Literacy rates in America have dropped in recent years. According to the Center for Education Statistics, 37% and 30% of fourth and eighth graders, respectively, do not meet the standard literacy for their age level in 2022. When compared to their 2020 counterparts of 34% and 27%, it’s evident that illiteracy can become a steady problem if not addressed soon. Educators and school districts must use all available resources to promote greater literacy in their institutions. And one potential solution to this problem is audiobooks. These narrated pieces of literature, when used in lieu or together with physical reading materials, can do some good in helping students increase their reading and writing skills. These are just a few of the benefits they bring:
Literacy issues may be rooted in accessibility struggles. Affordability is a significant challenge for learners, as many studies have shown that poverty can impede a child's education even before they enter a classroom. Homes may not have enough physical space for hard copies of books, and parents may not have the time to provide adequate reading experiences for their children. Budget constraints can also restrict the availability of certain texts in public libraries. As such, audiobooks solve these problems, with digital library subscriptions proving to be more cost-efficient. Case in point, the audiobook collection on Everand is expansive and affordable. For a low price, young students can access titles such as Stardust by Neil Gaiman, Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and much more through a single device, without having to purchase separate copies.
Another issue hindering literacy is that students may have difficulty consuming literature. Physical ailments such as dyslexia can make reading printed text difficult, while psychological conditions like ADHD and mental health issues can make concentrating on a book a challenging task. Audiobooks can bridge that gap by providing a new medium for students to consume written works. Some teachers, for example, have found that pairing audiobook narrations with seeing the words on the page can significantly support students lagging behind in literacy.
Promoting engagement with literature
In today’s digital age, more students are interested in using social media as a pastime rather than reading books. Literature can be seen as a boring alternative compared to media that can be easily or even passively consumed, such as short-form videos. Still, audiobooks may have an advantage over their printed counterparts. A recent dissertation published on ScholarsArchive found that audiobooks provided more immersive experiences, as the narration styles can feel more intimate and connective, leading readers to feel more interested in the work. This can build a greater interest in literature, increasing literacy rates by encouraging students to "listen" to more books.
With increased interest in literature, audiobooks can build better reading habits among students. One study from Walden University found that teachers who integrated the use of audiobooks in the classroom helped students develop routines where they independently consume books. Increased literacy is tied to good reading habits: When you read more, you familiarize yourself with new words, improving your reading and writing skills. Ideally, educators should use age-appropriate works such as Charlotte’s Web for elementary-grade kids or required reading books like To Kill a Mockingbird for high school students so that learners can meet the literacy standard expected at their level.
The future of literacy
Instructional coach Michael Gollow explains that new literacy platforms are the future for this side of education. Teachers and students can greatly benefit from the technology this new age offers, as these provide more effective interventions when used correctly, ensuring schools can keep up with today’s standards. In this sense, audiobooks certainly have their place in bridging the current literacy gap in schools.