Are audio books right for your young child?

Audio books, also called books on tape, are a great way for busy adults to “read.”  Pop one in your car CD player for a long commute.  Listen while you make dinner or wait through a long soccer practice.

But are they good for your young children?  Yes and No.

  • Yes, if you speak English with an accent and want your child read to by native English speakers.
  • Yes, if you want to encourage reading but you are too busy making dinner or bathing the baby to read to your preschooler.
  • Yes, if you are looking for an educational alternative to video games, electronic games or TV.
  • Yes, if your child is a beginning reader or a poor reader who could benefit from hearing the same book read multiple times while reading along.
  • Yes, if you need a bedtime ritual for your child which doesn’t involve you or which takes the place of you when you work late or travel.

But sometimes video books are not a good choice.

  • No, if you think video books can take the place of your reading to your child on a regular basis.
  • No, if your child has questions, or wants to pause to look longer at the pictures.
  • No, if the pacing of the book is too fast for the child, or the language too advanced, or the themes too mature.
  • No, if you hope your struggling reader will read along rather than merely listen to the voice on the machine.
  • No, if the background music, sound effects or dramatic flair of the reader grate on your child’s nerves.

I have been in classrooms where some children listen intently to audio books while others tune out.  If your child is struggling to read or is generally restless, you might need to join him while he listens to audio books to keep him focused.

Audio books isolate a child.  Children learn better when they have a strong positive emotional connection to the learning process.  When a parent reads to a child, cuddling, answering her questions, pausing until she is ready to move on, explaining new words, roaring with wild thing noises or laughing at a cat in a hat, the child engages and learns to a greater degree than is possible with audio books.

Audio books can work well to supplement, but they cannot replace your reading to your child.

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