Please help me welcome today’s guest blogger, Kristin Becker. Kristin just finished her 20th year in her school district. Over the 20 years, she has taught multiple subjects for middle school, taught 4th and 5th grade, been a teacher on special assignment, and an elementary principal. She currently mentors beginning K-12 teachers (1st and 2nd year teachers) throughout her school district. Kristin is an avid reader and audiobook listener. She has a 4 year old daughter, Madeline, who is developing into a passionate reader through nightly read alouds as well as picture books with audio tapes.
Early on in my career, I had the benefit of teaching with a partner who understood the importance of audiobooks in the classroom. It took me several years to appreciate the impact that audiobooks have on student fluency, comprehension, and more importantly, a student’s love of reading. At the time, I just remember being appreciative of the fact that someone was taking me under their wing and sharing a resource with me.
My teaching partner and I compiled class sets of books with the accompanying audio tape (no, CDs or MP3 players at that time). Together, we had an arsenal of books that covered a variety genres and interest levels. The daily routine for reading included the required reading program, my read aloud, and the whole class book with audio. Every student was given his or her own copy of the book to follow along in.
I followed my partner’s lead and it was through her that my students and I were first introduced to Grandma Dowdel from Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. My students and I bonded over both of these books as we followed along with the audio about the crazy shenanigans of Grandma Dowdel. As we read and listened to more class sets together, I witnessed first hand the playing field being leveled, so to speak. Students who were struggling readers were able to follow along with the same books their peers were reading. We developed a reading community as all students were able to laugh, cry, and talk about books together. My second language learners and struggling readers were the students who specifically thrived, as the flow of language was more accessible to them.
Now, I listen to audiobooks during the long drives I have driving from school to school where I mentor. I have added on no less than two books per month to my reading based solely on audiobooks. Audiobooks have also allowed me to enjoy genres that I would not typically read and also enables me to keep up with the large number of student recommendations I receive. I recently finished listening to Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief and then had an animated discussion with a male student about it. I know the book has been out for years but it is not a middle grade genre I tend to read – I LOVED it!
As a beginning teacher mentor, I share the vast library of books and audio that my teaching partner and I developed. I do suggest the whole class read; however, I also suggest building class libraries that include choices for students to listen and read along. Technology has advanced so we have a variety of MP3 device options, in addition to CDs, for listening libraries. I also continue to encourage teachers to listen to audiobooks on their own – it is the best way I have found to keep up on what students are reading.
Thank you Kristin for sharing with us your successes with audio books and thank you for helping kids find a passion for reading.