Audio Books in Middles School | Are they just as good as reading?

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Do audiobooks really count as reading?

During the tricky middle-grade years, children are typically expected to move beyond picture and chapter books to novels, classics, and more substantial reading. Sometimes, at this stage, previously avid and confident readers can become reluctant ones. In these cases, are audiobooks an equal alternative to the print versions?

There are differences in cognition, but does it matter?

Audiobooks use the listening parts of your brain while reading print uses the parts necessary for decoding the written words. We are engaged in different cognitive activities when we read versus when we listen to an audiobook. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What is your ultimate goal?

The real question to ask is “What is the most important thing for your child to get out of this assignment?” 


Is it . . .

Reading Fluency 

If your goal is to have them practice reading fluently aloud (or to themselves), only a print version will do. Audiobooks will not help improve reading fluency, except tangentially by exposing them to more advanced knowledge and concepts, more complex sentence structure, word meanings, etc. But reading fluency is only built by practicing, well, reading. 

Comprehension and/or Retention

If we are hoping for a well-written book report at the end of our troubles, then the goal is that your child understands the content and retains it for later use. In that case, audiobooks may be the way to go! Here, it depends on the individual learner, and they should be given the opportunity to try what they think will work best for them.

Sheer Enjoyment or Broadening Horizons 

If you want them to simply fall in love with the stories, characters, and settings, or if you are really trying to spark interest in a new genre or topic, this might be the time to opt for audiobooks. Children are often more willing to listen and give new things a chance while engaged in other quiet tasks.


The thing to keep in mind is that each assignment you give your child can’t accomplish all things. Audiobooks and reading are not the same, but there is a place for both depending on what the main goal of the assignment is. 


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