We are all rampant bibliophiles. We love books. However, we consume books in very different ways. Katie thrills to the feel of a paperback or hardcover and her tastes tend to run more towards fiction and plays. She loves to get out her pencils and pens and mark a text up with ideas, insights and inspiration. Hunter consumes a lot of audiobooks because he spends so much time in the car. He also likes Kindle because it allows him to easily search for key terms. Hunter’s tastes run much more towards non-fiction.
So often, we meet with students and we hear them tell us they’re “not a reader.” They don’t read for fun, and they find clever ways to avoid their assigned reading in class. While choosing a video game over a book may feel like a win in the moment, avoiding reading majorly cuts down on students’ ability to participate in school. Since they haven’t read the in-class books, they can’t meaningfully participate in in-class discussions, and their essays become mostly an exercise in bullshitting based on whatever summary they read online. And even getting to the requisite 500 words of said bullshit is a painstaking, all-night slog.
To be honest, Hunter wasn’t much of a reader in high school. That wasn’t because Hunter wouldn’t have enjoyed reading. It’s because Hunter’s idea of reading was that it had to look like Katie. Honestly, if you’d asked Hunter about audiobooks, he probably would have assumed they were only for blind people.
Getting students to “read” the text doesn’t have to mean getting them to pick up the book. It can mean getting them to listen to the audiobook. They can listen to their assigned reading at the gym. They can listen to their assigned reading while lying in bed at night. They can listen to their assigned reading on the drive to and from school. And what’s more, audiobooks also make it easy for you to listen to their assigned reading so you can discuss the book together. Imagine if you got the whole family to read your student’s assigned reading and you all discussed the book at dinner. How confident would your kid feel participating in class the next day in that case? And whereas in parenting, most benefits flow in one direction, you win too! Many adults wish we were better versed in classic literature or history. Well, here’s our chance to help the kids in our lives and read some of the world’s great books.
Making time to sit down and read a book is desirable, and that’s a skill that you can build over time. But there are more ways to get there than you might imagine. We’ve had many dyslexic students over the years who, rather than struggling through their reading, have instead opted to not read at all. By getting them to regularly use audiobooks, we’ve helped build their comfort, their confidence, and their interest in narrative. From there, it was much easier to help them transition to reading more physical books.
Reading isn’t stuck in the last century--it’s a constantly-evolving practice--so don’t let your idea of what doing the assigned reading looks like get stuck there either. Most libraries actually offer free audiobook downloads. Anything that would be assigned reading in middle school or high school is almost certain to be there. Downloading free audiobooks means no cost, no trip to the library, and a very easy way to fit that assigned reading into everyone’s schedule. We also have an Audible subscription for books that we can’t download for free from our libraries. Audible has lots of great audiobooks that you can now finally get off your reading list...including The Straight-A Conspiracy audiobook read by Katie and Hunter.
In Part Two, we’ll look at the power of e-readers and why they’re so useful for turning that assigned reading into a paper.