Audio books can provide a wealth of support for readers of all ages. Very simply, audio books are readings of books that are recorded and shared via CD, MP3 file, iTunes, Google Play Store, or just about anywhere files can be shared.
When I was young, audio books were "books on tape," shared via a cassette tape. However those "books on tape" are a fading, distant memory, replaced now by methods of file sharing that jive much more smoothly with our 21st century, digital lifestyles.
Audio books are cool in that they allow people to hear fluent reading and, especially for growing readers, listen to what reading should sound like. These are keys to future reading successes. When children listen to audio books, they hear firsthand the proper pacing and intonations of reading, how punctuation should sound, and how reading should sound. Ideally they will transfer that knowledge to their own reading, both independent and oral reading.
Using audio books in conjunction with actual hardcopies of books allows kids to follow the words on the page with their eyes as they listen to the words being read. The shared visual and audio reading experience provides extra support for readers: they learn to pronounce new words, hear fluent reading, and get to enjoy a new story.
It's a win-win!
Here are eight sites where you can download free audio books to use alone or in conjunction with hardcopies. Many of these sites share audio versions of books that are already in the public domain.
- OpenCulture: From Aesop's Fables to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or from Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi to Dickens' Oliver Twist, OpenCulture has audio books galore.
- Kids Learn Out Loud: The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is included in this free collection, as are Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell; Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel DeFoe; and many others. Speeches, presidential addresses, podcasts, and more are included on this packed, resource-rich site.
- StoryNory: This site offers free audio downloads of classic fairy tales, world fairy tales, fables, 1001 Nights, and more.
- Lit2Go: What I love about this site is that not only is it packed with hundreds of free audio books, but many of the books and poems have free PDFs to download and print so that children can read along, highlight, and mark up the passage being read.
- Project Gutenberg: There are 42,000 free ebooks, but not all of them are audio books. The books are shared freely here because their copyrights have expired.
- AudioBooksforFree.com: L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and Julius Lester’s The Tales of Uncle Remus are included here, along with dozens and dozens of others.
- OpenLibrary: OpenLibrary is just that—an open library. It is an open, public site with the goal of hosting one web page for every book published. At this point, the collection is young but growing. Each of their free eBooks has an audio component, with computer audio recordings.
- International Children’s Digital Library: "A library for the world's children," this site contains over 4,000 books in 61 languages. So cool. Though there aren't many hardcopies I could link to, perhaps some families have the books at home or would just like hearing books read in a foreign language.
Please be aware of your country's copyright laws before you download and/or share an eBook or audio book.
What do you think about audio books? Do you use them? How often? We'd love to hear it! Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find Amy on twitter, @teachmama, and let’s continue the conversation!