Listening for Life: The Benefits of Audiobooks for Dyslexia

Audiobooks allow for a more enjoyable and accessible reading experience for people with dyslexia and can improve comprehension and fluency.

Audiobooks can remove obstacles for those who face challenges with dyslexia.

When I was a little girl, I struggled with words and numbers. I vividly remember being in second grade and the teacher asking us to turn to a specific page number. It would take me a long time to do it because I couldn’t recognize the numbers on the page. Reading was also difficult at times; it always seemed like the words would shift around even as I was looking at them. 

Thankfully, with separate, dedicated tutoring, I was able to conquer reading and have even made a career as a professional storyteller/writer. But even at forty years old, I still have a difficult time reading words off the page accurately. So much for my career as an audiobook narrator!


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According to The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, dyslexia is defined as an “unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader.” It is also much more prevalent than one might expect — it represents 80 to 90 percent of all those with learning disabilities and roughly 20 percent of the US population. According to The British Dyslexia Association, 60 percent of those with dyslexia also struggle with math because “the lack of firm foundation skills can affect the learning of new skills.”

Since 1987, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month has been celebrated annually in March. This year, the theme is “A World of Opportunities,” working together to remove obstacles so everyone can thrive. Audiobooks can do great work when it comes to helping children overcome challenges faced with a dyslexia diagnosis or show warning signs of possible dyslexia.


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Senior Speech and Language Pathologist Sherrill Ellis, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, based in New Haven, CT, fully supports the audio format as an effective learning tool.

“Often learning to read is difficult for those with language impairments,” says Ellis. “Having audiobooks available means they are able to enjoy and participate with their classmates regarding the assigned reading material.”

Ellis, who is retired from Southern Connecticut State University but still sees children with special needs in her private practice, adds that reading along with another person, such as a parent/caregiver or a recorded narrator, is a “tried and true method to support reading attempts.”

To help me through some of my personal challenges as a child, my parents got me a Teddy Ruxpin — a bear that had a cassette tape in his back that corresponded with a book. When the tape was activated, Teddy would tell the story out loud, and I could read along with the book. Hearing the words, as well as reading them, helped me to make sense of sentence structure. 


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According to The Dyslexia Classroom, audiobooks can “level the playing field” by giving students access to higher-level reading materials that their classmates are working on and “close the reading gap.” Students with dyslexia can then participate in assignments and discussion questions about the assigned reading with their peers without falling short, thus building their confidence and desire to learn. The audio format also allows students to dive into the meaning of the text without being hampered by printed word decoding, as their listening abilities may be stronger than their reading abilities.

One thing that has been true all my life is I cannot read a book in a moving vehicle. Even when I was young, and we would go on car trips, I would get carsick trying to make sense of words on the page. With my trusty Walkman, I would get lost in stories easily on my cassette tapes and longed to write stories of my own when I was older. Now, my Audible app is just a touch away on my car dash, and I can’t imagine going on a long car trip without having the vocal talents of the many amazing and talented narrators out there keeping me company, as well as awake and alert behind the wheel.

If you are a parent or caregiver to a child with dyslexia, your local library is an excellent resource to help get you started with free and accessible audiobooks appropriate for your child’s needs. However, it is important to note librarians are not licensed health professionals; if you suspect you or your loved one may be dyslexic, work with assigned health professionals on the next appropriate course of action.





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