something everyone can enjoy and engage in. Then the cliché that getting there is half the fun will inspire smiles and nods instead of eye-rolls and grimaces.

More than Just Entertainment
Audiobooks can provide more than entertainment, though. One obvious advantage of audiobooks is that they’re accessible even to those with sight or reading disorders. Studies have shown that listening to audiobooks increases the reading accuracy of children with developmental dyslexia, which in turn improves their overall school performance and behaviour. Also, listening to audiobooks helps ESL students with fluency in English, which includes many of the same benefits.

However, audiobooks also benefit children without reading disorders and for whom English is their native language. It’s well known, for example, that reading to children from an early age is vital to their success as they learn to read themselves. While nothing can replace the one-on-one interaction between a child and a parent (or another loved one), audiobooks can serve as a fantastic complement.

As reading skills develop, using audiobooks while reading along can increase a child’s comprehension. This is particularly true for works that depend on dialects (like those by Mark Twain) or depend on older forms of the language (like Shakespeare). As they listen, students get the sense of the rhythm of the language, and thus become better equipped to read aloud themselves.

Listening to audiobooks also increases a child’s interest in reading, both via audiobooks and regular printed books. In that sense, children who start with audiobooks often become lifelong readers.

It’s important to note, too, that audiobooks offer advantages for adults as well, aside from being something they can share with the family. You can listen to them to pass the time on your daily commute or workout, or slip into your earbuds when you need to escape from the rest of the world for a few minutes (or more). Readers with failing eyesight can continue to enjoy audiobooks. And studies have shown that engaging the mind through reading or listening to audiobooks can decrease the risk of memory loss by 30 to 50 percent.

Spread the Word!
Unfortunately, the use of audiobooks as an educational tool is often limited because parents and even teachers are unaware of the benefits. You can help them out simply by promoting your library’s audiobook collection. How about a display of great summer listens or audiobooks that may be on local school reading lists? Let Midwest Tape help! Check out our collection of 2011 summer listening for kids from AudioFile magazine.

Do you know of other audiobook benefits we didn’t discuss? Are audiobooks a part of your summer reading program? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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