Editor's note: This post was originally published on August 12, 2013.
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 methods of file sharing that jive much 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 oral reading.
Using audio books 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 seven sites where you can download free audio books 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.
- OpenCulture: From Aesop's Fables to Dickens' Oliver Twist, this site has audiobooks 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 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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 thousands of books in more than 60 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 audiobook.
What do you think about audiobooks? Do you use them? How often? We'd love to hear it! Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, and let’s continue the conversation!