Reading Aloud to Independent Readers

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As children mature and learn to read independently, there is the temptation to rationalise that there just isn’t time to do something so indulgent as sitting for hours every week reading aloud to children who can read to themselves. However, there are so many important social, emotional and educational benefits linked to reading aloud to children that it is worth trying to make it a regular part of your child’s life.  

I have been trying to develop a habit of reading aloud in our family. This generally happens at several points in the day, but our family read-aloud happens in the morning, usually while the kids are eating breakfast or after school, while pack wolfs down zooper doopers and watermelon. This means we are lucky to get 10 minutes in, and it takes a long time to read a 250+ page book aloud if you can only read 10 minutes per day. 

To combat the challenges and to make our read-aloud habit easy to maintain we started, and regularly use Borrow Box. It is a free service available to us through our public library. (Your public library might not subscribe to Borrow Box, but most likely they do have a free app for accessing audiobooks and eBooks). We can ‘borrow’ audiobooks and listen to them straight off my phone. So we can listen at the kitchen table (through a speaker), or in the car, or the kids can pop in some earphones and listen to a book individually. It is unbelievably good. It means I can be making school lunches, putting laundry on or using the bathroom (in peace) while the kids get their read-aloud done. 

Most of us will be familiar with Audible (by Amazon). I looked into it, but came to the conclusion that I would end up spending too much money and had better not start down that path. The main differences between Audible and Borrow Box are: 

  • With Audible you buy, and thus own, your own copy of the audiobook. This means you can go back and listen to it whenever you like. It also means you spend about $16.45 per month and you get 1 book credit for that. 
  • With Borrow Box you borrow the book just as you would a library book. You download it to your device and then you have 21 days to listen to it after which it will automatically be deleted from your device. You don’t ever own the audiobook, just as you don’t ever own a library book, but you can always renew or re-borrow the book. And it is completely free! 
  • Audible has an enormous range of books available which you can buy and listen to immediately. 
  • Borrow Box has a much more limited library of available titles, but I still find many of the most popular books are there. I haven’t yet tried it, but I assume that if you request it, your library might buy the rights to an audiobook for you, just as they do a traditional book. 
  • Also, just as a normal library, Borrow Box has limited copies of each audiobook. So you might find that the audiobook you want is already on loan. You can very easily put a reserve on it and you are given the date by which you will be guaranteed the book. All still free! 
  • On Borrow Box there is a limit of 10 books on loan or on reserve at a time. We have not yet found that to be too few. I will often have one on the go, and so will the kids. Then we might have a few we are waiting for on reserve. 
  • Plus you can borrow eBooks on Borrow Box. So if you actually want to read the book yourself, or it is a picture book you can read it on your phone. This would be great for travelers. You can load up a few books on one device rather than lug hard copies around. This is also FREE! 

I think you get my drift. Audible is more convenient, in terms of getting the book you want immediately, and you are actually buying a digital file. But Borrow Box is completely and totally free. You can’t even get late fines! To give you an indication, between the kids and me, we probably download 10-12 books a month. You only get ONE book credit per month with your audible membership. 

The ‘reading experience’ of audiobooks is so valuable for kids. Without the pressure and strain of decoding the word themselves, they are free to sit back and engage completely with the story. The narrator never gets distracted or tired (like Mum does), they just keep reading. The audiobooks we have experienced have been very well produced with excellent narrators. There are also sometimes sound effects and music to enhance the experience. 

My last little tip about listening to audiobooks, try changing the speed to 1.25 or 1.50, you won’t miss a single thing, but you’ll get through more books in less time! 

Happy reading (through listening)! 

Cherie Bell 

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