Want to improve comprehension and vocabulary? Try audiobooks

Monday November 15 2021
Audiobook pic

Most people now have either a phone, kindle, tablet computer or laptop — devices that can bring digital books into homes where none would otherwise exist. PHOTO |FILE

By Sam Wambugu

In countries where the books famine persists, audiobooks present an opportunity to quench the thirst for reading and nurture a reading culture. Most people now have either a phone, kindle, tablet computer or laptop — devices that can bring digital books into homes where none would otherwise exist.

Compared to paper books, audiobooks can be taken along and listened to from almost anywhere — while driving, preparing a meal, at a hair salon, carwash, in a gym while working out — practically almost everywhere.

With a device that can connect to the internet, one can subscribe to audiobook services through apps such as Audible, the Amazon-owned audiobook market leader, Google Play Books, among a slew of many more, some free and others at a fee.

Children are particularly adept at using digital devices. They want to tinker with gadgets. They find them and the content they display exciting and alluring. Part of that content can be audiobooks for children.

Audiobooks improve learners’ comprehension skills, boost their vocabulary, teach them proper pronunciation, and motivate them to read more books.

Listening to a book brings the words alive. Narrators of audiobooks tend to enhance their storytelling with voices and dramatic episodes that arouse the appetite of children to want to listen more. Audiobooks also give children an essential primer to listening, a must-have life skill.

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Questions have been raised on whether listening to books lowers or increases retention compared to reading their print counterparts. This debate is far from concluded. Listening to books is better than not reading at all or spending countless hours watching other unhelpful material on devices.

In some situations, the only option for accessing a book is a digital, audio version. The book of interest may not be available locally, or the logistics of getting it may be prohibitive. Reading and listening to books are not mutually exclusive. The bottom line is that kids gain good experiences listening, reading, or doing both.

For readers who are honing their reading skills, listening to an audiobook while simultaneously reading along can help build reading fluency through imitating the audio narration. The reading-while-listening approach is essential, particularly for kids whose parents or guardians aren’t fluent readers or don’t get quality time reading to and with them.

Of course, one does not have to be a child to delve into audiobooks. A ravenous reader could read more books in a year by listening to some while busy doing other things and read the print version when seated and settled. One can also have audio and print versions of the same book and switch between reading and listening at their convenience.

As the saying goes, “Once you learn to read, you will forever be free.” Digital technology can help break the shackles of ignorance.