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COLUMN: Audiobooks added to children's library

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By Crystal Packard

 I can remember going to the LaRue County Public Library as a child. A very fond memory of mine was going to the rack that housed the baggies with a book and a cassette of that book. I would flip through them until I found one that caught my eye and excitedly rush to Mrs. Kathy to check me out.

Once home I would listen to that book numerous times. As I got older, locking myself in our bathroom (the echo made it sound like a recording studio), I would record myself reading books and bringing the characters to life. Through this innocent childhood play I was able to improve reading skills and increase fluency and never even knew.

In recent weeks a new addition has been added to the children’s floor of the public library. We now have an audio center where up to eight children can listen and read along with a story at the same time. The Friends of the Library graciously donated an Early Literacy Read Along Library, a great start to reestablishing our young readers’ audio collection. This kit includes 16 books with audio CDs. Titles include childhood favorites like It Looked Like Spilt Milk, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, The Snowy and The Three Bears.

Some people may argue that audio books is not actually reading but whether you agree with that or not it’s hard to argue with the benefits of children listening to audio books. Traditionally audio books have been used by second language learners, learning-disabled or impaired students and struggling readers but all students can benefit. You can use audio books to introduce readers to books above their reading level, to different genres and literary styles, new vocabulary and dialects. Listening to books read to the child helps develop their fluency in reading that might be lacking because story time might not be a part of their lives outside of school or library environments.

Fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. In order to understand what they read, children must be able to read fluently whether they are reading aloud or silently. When reading aloud, fluent readers read in phrases and add intonation appropriately. Their reading is smooth and has expression. Children who do not read with fluency sound choppy and awkward. Those students may have difficulty with decoding skills or they may just need more practice with speed and smoothness in reading. 

Fluency is also important for motivation; children who find reading laborious tend not to want read. As readers head into upper elementary grades, fluency becomes increasingly important. The volume of reading required in the upper elementary years escalates dramatically. Students whose reading is slow or labored will have trouble meeting the reading demands of their grade level. 

Another great way audio books can benefit students are they are portable. An audio book can be listened to in the car to and from sports practices and games, vacations or any time period stuck in the car. This gives parents and children something they can share together. Parents can also use this as a bridge to important topics for discussions and a way to recapture “the essence and delights of hearing stories beautifully told by extraordinarily talented storytellers” (Baskins & Harris, 1995).

Whatever your reasons for listening to audio books or if you never have but would like to try one out, come to the library and check one out, we offer audio books for all ages.