Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Is Listening to a Book the Same as Reading One?

Although this video seems to be aimed more at the parents of young readers than at adult readers themselves, most of the benefits of audio books listed here apply equally well to readers of all ages.

Jon Scieszka, author of the Frank Einstein series, and Brian Biggs (illustrator of the books) note that:

  • Listening to audio books help readers learn how to pronounce words correctly, 
  • Young readers can successfully listen to books at two entire grade levels higher than that at which they can read,
  • Readers learn about the pacing of stories by listening to them read aloud,
  • Young readers have a 76% higher comprehension rate when listening rather than reading for themselves, and that
  • Young readers are 67% more motivated to finish an audio book than they are to complete a written one.
I have listened to audiobooks for years, most often during my compute to the office and back (now down to four mornings a week).  But I also depend on audio books to keep me entertained and awake during the long driving days I rack up every summer following my other hobbies: music festivals, baseball, Civil War battle sites, and visiting author homes/museums around the country.  I generally drive around 3,000 miles a summer doing those things, so I have a bunch of hours available to listen to someone read to me.

But for a long time, I did not consider listening to a book to be equivalent to reading one.  It just felt too easy, more akin to watching a math teacher work a problem on the blackboard than working that same problem out for myself.  I was always a little embarrassed, in fact, to admit that my only experience with a book (pick a book, any book) was via audio; it felt too much like cheating.

This year, though, I have had a change of heart.  Probably, because I've learned what genres work best for me in audio format, I have come to fully embrace audio books as part of my regular reading (even down to keeping track of the pages I have "read" in audio).  I believe that my comprehension of certain books really is higher via audio.  That was a surprise. And, God knows, there are dozens of words that I have read in books hundreds of times each that I'm still not sure how to pronounce at loud.  Often, when one of those words pops up in an audio book, I've paused to repeat it half a dozen times before moving on.

So what do you think?  Is listening to a book the same as reading one?  Does it count?


  1. I think it's a different experience but not a lesser one. There are books I think I've enjoyed more than I would have due to a great performance, particularly in a book that's heavy on accents.

    I had to learn to listen to audiobooks, which sounds strange. Being able to concentrate on a narrator instead of drifting off into thought took practice, and I think it's a skill worth developing. I've also probably nearly doubled my reading by incorporating audiobooks, so I'm definitely in favour of them and count them as books read.

    1. I think we've ended up in the same spot regarding audio books. I'm thinking now that maybe when I said I had learned which genres work best for me in audio format, I should have said, too, that I have finally learned to "listen" to them with enough concentration to get the most from them. Now, because I remember their content both as well and as long as books I read, I am ready to embrace them fully for the first time as "legitimate" books.

  2. Like Rob I like listening is a different experience than reading but I still think that listening to a book is equal to having read it.

    1. I've come to that conclusion now, too. Especially after hearing some of the stats in the attached video about increased comprehension and motivation, etc. Like I told, Rob, once I learned the art of listening to an audio book with the right kind of attention span, it came together for me, and now I really get a lot out of audiobooks.