Listening is not the same as reading.
June 21, 2012 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Should I strongly encourage my 12-year-old daughter to read a book that she needs to have completed before the start of the next school year, or since she'll be on a lot of buses travelling with a lot of time on her hands this summer, let her listen to the audiobook? Some other details inside...

My daughter excels in school except for reading. She doesn't like to do it, and avoids it any way she can. She's a straight A student regardless, but on standardized testing she's only middling when it comes to reading. She's going to have a lot of time in moving vehicles this summer and she gets nauseous reading while moving, as do I. Nevertheless, she could easily finish the book in her down time when not on a bus or something. So as you can see, I am nagged by the thought that getting the book for her in audiobook format is a copout to be lazy, particularly with her middle of the road reading skills.

I know in the grand scheme of things this won't make a difference in her life. Is there any scholarly research on reading, in particular with young people, that would preclude me from letting her listen to the audiobook now, or selectively in the future?
posted by teg4rvn to Education (47 answers total)
How about some of each? She can listen to this book by audiobook and do some other amount of reading in print. Or the other way around if she prefers. I'm not saying to force her to read, but more than one book over the course of the summer isn't a whole lot to ask.
posted by zachlipton at 3:44 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

If the goal of reading the book is to understand the content then the audiobook is fine.

If the goal of reading the book is to improve the essential skill of reading then have her read it and let her get something nice to listen to in the car.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:47 PM on June 21, 2012 [14 favorites]

If she struggles with reading, I'd make her read it. Even if the main goal is understanding the content. Failing that, make her read something she wants to read under the condition that she needs to read it all before she can listen to her school book.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:57 PM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Audiobooks on roadtrips with kids are really great, they're bonding, you end up talking about the book when you stop for lunch, wondering out loud what's going to happen in the next chapter, etc. It's very engaging. If your daughter is an auditory learner, she'll get a lot more out of the audiobook than the print version.

Maybe make a deal with her that she read another book or two of her choice this summer on her own time, and do the assignment via audio in the car.
posted by headnsouth at 3:57 PM on June 21, 2012 [15 favorites]

I am definitely not an authority of any kind on this subject (I have no kids, and I'm not a teacher), but I was once a child that hated reading, and grew to love it. Pretty much by being forced to read books in school that, as it turned out, I actually enjoyed. Once the flip was switched I was eager to read most books, and you never know which book could flip the switch.

I also find that when I listen to audiobooks, even as an adult I tend to drift off without realizing it and lose my place. So I guess for the sake of both comprehension and improving the actual skill of reading I would go with having her read the book.
posted by Quincy at 3:57 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, I like headnsouth's idea too.
posted by Quincy at 3:58 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd say let her listen to the audiobooks, on the condition that she reads at least a few other books of her choosing. Also, has she been thoroughly tested for dyslexia? I know a couple of people who were weak readers as children, but no one noticed that they couldn't tell p/d/b/q apart because their intelligence in other areas masked it. Something to think about, and something as simple as changing the font on an e-reader or the tint on a page could make a huge difference in her willingness to lose herself in a book.
posted by fermezporte at 4:13 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

The assignment is to ensure that she can read material and comprehend it. By listening, she is not learning what's needed. I'm sure there is scholarly research on the importance of literacy, but in today's world it's a bit obvious too, right?

By listening to an audiobook, isn't she learning to take shortcuts, to not do work assigned to her by her superior, and that you will have her back if she makes a similar decision in the future on her own? If she reads other books in lieu of the assignment and listens to the assignment, won't that only work if the learning objective is lessened?

My sister is a teacher, and she tells me that much of September is spent reminding students how to learn and reviewing all the things they forgot over the summer. An assignment of a sole book over a 3 month period is a small task that will make her September easier.
posted by Houstonian at 4:31 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately, schools test reading comprehension, not listening comprehension, so if it's actually reading that's a problem then audiobooks aren't going to help.

Also, not all books are going to have audiobook equivalents, and she has a lot of school/reading ahead of her in life. She needs to learn to read.
posted by jpeacock at 4:32 PM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

What about both listening to the audio book AND reading the same book? So ;isten to a few chapters in the car, then read at the next stop, maybe read a bit past where she ended, then listen to THAT bit in the car, etc. This is what my MIL did to encourage my (much younger) SIL to read.
posted by muddgirl at 4:34 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some of my best memories involve listening to audiobooks with my mom while driving, particularly books I picked myself. We talked more about books (and life! and justice! and the unfair nature of time and the universe!) during those trips than any time before or after.

Something I really liked doing was listening to books I was reading or trying to read myself. We did this for:

Ender's Game (the narrator was snarkier than I imagined Ender to actually be)
Flowers in the Attic (the narrator was more nostalgic than I thought the book actually was, since I thought the book was horrifying and the narrator made it sound almost romantic)
Kindred (I love the narration and the book itself -- you get a different sense of rhythm and flow from each, because Octavia Butler is amazing)
The Parable of the Sower (the narrator here really captured the pragmatic tone of Lauren)
The Mists of Avalon (I loved both, but the audiobook I think is better at capturing the anger of each narrator, whereas the written book was simply beautifully written)
The Darkover Series (there are sound effects. They're a little dopey for a set of books I took overly seriously)

I mention the above because I really feel like I got good, equally useful things out of doing both, and having a conversation about why/how I got different impressions from the text.
posted by spunweb at 4:36 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Many kids lose at least a reading level (and sometimes more) over the summer if they do not read--Google Summer reading loss for more info. You will not be doing your daughter any academic favors by allowing her to listen to the book. Since it sounds like her issues aren't steaming from some sort of cognitive issue (although get that checked if you're concerned), she will never become a better reader if she doesn't practice every day. I recommend 20 min daily of self-selected material. Reading fluency will affect the rest of her academic success (and professional prospects later). 12 is a great age to help her start to turn this around.
posted by smirkette at 4:38 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Let her listen to the audio book, but take her to the book store and let her buy five of any books she wants, no matter how corny or vapid they look. Even--or especially--graphic novels or comic books.

Forcing her to read boring classics or whatever isn't going to turn her into someone who enjoys reading, and anything is worse when it's compulsory. Letting her read fun, stupid, interesting stuff is more likely to turn her into someone who reads casually, though. And that will have the greatest impact on her reading skills.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:43 PM on June 21, 2012 [7 favorites]

Do you know what is expected of her and the book for next year? If she's going to be writing about it for class, it would probably help if she's familiar with the structure of the book. I know that it would be more difficult for me to cite/analyse a work from an audio book than if I had read the text. Just something to consider.
posted by kendrak at 4:58 PM on June 21, 2012

How about you pick a popular series for youths (hunger games, septimus heap, eragon, ???) and give her the first one as an audiobook, but give her the rest as paperbacks. Then if she really gets into a story, she'll be interested in picking up the next book. Young adult stories are brain candy, nice and short, they won't take forever to read.
posted by lizbunny at 5:02 PM on June 21, 2012

I hated to read too. I would have preferred to listen to a book. Now as an adult, I find that I get more out of a fiction book if I read it I can listen to nonfiction without this issue. I talked to my nephew (12) about this. He listened to "The Hunger Games," then he read it. He said reading was much better and he realized he had not understood many of the things he had listened to. I found that interesting. He is a very smart kid too.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 5:04 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know in the grand scheme of things this won't make a difference in her life. probably won't at all. Let her listen to the audiobook.

Personal anecdote: My father was accepted to both Yale and Harvard (ended up going to a different school) so by societal metrics he was a "smart guy." He got through school by reading synopses of assigned reading as well as "Classic Comics" which are like comic books of Shakespeare etc...He always encouraged me to take shortcuts like this and in highschool my bookshelf had almost every CliffNotes ever printed sitting on it. I aced honors english with CliffNotes / SparkNotes etc. I never had a problem with "reading comprehension" but if there was a shorter way to do an assignment - both in highschool and college - I sought it out. Lots of people consider this to be "short-changing yourself" but I can't say it has had a measurable impact on the quality of my life. Personally the skill of learning when to take shortcuts...and when not to, is also a valuable and marketable skill that has served me well.

I'm a grownup now and I'm doing well. I really like to read...and now I read REAL books quite frequently...not just CliffNotes.

Also here is a link on Audiobooks vs. Book Books
posted by jnnla at 5:13 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

My daughter excels in school except for reading. She doesn't like to do it, and avoids it any way she can. She's a straight A student regardless, but on standardized testing she's only middling when it comes to reading. She's going to have a lot of time in moving vehicles this summer and she gets nauseous reading while moving, as do I.

That she gets sick reading in a moving vehicle and has reading problems in general is not necessarily a coincidence; she could be getting sick enough from reading in other situations to make her hate reading altogether without realizing why.

I found an anecdote from someone with a more developed version of what I'm suggesting:
I am a student in college and I have a lot of reading to do. Around 2-6 hours of reading, depending on the day.

Problem is when I start reading I get motion sickness after a while, can happen in 30 mins sometimes it takes an hour or two. Problem it its hard to read after I have motion sickness, it also maybe causing me headaches.

I need to know what to do. Or a way to keep me from getting motion sickness while reading. Once I get it stick with me all day long until I wake up next morning.
I feel dizzy, light headed, sometimes headaches and the desire to vomit.
Give her the audiobook and try to arrange some testing for inner ear/vision problems.
posted by jamjam at 5:15 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do not give her the audio book. That is just teaching her how to cheat.

Has she had her eyes tested lately? Even a minor astigmatism can discourage someone from reading.

I have 3 children. All three excel in school. Sometimes they enjoy reading, sometimes not. I consistently tell them that school is their responsibility, not mine. They have the assignment, I do everything I can to provide the time and resources for them to do the assignment and then I step back. If they do not finish the assignment, they get in trouble at school and have to make it up there. After a few times of getting in trouble with the teacher, they usually buck up and do the assignments.

It's summer. Either she does her reading assignment or she doesn't. It really isn't that big of a deal. The thing that I would most worry about as a mom is, why isn't she reading? Buy her a magazine if that's all she will will read, but get her reading!
posted by myselfasme at 5:17 PM on June 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know in the grand scheme of things this won't make a difference in her life.

Yes it does. It tells her that you don't care that she learns how to read; that you don't value reading. That isn't true of course, but that is the message you're sending by letting her take shortcuts around reading. You have to read to get better at reading - that's how it works. You're also giving reading a bad rap by treating it like it is "something to do while you're waiting to do other stuff" - like reading in the car. Try to make reading an enjoyable experience for her. Set aside some time each day when she isn't traveling. Find her a nice super comfy spot in the house, or on the patio where it is nice and quiet and she won't be disturbed, serve her up some lemonade and snacks and tell her it's reading time for an hour. Make it a pleasant experience for her. Maybe join her and read a copy too so you can have a discussion about the book. The messages you'll be sending her that reading is important and something to enjoy and value, will definitely make a difference in her life.

As a high school English teacher and Reading Specialist, I ask you to please have her read the book - comprehension of a written work is not the same as comprehension of something listened to. Reading is a fact of life and with the growth of the internet, even more of a necessary skill than ever. There are lots of great ideas already here in this thread to get her to read and to use as incentives and motivations. The biggest one though, is what others said about allowing her to choose whatever she wants to read - whether its a book on make up or a book on dirt bikes - then she will want to read, it doesn't become a chore anymore.

Good luck!
posted by NoraCharles at 5:34 PM on June 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

I agree that if she's excelling academically but dislikes reading, there may be an inner-ear/vertigo/slight learning disability or processing disorder going on, and you should definitely get that checked out, especially because she's about to head to high school, where she's going to have a lot more reading on her plate to keep getting the grades she accustomed to.

If it turns out that she has an inner ear thing or certain kinds of processing disorders, this won't help, but some dyslexic students see improval in reading fluency when they read along with an audiobook. That might be a good middle ground for your daughter as well.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:22 PM on June 21, 2012

That she gets sick reading in a moving vehicle and has reading problems in general is not necessarily a coincidence; she could be getting sick enough from reading in other situations to make her hate reading altogether without realizing why.

Eh. I love reading and have no balance problems, but reading in a car will make me incredibly sick to my stomach, although I seldom get carsick otherwise.

You know, rather than focusing on this One Book, try to think of this in overall terms. You want her to be a better reader (and enjoy it more too). How she absorbs this particular book doesn't matter as much as that goal.

You haven't mentioned what she wants to do. Is she interested in this book's story? Then you can probably get her to read it. Is she not all that into it? Then use the audiobook and take her to the bookstore to get some books she does show interest in...and make her read them. Graphic novels aren't cheating. Stupid novelizations of movies aren't cheating. Goofball scary tales like Goosebumps aren't cheating. If reading is the goal, then it doesn't matter what she reads.

And the other side is: you read it too. Get two copies or read it before she does, and let her know that you'll be asking her questions about it. Or even see if she can beat your time reading it. Especially with goofy kid stuff, it's great for practicing faster reading, because it's not deep at all and she can develop some skimming skills and pacing skills as well as comprehension.
posted by emjaybee at 6:35 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't really see audiobooks as cheating. In fact, for a child who does not like to read, maybe it helps foster a love of stories and books that *leads* to a love of reading. I agree that it's possible there's something else going on, some reason she doesn't enjoy reading. Beyond physical causes, there may be other ways to encourage happier reading. Is she interested in graphic novels? They were the gateway drug for my late-reluctant-reader-turned-bookworm. If she would prefer to listen to the book, my guess is that she'll hear it better than if you make her read it when she doesn't want to.
posted by upatree at 6:42 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

How is her spelling? One of the other benefits of reading a lot is improved spelling, since the reader sees the correctly spelled words so frequently.
posted by CathyG at 6:43 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is all this travelling taking place with other kids her age? Bus travel time is usually social time, all the time, ESPECIALLY for middle graders. Even if the trip takes 4+ hours, from my experience. There won't be time or interest to put on those headphones and zone out from everyone else.
posted by Xere at 7:11 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

If she already has reading issues, I second "let her hear the audiobook, let her read fun fiction on her own." The point of the reading is that she comprehends the story and plot and characters. If she does that better hearing it aloud and it gets her to actually do her homework instead of struggling through it or getting fed up and quitting, why the heck not?

The only thing to worry about with an audiobook is that they frequently come abridged and thus don't cover the entire text. But hey, still better than Cliff's Notes, I guess.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:50 PM on June 21, 2012

How is her spelling? One of the other benefits of reading a lot is improved spelling, since the reader sees the correctly spelled words so frequently.

Also grammar, especially punctuation. I saw a lot of my peers struggle to learn fairly basic grammatical rules as our teachers painstakingly explained them again and again, filled the chalkboard with examples, and then forced us to work through endless excercises. It all seemed like such an awful ordeal for these kids. Many of my classmates continued to have trouble well into the later years of high school. I remember proofreading a classmate's entrance essay for an Ivy League university and being aghast at his terrible writing. Meanwhile, I had learned the rules and mechanics of English intuitively, without any stress or effort, by being a voracious reader throughout my childhood. I was always several grade levels ahead in reading comprehension skills, which allowed me to enjoy a much wider selection of books and articles than most other kids my age.

I agree that there's no point in shoving books down your child's throat if it will just make reading feel even more like an unpleasant chore for her. But I think there are better ways to encourage her to enjoy reading than skipping the actual reading part. There are lots of great suggestions upthread to make reading more pleasant for her that don't involve audiobooks. The skills she will develop from learning to enjoy reading will make the rest of her life so, so much easier, especially if she is is interested in pursuing a post-secondary program or career that relies heavily on one's ability to absorb massive piles of dry, wordy articles/studies/cases, and even moreso if she is required to do a lot of writing. By giving in and letting her "read" using audiobooks instead, you may be sending her the message that reading is indeed a chore, a chore that even adults deem unimportant and avoidable. I honestly feel that my love of reading has made a huge difference in my life. My mom's relentless encouragement of reading is one of the very best things she ever did for me. Your daughter's only twelve, there's plenty of time yet to turn her into a reader!
posted by keep it under cover at 8:12 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

My daughter excels in school except for reading. She doesn't like to do it, and avoids it any way she can.


but on standardized testing she's only middling when it comes to reading.


Nevertheless, she could easily finish the book in her down time when not on a bus or something.


I know in the grand scheme of things this won't make a difference in her life.

Uh.... What? Your daughter needs reading skills. It's probably the most fundamental of all educational skills, and really even life skills.

I work with a lot of people who have only mediocre levels of literacy. I see them make a lot of mistakes and have a lot of problems that could easily have been solved if they were simply better readers. Similarly, and I don't know if this is an issue for your daughter, I know SO MANY PEOPLE who have horrendous written communication, to the point that it affects my opinion of them in a professional capacity.

I also know people who had a hard time getting into college because of poor reading/writing ability, or who had trouble staying in college or getting a legitimate college degree due to these problems. So even if she somehow is never going to have to read anything or write anything in her adult professional life, she's still going to need to show mastery of those skills in order to get a middle class job.

Nip this in the bud, now. Help your daughter get set up with the fundamental life skills she needs. Make her read the damn book!

(FWIW I was a straight A student except for math. My parents let my math skills slide rather than fight about it, and to this day I'm that moron whose accounting paperwork is always wrong. I really wish they'd forced me to practice at math, even if I resented it at the time.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:33 PM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

I love reading, but it doesn't mean I dislike audio books.

Listening to an audio book can be a really good way to approach a book she is having difficulty with, and will complement her comprehension of the written text. I think it is preferable to find an unabridged audio book if it is available
posted by compound eye at 10:11 PM on June 21, 2012

Best answer: I like NoraCharles' suggestion that you set up a comfortable, enjoyable physical space for her to read and that you read the book too so you can talk about it with her. These things will help create positive associations with reading, which is really important for reluctant readers.

Snarl Furillo is right that listening to the (unabridged) audiobook at the same time as reading the print version has been shown to improve learners' accuracy and fluency (Milani et al, 2009; Littleton et al, 2006). If part of her reluctance is difficulty with decoding, this will help with her accuracy. One of my students with dyslexia used this technique and found that it reduced her frustration, increased her reading speed, and increased her accuracy. After a couple of semesters of tough slogging, she said to me in wonder, "You know, I actually LIKE reading books now."

The big thing at this moment is to get your daughter interested in books and reading. Try out a bunch of the methods described above: get her books on topics that are interesting to HER, so she's not just reading assigned books; show her some cool graphic novels--youth librarians are a good resource for recommendations; get her to listen to an audiobook of the first book in a popular series like The Hunger Games so that she's intrigued enough to pick up the next one in print. The important thing is for her to develop positive feelings toward reading and books--HOW she does it is less important.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:22 PM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a volunteer librarian at a school for kids with special needs, and a serious, serious, overflowing bookshelves book lover, I say: let her listen to the audiobook. The people who are going on here about how letting your kid listen to an audiobook once for a summer assignment sets some sort of precedent that will somehow ruin her for reading actual books for life are really taking this a bit too seriously.

And the idea that listening to an audiobook is "cheating" (assuming the teacher has not mentioned that audiobooks are not allowed) frankly makes me angry as someone who works with kids with learning disabilities like dyslexia. Different people absorb information differently. If the point of the assignment is for your daughter to understand the information in this book, and best way for your daughter to absorb the necessary information is an audiobook, and the teacher has not explicitly told students they may not use audiobooks, then using an audiobook is NOT cheating.

Your daughter's reading problem absolutely should be addressed, but you do not necessarily have to address it in the course of every single assignment. Use your best judgement. Think about what the teacher really wants, and what is most important for your daughter to do to accomplish the teacher's goals. If the assignment is meant as reading practice then she should read. If the assignment meant to foster understanding of information or themes that will be discussed in class, then an audiobook may be a perfectly appropriate choice, especially given the other factors you mentioned (motion sickness etc.).

If your daughter is really frustrated by her reading troubles, then it may actually be a better plan for you to offer her summer reading practice that is separate from her more important school assignments. What is her current reading level? Give her some fun books at that level that she can read under low-pressure circumstances.

And I would also recommend having her tested (maybe retested?) for learning disabilities. Preferably by someone who specializes in testing kids with both LD and normal or above-average intelligence. Sometimes smart children with LD are very good at tricking tests.
posted by BlueJae at 10:23 PM on June 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

She's young enough that she's still gaining the necessary life skills someone learns from actually reading. I've always loved reading and my sister has not; I've blown through English classes all my life because, like others have suggested, reading just gave me an innate skillset that can be very difficult to learn in a classroom.

Make her read the book. At her age, the whole point of the exercise is for her to read the book, they won't be doing a dissection of the story in any meaningful capacity, and so the audiobook will not teach her the precious lessons her teachers are trying to give her.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:27 AM on June 22, 2012

I promise you, if your child is being set a fiction book to read, the content is not going to be the important part. The point will be to teach her reading comprehension, and you will not be helping her with that by giving her the audiobook. Especially if she has to produce a written piece as assessment, or fill out a written exam.

And I can say with the certainty of someone who loves to read, and who can comfortably read on buses, that if her peers are on that bus, they will be more entertaining than basically what amount to her homework.

Get her to read the book, at home.
posted by Jilder at 4:45 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Snarl Furillo is right that listening to the (unabridged) audiobook at the same time as reading the print version has been shown to improve learners' accuracy and fluency (Milani et al, 2009; Littleton et al, 2006).
This. My kids' school does this, and even lets kids check out a book and an ipod at the same time to do this.

Another thought - take the time to enjoy it with her. Have her read it aloud to you. When I had to help my kiddo through a book that wasn't particularly compelling, or had a bit I wanted to emphasize with them, I had them read it out to me and we discussed it.
posted by tilde at 6:03 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

The assignment is to read the book. Have her do so. The tacit lesson here is that sometimes, we must do things we would prefer to take the easy path around; the explicit lesson is that reading (not passively listening to an audio recording) is essentially important.
posted by ellF at 6:33 AM on June 22, 2012

As a former English teacher, one thing that I found to be very helpful was to view a movie version of a book and THEN read the book.

For some kids, the language in the book is difficult to follow, but having the predictability of knowing what's happening next, having seen the movie, makes it easier.

Predictability is key for very young children in story-telling (which is why little kids love hearing the same story over and over and over again.) Your daughter might benefit from this sort of thing.

If there's no movie version of the book, have her listen to the audio version, then follow up with reading it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:49 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

At her age, the whole point of the exercise is for her to read the book, they won't be doing a dissection of the story in any meaningful capacity, and so the audiobook will not teach her the precious lessons her teachers are trying to give her.

I promise you, if your child is being set a fiction book to read, the content is not going to be the important part. The point will be to teach her reading comprehension, and you will not be helping her with that by giving her the audiobook.
This is simply not true! I have examined many lesson/unit plans for teaching reading to that age group...the content is indeed part of the point. A good teacher who is working with level-appropriate curriculum should be getting the students to (at least begin) analyzing the various elements of fiction in the book. Analyzing content is integrated with other reading skills like decoding, understanding vocabulary in context, etc.

Look, I'm not saying being able to read print is unimportant. But I'm sensing some misconceptions in this thread of how literacy is currently defined and taught. No one is trying to say that it doesn't matter if your daughter reads, OP, but you should be very careful with advice about "making" your daughter read, or a general suspicion of audiobooks as one of a set of tools for helping kids develop literacy. It's really easy to turn kids off reading, and it's not easily undone.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:38 AM on June 22, 2012

Response by poster: OP here--

Wow, what a useful discussion. Thanks for all the input.

Best answer to hurdy gurdy girl for actually referencing scholarly research.
posted by teg4rvn at 10:28 AM on June 22, 2012

I didn't see this mentioned above so thought I'd toss in that I love to read but I also get carsick when reading except if I read out loud. I believe that reading out loud is thought to improve reading comprehension, plus you could also then discuss the reading material with your daughter.
posted by noxetlux at 10:48 AM on June 22, 2012

I guess I just don't get why your daughter shouldn't read this book. Because she doesn't enjoy reading is the only reason given, and it's not a terribly compelling one in the face of her need to develop reading skills.

I could see if you were saying, "my daughter isn't going to have time to read this book" or "my daughter usually completes her summer reading assignments, but there are extenuating circumstances because of X", or "my daughter read this book last fall and doesn't want to slog through it again", or maybe even, "my daughter has a block on this particular book for whatever reason, can we skip just this one".

But if you're willing to let her not read this book, just because, like, she doesn't feel like it? Why will there be any impetus for her to read next summer's book? Or her high school books? This is just the beginning of years and years of unsupervised reading assignments from now until she finishes college. She might as well get used to doing this.
posted by Sara C. at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's some research you might find interesting:

"Eighth-grade reading achievement and the ninth-grade school that a student attends account for many of the differences in performance among the below, at, and above level groups in ninth grade" and "Eighth-grade reading achievement and the ninth-grade school a student attends explain differences in graduation and college enrollment rates" (p. 3) (PDF warning; University of Chicago, 2010)

"The researchers' study found that summer reading is just as effective, if not more so, as summer school. McGill-Franzen and Allington compared their outcomes with studies on the impacts and costs of summer school attendance and found the summer reading program effect equal or even greater" (Science Daily, 2010)

"Reading requirements for the workplace are at a higher level than and different from the requirements for higher education. Studies by the International Center and other groups have shown that employability and career success in an increasingly competitive global economy depend on reading to a far greater extent than previously required." (PDF warning; Vanderbilt, 2007)

I've spent the past year parsing the NELS-88 data set for various coursework requirements, and what I see here reflects my own findings and classroom experiences as a high school English teacher. Do the audio-book read-a-longs, if that sounds good to your daughter. Do let her choose her own reading material from a wide variety of genres (librarians are awesome at helping this!). If you think she is not neurotypical (dyslexic or some other processing difference), do get that checked out ASAP so she can receive appropriate services and learn mitigating strategies. Do let her know how important you think reading is; find the balance between letting her know that it is very, very important to making sure she has more choices when she's older without putting too much pressure on her that she becomes oppositional or stressed out.

Reading is the most important academic skill a child can have because nearly all the other subjects rely on the written word to communicate content. Her classes will only become more and more reading intensive. Regardless of her career aspirations, becoming a faster, more fluent reader will give her more time to spend on things she cares about. I am willing to bet that while there may be some cursory discussion of character development, setting, figurative language, or what have you in the assigned book, 99% of the reason summer reading was assigned was so that kids would read, eyes-over-words, during the summer for the reasons mentioned in the above-linked papers.

Sorry to go on and on, but as a 9th grade teacher, I've seen what happens to kids who struggle with reading. She's about to go through a lot of social transitions, negotiate a lot of biological changes, and see the academic expectations rise significantly. Being a slow reader will only intensify these.
posted by smirkette at 11:29 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Quick follow up---

There was a time back in 5th-6th grade where she was reading regularly, but very slow. We took her to a specialist who said she was reading one word at a time and not devouring multiple words at a time like a competent reader does (sorry if I botched that description). The specialist and then we as parents did some exercises with her and her reading speed increased markedly. I don't know, maybe a touch of this reading issue has cropped back up...

My daughter's only comments about the book are a little bit all over the place. At first she said the book was very long; it's nearly 600 pages. Book length is daunting to her. Second, she and her mom will be taking a very long car trip later this summer and she thought they could listen to it together. Lastly, and going along with the last comment, she is fearful that the book will be scary and hearing it aloud will make it less so (with mom)
posted by teg4rvn at 11:46 AM on June 22, 2012

The info about her past issues with reading speed (and that you addressed them with a reading specialist) is useful for context, as is the length of the book and your daughter's worries that it will be "scary."

It's understandable that the teacher would want kids to have the summer to tackle a book that long (and nearly 600 pages is a long book even if you're older than 12 and you enjoy reading!). It's also understandable that given your daughter's issues with reading speed, she might feel intimidated and overwhelmed with the length; if she's afraid it will be too intense or scary, then that's an additional hurdle.

Sounds like she would like some emotional support, not just reading support, while reading the book; I think having you or her mom reading with her would be better than just the audiobook. Maybe you could take alternate pages; you (or mom) read a page, then your daughter reads a page, and so on until she feels more comfortable. Then, when she gets more confident you could switch to take turns reading whole chapters out loud.

Or (given the length of the book) she and her mom could listen to a chapter together while in the car, and then read out loud together while in the hotel room or during down time on their trip.

I'm curious--what is the book?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:25 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The Book Thief
posted by teg4rvn at 1:46 PM on June 22, 2012

This book sounds exactly like the sort of book that might help someone discover a love of reading.
posted by Sara C. at 2:45 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow, The Book Thief is amazing. Perhaps one of my favorite books. I can see it being scary for a twelve year old- it's a pretty intense book. If you do decide to do the audiobook she'll want to go back and reread, because some parts of the story are illustrated.

I think it would be great for a family book club. Read a couple chapters per week and discuss.
posted by that's how you get ants at 5:31 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The other thing about the Book Thief is that a lot of long books like that have small text, which for struggling readers can be really intimidating, because then it's a long ass book with tiny print. If she's confident with the vocabulary (which she might not be -- I'm seeing its lexile level is late 5th-6th/early 7th), then it sometimes helps with students who are nervous/anxious readers to make the sentences/words themselves look less intimidating by having them be physically bigger.

(In my earlier anecdote, I should probably have mentioned that the love of stories fostered by those audiobooks with my mom led to eventually become a literacy activist... I'm not, however, YOUR literacy activist, so take this with a grain of salt. Anywho, what I might try is actually doing the audiobook AS WELL AS a large print copy of the text itself, so that she can listen/follow along with the book/read at her own pace.)
posted by spunweb at 10:36 PM on June 23, 2012

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