It seems counter-productive doesn’t it, using audio books to help your child learn to read? But the reality is that these “talking” books are a valuable tool when it comes to helping your child develop his or her literacy skills.

Research shows that the path to literacy begins at birth. Children raised in a text- and vocabulary-rich environment quickly develop the pre-literacy skills necessary for reading success. This is why parents are strongly encouraged to read to their children for 20 minutes a day. Aside from creating a unique bonding experience, this process teaches children to value the written word and enjoy reading.

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In fact, the act of listening to a story has an incredibly powerful impact on a child's literacy skill. Reading aloud to a child refines his listening skills and helps to build reading comprehension. For children who are struggling to understand what they are reading, using audio books in conjunction with their reading practice could actually improve their ability to remember what the story is about, and help them internalize the meaning. One of the best ways to help a beginning reader is to read them the story first and then have him/her read it back to you at a later time.

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Some parents worry that their child is simply memorizing the story line and are not actually reading. But memorization plays an important role in learning to read. Because when you go back and ask her to read it again, pointing to the words as she reads, she remembers the story, which in turn helps her to remember word sounds and decode what is written on the page. Her eyes are seeing the word, and her brain is remembering the sounds and the meaning. Next time she runs across that word, it will be easier to read.

Audio books also help children learn the rhythm of a well-written story. By listening, they learn about inflection and intonation. And it trains them to look ahead as they read so that they can read aloud in a similar manner.

Parents looking for some great audio books should check out these sites:

LoritoBooks.com - High quality, word-for-word audio book read-alongs for young readers and second language learners. Titles are carefully chosen for their culturally relevant content and values.

BarefootBooks.com – A beautiful line of books and audio books by a company dedicated to using the power of stories to nourish the creative spark in everyone and strengthen connections with family, the global community, and the earth. Be sure to check out their growing collection of Spanish titles.

DelSolBooks.com – A small, independent bookseller of Spanish, English, and bilingual books & CDs by the acclaimed authors, Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, and songwriter, Suni Paz.

BooksShouldBeFree.com – An excellent collection of free audio books, including Classics.

Mónica Olivera is the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM (Latinos in Social Media).

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