Reading Aloud is Important – can Audiobooks Compete with Reading Aloud?

In Denmark we have a long tradition for children’s literature and a reading to our children’s culture with lots of danish children’s book authors publishing new sparkling books every year where some has even become famous throughout the world beginning with H.C Anderson.

For many years it has been encouraged to read or tell bedtime stories for children. This started when the baby was born and continued until it was even able to read.
Today, when electronic development makes it possible for children to listen to bedtime stories, one may wonder if it will have the same effect.

What is loud reading good for?

Loud reading has been recommended by various professionals for several years. Danish Center for the Teaching Environment writes about reading in an article from January 9, 2019:

“The youngest children often like books with doors and flaps that can be opened, so that the children can participate. Picture books open up many good conversations where you can put words and possibly narrative into the pictures, it can create a cozy time and a positive reading experience, which has a great impact on the desire to read. Older children benefit greatly from experiencing the whole narrative process without interruption so that the literary experience of the book comes to the center. If the adult points with the finger to the words as they read, the children get a sense of the connection between the written text and the words that are said ”

Letters are often abstract for children, but reading can help to make them concrete for the child

An article on the Literature page of May 07, 2019, states that reading strengthens the child’s language. This article refers to a study done by Trygfonden by Sociologist Asta Breinholt. To use for her P.HD, she examines:

“Teachers (consciously or unconsciously) provide a better evaluation of children’s schooling skills if children participate in various cultural activities such as leisure reading. ”

She finds that children who read, have good schooling and are more skilled.

The Childs growing world

In a January 1, 2015 article, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Kerstin Plessen, talks about the importance of reading aloud for children’s development and school readiness.

She says reading helps stimulate cognitive development and helps the child understand the world around it. The loud reading helps the child to focus and stay calm. But it also teaches the child to think abstractly and to get into the world of other people.

The loud reading also stimulates the child’s language development. But she emphasizes in particular that reading aloud is important for the child’s mental development.

»Loud reading creates a space where the child of the parents receives full and undivided attention. It strengthens what we call ‘attachment’ or in Danish affiliation. We know that a safe connection between the child and the parents ensures that the offspring can better control their own emotions and is less stressed because the child learns to use the adult to reflect in, ” says Kerstin Plessen.

For Children to Become Better Readers Throughout their lives.

An article in Politikken on July 13, 2018, a study by the Danish Library Association points out that loud reading in childhood helps make children a reader throughout their lives. However, the study also shows that it is important that the reading is done regularly.

Not everyone believes that loud reading itself creates good readers. In an article in Politiken on September 21, 2010, Professor Carsten Elbro from the Center for Reading Research at the University of Copenhagen states that reading aloud has only a marginal impact on the child’s reading.

He emphasizes that what is important is the conversation about the text that will stimulate the child’s imagination and language and not the reading itself. He doesn’t think the child learns much by just listening. The words must be used to remember.

Establishing Conversation with Children

All researchers agree that if the child’s language and language understanding is to be developed, the conversation about it is very important.

The parents must, therefore, try to find books that are suitable for the child’s age and preferably a book that, while stimulating the child’s imagination, also contains topics that may be of interest to the child.

In the Little Green Dragon by Hanne Tonga, there are topics like friendship, exclusion and bullying. The book also contains solutions to the problems that can be discussed with the children.

Other books such as The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry shows how a child literally understands it. It gives the child knowledge of the terms used on a daily basis and their significance.

Conveying Informations through Conversations With Children

All the articles on reading aloud emphasize the importance of being together with the parent who reads. This also applies to smaller children who can gain a larger vocabulary through textbooks.

To travel is to live, said H.C. Andersen, but reading can also be a journey. The reader encounters different emotions from sadness to joy. The child recognizes these feelings from his own world. Conversations around these feelings described in a book can also help the child to put words to their own feelings.

Books take the reader to other worlds and social communities. As it travels through the various worlds of fantasy, its understanding and empathy for others increase.

It doesn’t always have to be the adult who reads. The child can increase his or her confidence by reading up, but here it is also very important that any corrections cannot be seen as a criticism, as this will create unease for the child to read.

Today there are also audio and e-books that are read on an electronic device.

Can it be advantageous to use technological aids?

An April 2011 2019 Information article talks about English and Swedish studies that clearly show that the percentage of parents who read aloud to their children is declining. Other studies also show a decline in slightly older children reading themselves. This decrease may be due to more time being spent in front of various screens.

“We must recognize that the children have some good, fun and important experiences in front of the screen. Games and YouTube videos are also culture, and children have lots of good cultural experiences and social experiences in front of the screen. ”Says Rikke Baggesen, postdoc and research facilitator at the ENIGMA Museum of Post, Telecom and Communication.

Multilingual Families or Parents with Reading Disabilities

However, she stresses that families should be together around the screen and not just sit with each other’s screen. “Just like in the old days when we were together on the television watching news, Monopoly and kids time together.” In the same way you can read interactive books, watch movies and news, and talk about the things you watch together. ”

Audiobooks can also help parents who have reading difficulties or are visually impaired. They open up opportunities for cozy moments around a book. The audiobooks have the same benefits that the physical books have for the child, but here too the conversation and being together is very important.

Libraries and Online Audiobook and eBook Ressources

The libraries have a large selection of audio and e-books that are easy to borrow. Some books are written in a fund that is adapted to the dyslexic, which makes reading easier for children with this disability.

The audiobooks can also be a help to the child as it begins to learn foreign languages. They can help correct the child’s pronunciation of the language. Multilingual e-books also have many benefits. They can help the child maintain its mother tongue, but also make it linguistically stronger in a new language.

However, there are still not many multilingual ebooks or publishers who make them. Which is why the Publish Company 1pen ePublish is striving to publish their ebooks in several languages.  It also has benefits to use the digital format for translations and contents lists.

Physical Books vs eBooks

Several studies have shown that readers still prefer physical books. Readers want to be able to flip through the book, feel the weight and see the size. However, it has become more and more common to bring e-books and audiobooks on holiday. They do not weigh anything and do not fill in a suitcase. They have the advantage that they can be read offline if taken off the web before the holidays.

Besides this, audiobooks are also becoming more and more common in use. You can listen to them while you are doing something else as you have both hands free.

It can be concluded that both the physical books and digital books can be used with equal effect on the child, but that in both cases it is very important that time is spent talking about the reading.

Taking the Time to Read

How much time is spent on having a book together can be up to the individual family, but it is also clear from the above articles that it is important that it happens regularly to have an effect on the child’s language and school readiness.

Activities such as loud reading, song play, rhyme, and strips add to the play with the language and the meaning of the words. Playing with words will often mean that children become aware of the language.

  • Oral narrative

All children from birth enjoy great oral stories. It can be simple adventures, a retelling of common experiences or experiences of the adult’s childhood. Images may be used to illustrate the narrative. Through the oral narrative, you can have eye contact with the children and the language can be adapted to their current level of understanding.

“The youngest children often like books with doors and flaps that can be opened so that the children can participate. Picture books open up many good conversations where you can put words and possibly narrative into the pictures, it can create a cozy time and a positive reading experience, which has a great impact on the desire to read. Older children benefit greatly from experiencing the whole narrative process without interruption so that the literary experience of the book comes to the center. If the adult points with the finger to the words as they are read, the children will get a sense of the connection between the written text and the words spoken.” Danish Center for the Teaching Environment writes about reading in an article from January 9, 2019

Sources from the Danish articles:

https://litteratursiden.dk/artikler/bornebogcast-inspiration-til-voksne-om-borns-laesning

https://politiken.dk/forbrugogliv/livsstil/familieliv/art5560730/Professorer-Højtlæsning-styrker-børns-mentale-sundhed

https://politiken.dk/kultur/art6627244/Højtlæsning-med-børnene-sætter-varige-spor

https://politiken.dk/indland/art5426193/Forskere-afliver-sejlivet-myte-om-højtlæsning

https://www.information.dk/kultur/2019/03/hoejtlaesningen-taber-kampen-boernenes-opmaerksomhed

https://videnomlaesning.dk/media/2394/kortlaegning_laesning-paa-digitale-enheder_final.pdf

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