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Learning to Love Audiobooks - My Family's Story

Categories: Assistive Technology, Audiobook Library, Learning Disabilities, Parenting

merrill-and-hendon-by Lyn Pollard, guest blogger “Time to practice the piano,” I call out to my 10-year-old son.  “And time to read,” I continue to my 8-year-old daughter.  The sound of a C major scale emanates from the back room while my daughter plops on the couch in the family room with a book and our iPad. This is our new routine, and it’s working like a charm.  Each day when Hendon practices for 30 minutes with my direction, that’s Merrill’s audiobook time.  Merrill, who is dyslexic and uses audiobooks to help her read, opens “Captain Underpants” to the page where she left off, taps on the iPad screen, puts on her headphones and is soon engrossed in the story.  Hendon switches from scales to Czerny variations and everyone is engaged in an appropriate, educational activity – at least for the next 28 minutes! pic2 It took some time to come up with the right combination – practice time for my son during which I can participate and give direct instruction, and an engaging and stimulating independent activity for my daughter.  Because of Merrill’s dyslexia, she needs extra time during the day to spend both reading books on her reading level as well as listen to audiobooks that contain age-appropriate and grade-level content. Adding audiobooks to our routine has been the perfect solution. Why are audiobooks a great choice for extending our daughter’s on-grade reading time?  Imagine for a moment loving books but not being able to read them by yourself without intensive help.  That’s what it used to be like for Merrill. Just stop and think about how frustrating it would be to see your sibling, parents and friends enjoying their favorite books while you, unable to read at grade-level due to your reading disability, cannot do the same.  It’s heartbreaking, both for a mom like me and for her child, to not be able to enjoy the simple pleasure of reading a book that catches your eye on a library shelf or that someone recommends. Yet, this heartbreaking event occurs far too often every day to children across our country diagnosed with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.  The good news?  There is lots of help and resources out there for these kids.  With a combination of dedicated parents and educators, kids can get connected with wonderful teachers and therapists who can give them proper dyslexia remediation and help them develop strong reading skills. Resources like Learning Ally audiobooks can also play a major role in helping kids like Merrill enjoy books even while they are receiving dyslexia remediation services.   What’s also great about audiobooks is that they can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the preference and age of the reader.

Merrill Pollard

For Merrill, she prefers to use her audiobooks on our iPad or her iPod touch using the Learning Ally mobile app.  Also, whenever possible, she likes to have the printed copy of the book alongside her while she listens.  I like it too, because it helps her both see the written word on a printed page (call me old fashioned, but I like her having the tactile stimulation of turning actual pages in the book and experiencing the feel and even smell of a “real” book while she listens to the words).

I think this combo method is the perfect way to help Merrill learn to appreciate printed books while getting the help she needs to read them.  Plus, we like to go to the library with our Learning Ally app in hand, find books on the shelf that Merrill likes and then search and download the audiobook right then and there.  She can even sit down at the library with her new book and start reading right away.  Her audio book app helps remove barriers to Merrill enjoying our trip to the library, which is really incredible for a child that used to get very frustrated because she could not immediately sit down to read the books that she chose off the shelf. A recent example of how audiobooks have enhanced the pleasure of reading for our family is when my son received the New York Times bestseller “Wonder” for his birthday recently.  I had heard such great things about the book, which is about a boy who feels very different and about how others treat him, and decided that I would read it along with the kids. both-reading Hendon started reading it on his own plus I started reading the kids a chapter each evening before bed (we often do this form of “repeat reading” to help aid my son’s comprehension).  In the midst of this, we also got an audio copy of the book for Merrill.  She began listening to it right away and by the time Hendon had finished the book on his own, I was surprised to learn (while out of town on a business trip) that Merrill also already finished the audio version! In this circumstance, audiobooks allowed Merrill to not only keep up with her older brother’s reading (which is super-exciting for any 8-year-old!), but also increased our family’s ability to enjoy an amazing and important book together.  We ended up re-reading the entire book together at bedtime after the kids had finished their independent reads – which was a great way to discuss the content and themes together. libraryAll in all, audiobooks have enhanced and extended Merrill’s time with books, in a way that I could not have anticipated (even though other parents and mentors told me it would happen!)  Audio books allow her both independence in reading and the freedom to choose books and enjoy reading them on her own.  Also, they help her keep up with what her brother and friends are reading – an added plus! So, from one parent to another, I would encourage you to give audiobooks to your dyslexic child’s reading routine as soon as possible.  You won’t regret it.  Looking back, my only regret is not getting Merrill started with audiobooks even sooner. Lyn Pollard is a freelance writer, trained journalist and the mother of two kids who learn and play differently. She is also a founding mother of Decoding Dyslexia Texas.

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