Audio Books in the Classroom

While working with 3rd grade students one summer, I realized the benefit of using audio books in the classroom.  The major focus of the summer program was for remediation in reading and mathematics and to better prepare the students for the next grade level.  As one of the requirements, the students had to complete summer reading and book reports both on assigned and free choice books.

There was one student, in particular, that was reading below grade level and was becoming very frustrated with reading.  He would refuse to read at all, only wanting to be read to by me or other students.  He would not join in on ‘pop corn’ reading sessions, he would just sit and not read during silent reading time, and he even refused to follow along in the book if he was being read to by a teacher or fellow students.  I tried so many different strategies to encourage and provide him with the skills to be a successful reader.

One weekend, after a particularly hard week, I knew I had to think of a strategy that would encourage this student to read.  The following Monday, the students would start to read the mandatory reading assignment, Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing.  I reflected back to my children’s literature course that I had taken just a few months earlier and decided that possibly an audio book would help.  I went to my library and was able to pick up a copy of Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing on CD.  When I got to class on Monday and we started our reading block, I called the student over to the CD player (with fuzzy headphones attached) I had set up on a desk in the classroom.  I told him that I was going to allow him to listen to the book on the CD.  He was very excited!  However, I threw in one little catch – I told him I would only let him listen to the story on CD if he also followed along, reading the words silently as they were read to him.  I also gave him a pencil, turned it around to the eraser side, and then told him he could use the pencil to help him to follow the words in the story.

After each chapter I asked him to pause the CD.  I would then verbally ask him the comprehension questions on what was covered in the chapter and also to summarize what the chapter was about and how the story had changed.  He then would write down his answers on the worksheets.  I was so surprised to see how much he retained using this strategy!  The worksheets were then used to help him to write his book report.  For the book report the students had a variety of projects they could complete.  He decided to make a book jacket including a story summary on the back.  I won’t say it was easy for him to complete, but he had made it through one of his first chapter books successfully. He was able to complete the project more independently than he had on any other assignment up to that point during the summer program.

This then spurred him to check out classroom books to take home.  He used the same strategy I taught him in class.  Either he would ask his mother to get the book on CD from the library or his mother or older sister would read to him, but he would always follow along in the book reading with them.  This positive experience allowed him to understand the magic of reading!

Free Audio Books

Most popular children’s books (including Newberry Award Winners) can be found on CD at your local library and checked out for free.  They can easily be transferred from CD to a digital format to be used on an MP3 Player.

Free audio books can also be found online.  These audio books are of books that are part of public domain and no longer under copyrights.  Some examples are Call of the Wild, Anne of Green Gables, 2000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Tom Sawyer.

Audio Books for Free

Buying Audio Books Online

Many stores, online and off-line, sell children’s books on CD or on a digital format for an MP3 player.  Below is a list of resources where you can purchase audio books for your classroom.



Barnes & Noble


Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo by Basykes

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