For millions of children and adults with dyslexia, deciphering printed text can pose a significant challenge. The learning disability is characterized by difficulties with phonological awareness and decoding letters into sounds. As individuals with dyslexia struggle to translate the text on the page into a meaningful message, reading becomes arduous or almost impossible.
Fortunately, there is more than one way to read.
Reading with audiobooks has proven to be an effective accommodation for those with dyslexia, and for many the benefit is amplified when the reader follows along with the text while listening. This multisensory approach of taking in information with both sight and sound helps bridge the gap between the letters on the page and their meaning, greatly improving comprehension.
Audiobooks help dyslexic readers (like student Ben Shrader, pictured above) process words faster, at a rate that more closely aligns with that of their peers. Further, specialists confirm that listening to audiobooks while following the printed text allows many readers to take in information and enjoy learning without struggling over each word.
Paul B. Yellin, M.D., founder of The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain and Education, describes the process:
“Many children understand language that they hear at a higher level than language they read on their own. Audiobooks allow children to access information at this higher level. And very often, reading skills are best improved if the listener follows along with the written text.”
Dr. Yellin points to new formats like VOICEtext from Learning Ally, which highlights each sentence on-screen as a human narrator reads it, making it easier for readers to follow along. A screen shot from the Learning Ally Audio app (available on Google Play and the Apple App store) shows how the printed words from the book appear on screen.
Read more about VOICEtext from Learning Ally and learn how to search for and download VOICEtext books (membership required).
“Having the ability to actually see a word highlighted while hearing it read allows a child to access content by reinforcing the linkage between ‘how a word looks’ with ‘how a word sounds’ and supports the development of independent reading skills,” he says. Whitney D. Hall, Ph.D. a psychologist specializing in cognitive assessment agrees, saying, “The benefit of adding on screen text that is highlighted in synch with the narration is that this more closely simulates the act of reading. Following along while hearing the material narrated allows a child to practice using their reading skills.”
How Text Synched with Audio Improves Reading
- Improves skills for decoding each sound in a word
- Enforces letter-sound associations
- Improves sight word recognition
- Enhances vocabulary
- Increases comprehension
“Combining human speech with synchronized text in an audiobook is ideal for many students’ particular learning profile,” says Dr. Yellin. “And by using narrators who provide accurate tone and inflection throughout the book, Learning Ally audiobooks can improve understanding for the reader.” Learning Ally is adding new titles in its VOICEtext audio format and conducting research to create more improved VOICEtext books.
An important goal is to create VOICEtext books that include word-level synchronization for an even better reading experience for students with dyslexia.
Stay tuned as VOICEtext books are improved and more are added to Learning Ally's library, and read more about synching audiobook narration with text onscreen. Members, log in to download books in VOICEtext! (Or, sign up for membership here.)
About Paul B. Yellin, M.D.
Paul B. Yellin, MD, FAAP, is Director of The Yellin Center for Mind, Brain, and Education, a New York City-based learning evaluation, support, and professional development organization which provides customized support for students and educators based on emerging knowledge in neuroscience. Dr. Yellin is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics.
About Whitney D. Hall, Ph.D.
Dr. Whitney Hall has extensive training and experience providing testing, assessment and diagnostic work for ADD, ADHD and Learning Disabilities such as Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. Dr. Hall currently maintains a private practice in Austin, Texas. She deeply enjoys working with this population and has a strong commitment to improving the lives of those who struggle with Learning Disabilities and ADD/ADHD.