Audiobooks can provide a wealth of support for readers of all ages. Very simply, audiobooks 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, audiobooks were "books on tape," shared via a cassette tape. However, those "books on tape" are a fading, distant memory, replaced now by media that jives more smoothly with our 21st century, digital lifestyles.
Audiobooks 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 audiobooks, 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 aloud.
Using audiobooks in conjunction with actual hard copies 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 four sites where you can access free audiobooks to use alone or in conjunction with hard copies. Many of these sites share audio versions of books that are already in the public domain.
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1. StoryNory: This site offers free audio downloads of classic fairy tales, world fairy tales, fables, 1001 Nights, and more.
2. Lit2Go: What I love about this site is that it's not only packed with hundreds of free audiobooks, 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.
3. Project Gutenberg: There are more than 50,000 free ebooks, but not all of them are audiobooks. The books are shared freely here because their copyrights have expired.
4. International Children’s Digital Library: "A library for the world's children," this site contains thousands of books in more than 60 languages. So cool. Though there aren't many hard copies I could link to, perhaps some families have the books at home or would just like hearing books read in a foreign language.
Note: Be aware of your country's copyright laws before you download and/or share an eBook or audiobook!