August Q & A: Summer Reading

boy-reading-outside-summerQuestion: Dr. Kate what are thoughts about allowing my child to listen to her required summer reading rather than read it form a book?

Answer: Thank you for your questions. You raise a topic that I often debate with parents and educators about how children learn best. The answer is it depends.


For children who read at grade level and with  proficiency and  who can easily read the book but who prefer to listen to it, I say that’s awesome. The goal of the summer reading is to get the most out of the story. There are plenty of people  who are auditory learners  who comprehend more easily through auditory means such as  listening to a book. I am one of those people. Of course I can read and write, but if I have to really learn something and know it well, I will listen to it instead of read it.

Knowing that I am a preferred auditory learner has meant the difference between passing and failing standardized exams. I will tape class notes and get lectures in auditory form and ace any test in my area of expertise, because that’s how I learn best; through listening. So if you have child that knows how to read,  and is in fourth grade and or higher  and who wants to listen because they are an auditory learner, I think that’s just fine. It’s more enjoyable, pragmatic and efficient because they may have to read slower or even twice to absorb the same information they get from listening  once and I don’t believe  this will change that much regardless of practice. Of course practicing reading will improve reading skills up to a certain point, but not more than their  natural auditory  tendency. If someone is born with a brain that gravitates more towards the auditory  than the visual it’s not going to change.

The other time you may want to use audible books is when you have a younger child who struggles to decode and yet  has the ability to comprehend at significantly higher level  when  listening than their reading ability allows. You want to promote audible books to this child because they will get frustrated and feel stupid reading books that are significantly lower than their comprehension level. Audible books will engage that child at their intellectual level even when they can’t yet read at level. This will renew their interest in the reading process and the gruel work of learning to read because they now have experienced the benefit.

I can’t tell you how often I hear parents say things like listening to a book rather than reading it is cheating. While  it’s true that listening will not increase skills in reading decoding, it’s hardly  cheating when the exercise is  to absorb the information in the book and know the story well enough to be able to write about  it as is the case in many summer reading assignments. I know that when I listen to material to study for an exam and then I ace it, that’s not  cheating, that’s just being smart.

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