Audio Books May Be Another Fruit of Technology, But Not Ideal for Every Kid

Tech Talk 4

Audio bookWhen I was a kid, I had a nonsexual girl crush on Judy Blume. I had a big ol’ poster of Michael Jackson next to my bed—the one of him with the bow tie, yellow sweater, and beautiful, fantastic smile—but if I could’ve blown up an equally large picture of Judy Blume and plastered it next to him, I would’ve drifted off to sleep every night smack dab in idol heaven.

I had all of her books: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Just as Long as We’re Together, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, the whole collection. There was nothing like finding a little space for myself and flipping the crisp pages, giggling and gasping and otherwise reacting to the literary magic that sparkled across her pages. She and Shel Silverstein were friends in my head. Michael was just my boo. 

But, you know, times change and the traditional book is now going the way of the technologically unassisted conversation, allowing the sound of someone’s laugh to be ever more swiftly replaced by the frequent usage of LOLs and LMAOs. And our kids, who are so blessed to have laptops and tablets and Nooks and Kindles and all the other accoutrements of Silicon Valley’s creativity, don’t really curl up with a new paperback anymore just like they’re not so much into hanging over the edge of a bed and chatting on the phone for hours.

To that end, a friend asked me the other day if I thought listening to an audio book was the same thing as actually reading a print edition. She’d run across a blog post in the New York Times and, knowing how much I personally dislike the whole e-reader thing because I love to dogear my pages and stacks books up like little mini conquests, asked me if felt the same way about kids using audio books.

Yes, I’m a print girl all the way, but I had to laugh because listening to an audio book just seems so adult. It just doesn’t strike me as something a child would voluntarily do, unless it’s for one of those little sets that have the CD and the companion book that you read along with at the same time. There are some authors and titles that I just don’t see working—the King James version of the Bible or anything written in the flowery language of William Shakespeare, for example. All of those thees and thous being articulated for you can’t possibly be any easier to listen to than they are to read.

But we all have different learning styles, and while actually reading the words may work for some, others may benefit from listening to them and still, at the same time, be able to absorb information and draw pictures in their minds. I still think the kid is robbed of the effort to sound out an unknown word or start to understand the structure of a story—paragraphing and all that good stuff—but I guess it’s worth a try once in a while if your kid listens better than they read.

Is “reading” an audio book as effective as reading book in print?


Image via LibAmanda/Flickr

books & media, education, elementary school

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Fondue Fondue

I know the exact MJ poster you're talking about--I had the same one plastered onto my closet door!

nonmember avatar Mal Pearce

I had a deaf professor say that I'd he could hear he would get audio books. He thought they seemed so convenient, to be able to experience the book when you weren't able to physically read like while driving or something. Idk about myself personally I prefer the voice in my head while reading books. I have a nook hd+ and my daughter has a profile on it. But she also has a book case with tons of books that she loves to look through. My favorite books I have to have as a physical book but ill also download them to my tablet.

nonmember avatar Holly

It's not the same experience, but it's similar. It depends on the book (and on the narrator), but I find some stories to be so much richer in audio than in print. Plus, I can read while I drive, exercise, clean.

GlowW... GlowWorm889

Actually, Shakespeare is a lot easier for most to understand in audio-book form. They're plays.They were meant to be seen on stage, not read in an English class. The language is different than what we speak today, and without the accompanying inflection of someone reading it (correctly) aloud, the meaning is often lost on the average high-schooler. Not something an elementary schooler would listen to, but I found it helped a lot during my freshmen year of high school. Then I took Latin, and since the sentence structure in Latin is similar to the sentence structure used in Shakespeare, I no longer had the problem. But don't knock it 'till you try it.


And yes, I do think listening to an audio-book is equivalent to reading the actual book. Why wouldn't it be? It's the same material, just in a different form. Is reading "Harry Potter" on your Kindle any different than reading it in print form? Personally, I prefer to read an actual book. But you can still be well-read using other mediums.

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