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LifestyleColumnistsBeth Whitehouse

Parental guidance: Book on tape has benefits

My second-grade son enjoys listening to books on tape. Does this encourage or discourage a love of reading? Is it as beneficial as reading the words himself? What if he reads along with the spoken words? Does that make it more educational?

It is more likely to encourage a love of books, says Wafa Deeb-Westervelt, Freeport School District assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and professional development. It can even be a benefit if he chooses challenging material.

A child's listening comprehension is normally at a higher level than his independent reading, so one advantage of books on tape is that a child can be introduced to higher-level vocabulary and content than he would be able to read himself.

In addition, listening to books enables a child to hear what fluent reading sounds like, she says. Having a child follow in the book is a good idea, as it helps him gain a better understanding of the mechanics of writing, including, for instance, proper grammar.

Some high school students use books on tape to do their summer reading assignments. That's fine so long as it's not the exclusive method of approaching reading assignments, Deeb-Westervelt says.

It's still important to read a book independently, because that's when students use strategies they've been taught in school such as figuring out what a word means based on the context or rereading a passage to ensure understanding.

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