Looking for scholarly research on the power of audiobooks in literacy development? A study released today has great information for parents looking for ways to keep reading skills sharp over the summer months, librarians seeking increased funding for their audiobook collections, educators who need strong statistics for audiobook grants, or teachers planning next year’s reading program. Click here to find details of the study, along with a survey of prior audiobook research and a useful bibliography.
This 28-page report on the impact of audiobooks on vocabulary development and reading achievement in second- and third-grade students looks at the use of Tales2go’s streaming audio service in the San Francisco Bay Area school district’s after-school program, which is economically and ethnically diverse with approximately 42% of elementary students receiving free or reduced-price lunch and 15% identified as English Language Learners. The study was performed by Kylie Flynn, Ph.D., Bryan Matlen, Ph.D., Sara Atienza, M.S., and Steven Schneider, Ph.D. for WestEd, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research and development service.
The impact of purely listening to books is striking.
For me, the most important part of the study is that the researchers focused on just listening, with no follow-along-in-the-book or other reading intervention added. The impact of purely listening to books is striking. Two notable findings are that students using Tales2go attained 58% of the annual expected gain in reading achievement in just 10 weeks, putting them three months ahead of control students. Plus, the study group outperformed the control group across all measures, by three times in reading comprehension, nearly seven times in second-grade vocabulary, and nearly four times in reading motivation. These increases came after students listened for twenty minutes three times per week in the afternoon program at school, and an additional two twenty-minute sessions at home.
These results would be comparable with including any audiobooks in a young person’s literacy development. I would guess that many parents spend twenty minutes in the car with their kids five days a week in the summer—what if those minutes were spent listening as a family? Sounds like audiobooks are a perfect way to combat the “summer slide” and prevent the loss of hard-earned classroom reading skills by just listening. Check out the titles I suggest in “Summertime Family Listening” for great audios. Summer’s here, and the time is right for listening in our seats—car seats, that is!