No, Audiobooks are not cheating!

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

I’d officially like to go on the record with this important message, for all parents, teachers, and students: audiobooks are not cheating. In fact, the science is quite clear that your brain doesn’t really know the difference between reading a book and listening to a book.

Don’t believe me? Here are some articles for further review:

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the science. (here’s where I geek out!)….In this study from the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers gave participants one of two treatments: (1) reading material or (2) listening to it. They then used brain scan imagery and noted activation in neural pathways – stimulation in the cognitive and emotional areas - regardless of their medium.

Daniel Willingham – a cognitive scientist whom I adore / stalk – provides a bit more clarity in. his blog post here. To simplify his argument, Willingham proposes that the real downside to listening to audiobooks (as opposed to reading) is that you are not enjoying a text the way that the author intended.

In fact, there are some important benefits and possibilities presented by using audiobooks over the printed book:

  • Accessibility: my 5th grader and I are constantly 'reading' in our home - as we drive to hockey practice, in the shower, as we fold laundry. How? Audiobooks and a cheap speaker! Try that with a hard copy of a book!

  • Audiobooks provide listeners with a model of fluent readers – replete with intonation and expression.

  • Audiobooks provide access to books that may be above a student’s independent reading level – while my first grader wasn’t ready to independently read the Harry Potter series, it was a joy to listen to them on long car trips.

  • Some students perform better when listening to material, as opposed to reading it – as demonstrated in this 2010 study.

There's a reason that the audiobook business is on the rise - with approximately $6 billion in profits!

Enjoy - and share widely - this infographic. Happy reading (or listening)!

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