How to Enhance Student Reading with Audio Books

Smiling, young boy with headphones.
Listening to Audio books can build comprehension and vocabulary.

Reading is a Participation Sport

Our students don’t always have the best listening skills so helping them strengthen listening skills can not only benefit their listening skills, it can also benefit their reading skills. 

Summer is a good time to encourage students to now only read but to also listen to audible books when they are looking for something to do during those long, hot summer days.

When school is not in session, it is likely that if your students don’t “use it” they will “lose it” – their reading skills – that is. 

Reading is a “participation sport” and like any other sport – basketball, hockey or swimming – the more you practice, the better you become.

One of the first suggestions to give parents to maintain and develop student reading skills over the summer is to encourage their children to keep reading. 

While many students can’t wait to go to the library and select summer reading books, many struggling readers do not share their enthusiasm. 

A fun way to grab their attention is to get children busy with exciting audio books over the summer vacation months. They can provide many hours of entertainment as well as educational development. 

Audio books can be listened to at home or even taken in the car on summer road trips.

With the right audio book selections, the whole family may even be able to listen to the presentation while traveling in the car, hiking or even relaxing at the beach.

Audio Books Strengthen Reading and Listening Skills

Audio books may be the perfect solution for struggling readers who have not yet developed reading proficiency.

We all listen at a higher level than what we may be able to read on our own. As a result, listening to interesting audio books helps students develop a stronger sense of story and it also builds vocabulary by exposing students to a wide variety of words in context.

By listening to audio books on topics that students enjoy, many are astonished to find that books contain interesting information.

By listing to entertaining audio books, students realize that books can be enjoyable, entertaining as well as informative.

When struggling students are learning to read, they often have difficulty with decoding what they are reading. When that happens, they spend most of their cognitive energy simply trying to identify the words.

Spending so much mental energy on decoding may prevent students from being able to process textual meaning. That is why some struggling readers finish reading yet have no idea what they have read.

Audio books allow students to listen to the story without stumbling over decoding.

Listening to audio books allows students to put their mental energy toward making sense of what they are reading. It improves their listening skills and helps them see how stories are constructed.

By listening to a story rather than struggling to read it, students retain more of the information from the text.

Another benefit of listening to audio books is that it expands vocabulary.

This can be a huge plus for struggling readers who may need more work on growing their vocabulary storehouse.

They can also help English language learners strengthen their English skills as well as listening skills.

Student listening to headphones while walking in a forest with yellow leaves on the trees.
Stories are Easy to Use On-the-Go

Where to Find Audio Books to Build Listening Skills

The public library in most cities is a great source of free audio books to enhance listening skills.

Talk to the librarian to see what resources you might be able to find that will interest your child.

There are also many websites that offer audio stories. Some examples are: for younger children or Audio Book Sync for teens.

Spotify offers streaming of some good books for times when students are sticking around the house or want entertainment to take with them.

Amazon’s Audible runs summer specials and offers free books for students so be sure to check with them as well.

Audiobooks are not just for struggling readers. Students who are college-bound can build their background knowledge of classic books like Pride and Prejudice or Othello to prepare themselves for college.

Teachers working with students during summer school can also take advantage of these online audio selections for their students.

If students have access to the book being read aloud, encourage them to follow along with the words printed on the page.

This helps struggling readers link the words on the page to what they are hearing. By connecting the words on the page and the words they are hearing, struggling readers can strengthen their reading skills.

As parents and teachers, we are all aware of those “I don’t know what to do with myself” summer blues.  Encouraging our students to Listen to inviting audio books may just be the answer. 

You May Also Like:

Helping Struggling Students Meet Reading Standards

Why Students Struggle and What to Do About It

How to Help Struggling Readers Understand Difficult Text

Getting High School Students Interested in Reading

Motivating Students to Read

Seated young woman reading an oversized book.
Some Students Love to Read But Some Resist It.

Here are 5 ways to motivate high school students to become more interested in reading:

1. Find Books That Match the Teen’s Interests

Let your teen read what appeals to them.

Get students talking about what interests them and help them find books that match those interests. It might be romance novels, the Twilight vampire series, Star Wars, graphic novels or nonfiction books about sports or space.

Whatever it is, the main things is to help teens discover that reading can help them explore content that interests them and motivates them to read more.

2. Match Appropriate Level Books with Reading Skills

Some high school students don’t read because they are not strong readers.

They may say they don’t like to read instead of saying that reading is hard for them. Again, explore their interest with them and then find books that match those interests. Ask a librarian to help you find “high interest – low vocabulary books” that are specifically designed for struggling readers on topics of interest to them.

Another option is to locate audio books for the teens to listen to on topics of interest. Audio books are great ways to build content knowledge and expand vocabulary skills. They can even help English language learners expand their vocabulary and develop a sense of how the English language works.

3. Find Articles on Current Topics of a Controversial Nature then Read Aloud to Model What Proficient Reading Sounds Like

Look for short articles that talk about controversial topics such as “Are Driverless Cars Safe on our Highways?” This type of article can capitalize on topics that teens care about. A great source for finding such articles that students will find interesting is on the website

Read the articles aloud and model appropriate phrasing and pacing for your students while they follow along in their own copy of the text. Listing to proficient reading will help struggling readers understand what good reading sounds like. It will also help them realize that there is valuable information to be learned from the text. Be sure to engage students in meaningful conversations about the topics after listening to the article. Require them to search their copy of the text for “proof” to support their ideas and claims.

4. Leverage Student Interests to Create Oral Presentations

Ask students to identify their passions, special interests and areas of expertise.

Topics might be sports, famous people or celebrities, music, cars politics or anything else students are passionate about. Have each student come up with a key question that they would like to know about that topic.

Once they have their key question, have them use the library or online research to learn more about that topic. Once they have gathered more information, have them organize their findings into a 5 minute oral talk or presentation for the class.

5. Help Students Get Social with Their Reading

Consider creating a class blog where your students can write and post their own book reviews and read the book reviews of their peers.

Since kids like to spend time on social networking sites, capitalize on this love of peer gab by introducing your students to online book social networking sites.

Here are 4 excellent social networking websites to get high school students interested in reading and sharing their favorite books with friends and peers:

Book Sharing Site: Good Reads

  1. The first great site for sharing new “reads” with peers is Good Reads. At Good Reads, readers learn what their friends are reading and share their own book interests with their online peers. They also read reviews of popular books that other adolescent readers have shared, enjoyed, and recommended.

This information can help teens find other books that might also interest them. It also motivates students to find other books they can share on Good Reads.

The Shelfari Website

2. At, a sharing site created by Amazon, students create their own shelf of treasured books. They place books that they are currently reading as well as books they have finished reading on their personal shelf.

Users also write reviews and recommend books that they have enjoyed to other readers with similar interests. Since students are recommending books to their peers. Students can develop new friendships and share books they like with other teens.

The BookCrossing Community

3. Another useful networking site is: At this fun site, readers can “release their books into the wild” by leaving them where other readers can find them.  Books to be shared can be left in cafes, coffee shops, classrooms, parks, and any other place where people go.

Users track where the books go as others pick them up and take them with them. As people find a book, the reader who left it gets comments from the readers who have “found” their book. Books have even been known to make their way to foreign countries!  

Readers complete their book and pass it on to someone else when they have finished reading it. Book passing can take place either inside or outside of the BookCrossing community. 

Readers are amazed at the track their book takes as it is shared and re-shared again and again.  This fun site builds student interest in reading and networking with others. It will keep readers actively searching for more books to read and share with others!

The Book Mooch Website

4. Another book sharing site that students will love is  This site is a type of lending library. Students lend their own books by mail to a new reader who wants the book. Once they have loaned their book to someone else, they receive new books in in the mail from other members of the sharing group.

The only cost for participation is the postage to send the book on to the next person who requests the book that you have offered for forwarding. 

Sharing books through social networking activates interest in reading and motivates teens to share the books they have already read.

Teens can learn a lot from the books they read and they just might make a new friend with similar interests and tastes in books.

Who would have thought that reading could be so fun!

Girl reading a book at the beach under a beach umbrella.
Get Students Sharing What they Are Reading on Student Friendly Sites

You May Also Like:

How to Meet the Needs of the Gen Z Student

Understanding Text Complexity – Qualitative Measures

Fake News – Helping Students Analyze Online Information

How to Meet the Needs of the Gen Z Student

Who are Gen Z Students and What are they Like?

Teachers who want to meet the needs of the Gen Z student know that Generation Z students bring different interests and learning needs to the classroom. 

To get their attention and engage Gen Z students, teachers must also change the way they teach to match their student’s needs.

Who are Generation Z Students?

According to the Pew Research Center (2018), members of Generation Z are those born after 1997.

Pew researchers found that in the United States nearly half of them or 48% are racial or ethnic minorities. Twenty-five percent of them identify as Hispanic, 13% as Black, 6% identifying as Asian and 4% other races.

The majority of Gen Z children live in metropolitan areas of the country with only 12% living in rural areas.

Generation Z students live in the “digital age.”  They use smartphones, e-readers, digital assistants, laptops, and iPads. They text their friends,  download music, and create and share digital pictures online.

Gen Z students communicate on social media networks and are “connected” nearly every waking hour of the day. 

While they “live online,” they also trust what they see and read online. A study by Adweek showed that 72% of Gen Z students want a website to already know what they are looking for when they search it.

Many are willing to trust their favorite brands with their personal information as long as the website gives them what they want.

Two teen girls looking at a computer.

Meeting the Learning Needs of Gen Z Student in the Classroom

Generation Z students like autonomy and personalization in their learning. According to Fisher (2016), they have grown up on having everything personalized just for them – everything from playlists to newsfeeds to products. As a result, they have grown up expecting that.

Researchers, Seemiller & Grace (2017), found that some Gen Z students like learning in a social setting where they can build relationships with others.

Gen Z students grew up on short, “how to” videos from YouTube and “googling” information they wanted to know on the spot. T

Gen Z students want active learning and engagement rather than lectures. Gen Z students learn by doing and experimenting. They enjoy being shown how to do something rather than hearing about it. They are entrepreneurial in nature and often express interest in starting their own businesses.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Gen Z Student Learning

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, researcher from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (McCoy, 2020) have found that Gen Z students prefer “in-person” group activities, printed materials and interactions with teachers over digital learning. They did still enjoy learning via YouTube (59%) and learning apps (47%) however.

While Gen Z students are better at focusing in the classroom than their predecessors, they do have shorter attention spans so active learning methods are a must.

The conclusion of this study recommended that teachers use a blend of traditional face-to-face teaching methods supported by online learning activities including the use of digital devices.

Meeting the Needs of Your Gen Z Students

Teachers can meet the learning needs of Gen Z students by providing self-paced and self-directed learning opportunities. Increase student engagement by providing bite-sized learning that is time-efficient and focused.

Generation Z is more career-focused than previous generations. Help them connect mastering the content in front of them with career advancement to increase interest. Gen Z students also value altruism. Gen Z students will respond better if you can help them see how what they are learning contributes to the greater good.

Students who belong to Gen Z value diversity so creating inclusive environments in the classroom where all students feel welcome and valued is important. Gen Z students enjoy sharing their ideas and learning with others. Many would enjoy tutoring their peers on content they have already mastered.

People struggle with large amounts of text in our daily lives. Readers must read, analyze, synthesize and respond – often with a sense of urgency and immediacy to the information with which we are presented.

The jobs most of our students will do in the future most likely have not even been created. As a result, our teaching must leave behind the obsolete “factory model” and capture the realities of life in the 21st century and beyond.

We must prepare our students to be not only strong readers, but also thinkers, questioners, and managers of text and information. Education must prepare students to meet the demands of a world as yet undefined. Like it or not – that is what being a teacher in the 21st century requires of all of us.

Updated – 10/01/2022

You Might Also Like:

Fake News – How to Analyze Online Information