We know the importance of stories for our kids – many of us have used social stories or heard our kids use lines and stories from favorite shows to navigate new experiences and feelings. Stories are also an important part of practicing reading skills! Hearing stories from your imagination helps kids form pictures in their mind and use their own imagination. These skills will help kids picture and understand words when they read books independently. So narrate your days, tell them about their babyhoods, let them tell you about their favorite shows. The better their narrative skills, the better their reading skills will be.

Challenge your child with audiobooks

Another way to use stories to improve reading skills is to listen to audiobooks. Listening is a challenging skill for a lot of kids. (This may sometimes be an understatement!) It takes practice to focus, listen and understand what is being said. When kids listen to stories read aloud, they are hearing higher level vocabulary than they can read themselves. The more familiar they are with hearing these bigger, harder words, the easier it will be for them to recognize and decode them in print.

The benefit of combining print and audio

Pairing print and audio is a great way to reinforce new vocabulary. Most libraries will have print copies of the books found in their audiobook collection. If you’d like to avoid multi-CD books, see if your library has Playaways available. These are small pre-loaded players with the entire book on one device; all you need is to plug in headphones and go. These are great for all learners because the narration speed can be slowed down or sped up, depending on need. Some even come with the book in the same pack.

To make it the most fun, choose stories that follow their interests! If they like Avengers or Disney Princesses, find audio versions of their early reader or chapter book stories. All Avengers movies have chapter book novelizations, and Stan Lee reads a number of Avengers picture book titles, which is quite fun. If they like Star Wars, try the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger.

Text to Speech to support reading

There are other great options, too. Text to Speech tools like Wrise let you import stories from online and have them read aloud, complete with highlighted text for easy following. Project Gutenberg has thousands of classic novels for free, including the Anne of Green Gables series, or let older readers import fanfiction about beloved characters in new, unofficial adventures. Many authors and publishers will have stories available on their websites, as well.

Practice with short podcasts

Podcasts are also an easy way to explore cool hobbies and interests. What does your child love or want to be an expert on? There’s certain to be plenty of podcasts to choose from, led by people who love the same things your child does. These are an excellent choice because they are also shorter than most audiobooks, which makes them great practice for listening skills.

Stuff You Should Know is a cool series where every episode focuses on something different, from Elevators to Hot Wheels to Ice Cream. (Not all episodes are appropriate for all ages!) Or try Switched on Pop, where every episode focuses on how a different pop song was created and why it became a hit. There’s also podcasts on Disney, trains, Minecraft and lots more, only a search away.

Listening is "real reading"!

Stories don’t have to be written down and read to be fun and beneficial. Listening to stories and books are vital to the reading process and absolutely count as “real reading.” Have fun exploring audio options this year!