Monday, September 27, 2010

Pump up the Volume!

As a librarian-in-training, life-long reader, and mother, I think everyone should read, and read more. At our house, we go to the library two to three times a week and have a minimum of 30 books checked out at any one time. In the evenings, instead of watching TV, we all sit in the family room and read. I am fortunate that my children not only love to read, but are good readers.

But let's face it. Not everyone is a good reader. Some don't enjoy reading, while others have difficulty reading due to visual impairments, attention disorders, reading disorders, dyslexia, or developmental disorders. Does this mean they have to give up on enjoying a good story? Does this mean they will never appreciate fine literature, or keep up with the best sellers? The answer is a loud, resounding NO!

Audio books are more widely available, and in more formats, than every before, and are an affordable, enjoyable, and fun alternative to those who find reading difficult, for whatever reason. Options include Playaways, books on tapes or CDs, and down-loadable books. And here's the good news: listening to audio versions of books
  • increases interest in reading
  • increases comprehension
  • improves reading skills and literacy, especially when students follow along in the book, alternate between the book and tape, or read the book after listening to the recording
  • increases motivation to read.
Preschoolers and kindergartners can get a jump on reading when you let them listen to books of their choosing while freeing you up to help older kids or make dinner. Older kids who struggle with reading can keep up with their friends' latest reading craze, whether it be Harry Potter, Twilight, or The Children of Djinn.

Playaways are digital recordings that come complete with battery and ear buds. About the size of a credit card (but about 1/4 of an inch thick), Playaways have control buttons (volume, play, pause, etc) on one side, and the book cover on the other. Although they are currently fairly expensive, they have the cool factor, and are available from many vendors including, Borders, and all major booksellers, as are the more traditional books-on-tape and CDs. Many libraries are beginning to carry Playaways. Check them out.

Many books are available as wav or Mp3 downloads online. The Internet Archive has free downloads of books, poetry, and alternative news programs. Other sources include Project Gutenberg, Bookshare, and Accessible Books. Both Bookshare and Accessible Books provide free text-to-speech software for those with qualifying disabilities. All of these sources are reviewed in an earlier blog: More Accessibility: Free Audiobooks Available Online.

So, go ahead, pump up the volume, and let your kids do it too!