Capturing Struggling Readers

In a recent IEP meeting, a parent shared that her son was frustrated because he could not read the same books as his peers and he felt ‘out of it’ because he couldn’t engage in their conversations about the latest and greatest books they were reading. This led to an engaging conversation about audio books and I immediately emailed my sister as she struggled with the same thing with her two boys until they discovered audio books. She put the below together for me to share with parents. Thanks, Lisa 🙂

Audio books allow us to foster a love for literature separately from the mechanics of reading.  This is essential in motivating struggling readers.  Audio books also allow children to read independently and enjoy the same titles as their peers.  With the availability and discrete size of iPods and mp3 players, a student can listen to a book in class without drawing the attention of peers.

Sources of audio books:

The public library is a great first place to check.  Many libraries provide audio books that can be downloaded to your computer or mobile devise for free.

  • Availability: is a commercial outlet and is available to all.  It is owned by Amazon and works seamlessly with the Kindle as well as other devises.
  • Price: Membership is $15/mo. and includes one download per month.  Additional books can be downloaded for a fee ($8-15 ea).  Audible often offers membership deals and other specials.  Call their customer service for the best current plan or to suspend membership.
  • Quality: Audio books are available for many titles and are read by professional actors.
  • Read-along: In order to read along with the audio, the book must be obtained separately.
  • Devices: Each book can be downloaded onto multiple devises including personal computer, mp3 player or iPods.
  • Textbooks: Textbooks are not available.
  • Other: Some schools are obtaining memberships from Audible at discounted prices.

BookShare (

  • Availability: Bookshare is available only to people with print-based disabilities. 
  • Price: It is free.
  • Quality: The audio is computer generated and can be sped up or slowed down.
  • Read-along: BookShare is unique because the download includes text and audio.  The text is highlighted to assist reading along.
  • Devices: It is easy to use on a computer or iPod app.  The app can download a book in less than a minute, even while on the go.
  • Textbooks: Textbooks are available, but only if the membership is obtained by the school and the child is on an IEP.
  • Other: This is a great tool for people with tracking issues and to assist in fluency rates by reading along with the highlights.  However, readers can be frustrated by the computer-generated voice, which, for example, pronounces “Hermione” incorrectly.

Learning Ally ( (formerly Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic)

  • Availability: LearningAlly is available only to people with print-based disabilities. 
  • Price: An individual, unlimited, annual membership fee is $99.
  • Quality: Books are read by humans – volunteers, authors and professionals.  Some readers make mistakes.  Some books are read by multiple readers.
  • Read-along: In order to read along with the audio, the book must be obtained separately.
  • Devices: Audio books can be downloaded onto a computer or iPod app.
  • Textbooks:  LearningAlly is unique because textbooks are available to all members and illustrations and graphs are also read and described.  Textbooks are frequently read by experts in the field.
  • Other:  If a book is not available, it can be requested and will be recorded, often within two weeks.

Thanks also to @KarenJan who shared via Twitter: “& don’t forget the Speak Selection and Reader features built into iOs devices.”


20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ashley Modozie
    Apr 29, 2012 @ 15:03:05

    Hello Principal Vincentsen,

    This post is awesome! I am so glad that you could share these suggestions with parents and others. I feel that students feel this way often, and this is a great solution. I love listening to audio books and reading along with them. I perfer doing that than simply reading the book by itself. The examples you included are great and very helpful!

    Thank you,
    Ashley Modozie


  2. courtney muse
    Apr 29, 2012 @ 20:19:41

    Hello Principal Vincentsen,

    And they say ban technology from classrooms, I think not!!! This is a great way for teachers to incorporate technology in the classroom. Struggling readers can definitly benefit from the use of children’s audio books. They can help students with comprehension, fluency, and overall attitude toward reading. There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.

    Thank you for another great post!
    Courtney Muse


  3. Indya Mitchell
    Aug 28, 2012 @ 21:30:29

    Hi Principal Vincentsen,

    I am very happy to learn that there are more sufficient ways in helping students read better. Children are very good with technology so its good to incorporate that knowledge into their school learning. When I was in school I was also a struggling reading so I understand the embarrassment that comes along with that. With this being said I know that audio books will benefit students greatly.

    Thank you!
    Indya Mitchell


  4. Mary Angela Martin
    Oct 06, 2012 @ 15:16:50

    Dear Principal Vincentsen,
    I completely agree with you! Technology is so important in schools. I am a victim myself of having difficultly reading and having to use audiobooks. I feel as though they help me comprehend the book even better than I did before. I put this application on my ipod and have found great use in it. I am so glad you talked about this in your blog because I feel it can help so many students but is not used at all in schools.


  5. Mary Angela Martin
    Oct 22, 2012 @ 00:38:32

    Hey Principal Vincentsen,
    I think it is a terrible idea to ban technology from classrooms. I think what you have done is a great way to have students incorporate technology in the classroom. I know that audio books is a great tool to learning. I had to worse trouble reading books and audio books helped me get through school. I loved reading your posts.


  6. Jessica La Force
    Oct 27, 2012 @ 14:54:56

    Hi, I’m Jessica La Force and I’m a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. I personally love reading, and I think kids are really missing out if they aren’t reading. I think the audio book idea is great especially for kids who have trouble reading. There are many good options for sites to visit and I will definitely check them out, thanks. I’ll be summarizing my comments to you on my “”>personal blog on 11/11/12. I would love for you to check out our class blog or my blog. Also you can find me on Twitter @Jessica_LaForce.


  7. Jeanette Kelley
    Nov 18, 2012 @ 20:22:06

    Hello, I’m a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. I think the audio books for struggling readers are a amazing idea. I love to read. When I was in school I could never pay attention, unless we was listening to an audio in class. The voice of the narrator just brings out the story. Listening to another person read to me was the only way I paid attention. Now that I’m older I can read anything that bring interest to me. Starting kids off with audio is not a bad idea. Love the information that was given. Thanks for sharing.


  8. Gwendolyn Mullinax
    Feb 19, 2013 @ 12:25:34

    Principal Vincentsen,
    I am a student in the College of Education at the University of South Alabama. In my EDM 310 class we are learning how to better our future classrooms with technology. I had not realized, before your post, how helpful audio books could be for a struggling reader. Thank you for all the useful information. This is truly something I could use in my classroom.
    Thank you, Gwendolyn Mullinax


    Mar 22, 2013 @ 15:24:09

    Principal Vincentsen, my name is Kayla Sandifer and I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed your blog post on audible books. It was very informative on how and why this is a great idea for struggling readers. I totally agree with you! I think the fact that students can do it discretely really does help them. It is embarrassing to be the kid in class that struggles with reading and doing anything to help them read better. The best part is that with an iPod or iPhone you can take the books anywhere and listen to them. It makes accessing books a lot easier and more convenient. I really enjoyed this blog post! Thanks!


  10. Daniel LoVette
    Sep 26, 2013 @ 15:40:35

    Principal Vincentsen,
    I am an education major at the University of South Alabama. As you have probably already heard from previous comments, our class is learning how to implement technology into the classroom, and your blog post addresses the very problems we are learning in this class. I have a feeling that I will encounter a lot of parents like your sister and the one in the IEP meeting. Your post, as well as the audio book sources will be a great help to me in the future. I love the idea that these audio books may allow students who don’t enjoy reading to “foster a love for literature separately from the mechanics of reading.” I also agree that still will be a great advancement at motivating students to eventually enjoy reading.


  11. Douglas R Jarvis Jr
    Oct 20, 2013 @ 14:34:32

    I believe audio books could be very beneficial to the self esteem of a child that struggles to read. It should be used as a supplement while the children read along with the audio book with real text. In that manner, the literacy skills of the child can be strengthened. I am an education major at the University of South Alabama. I am learning a great deal now about technology and project based learning and I can see audio books as a tool but, would hope it not be used as a crutch by a student.


  12. chelsea
    Nov 09, 2013 @ 16:22:03

    Principal Vincentsen,
    I am a students in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I think audio books for a struggling reader is an excellent idea. I know a lot of children that don’t like to read because they struggle and this would really help children love reading again. It is also a great way to use technology in the classroom. Thank you for this helpful post.


  13. Jamie Grierson
    Jan 26, 2014 @ 22:34:49

    Principal Vincentsen,
    I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I think allowing the students who struggle while reading audio books is a fantastic idea. I completely agree that with the discrete sizes of iPods and MP3 players, the attention would not be drawn to the student by their peers, allowing them to read freely and better understand what is being read. Audio books can also be easier to understand due to the expression in the reader’s voice. It adds excitement and emotion to the reading, making it more engaging. Thank you for adding in where audio books are available. This all was very helpful. I will definitely remember this when I have a student that is struggling with their reading.


  14. Cortnee Meyers
    Sep 05, 2014 @ 10:39:30

    Principal Vincentsen,
    I was thrilled to hear about bringing audio books in the classroom. Many teachers still frown on technology and think it is just a distraction for children. I think that is far from what is really going on. Students today work technology better than adults and if that is the way they are learning, then educators should teach the way they can learn. I think it is awesome you guys are allowing these students to use the tools they can most learn from. I look forward to reading more post on the progress of your students and also new tools I can use in my classroom one day.


  15. Marie
    Sep 28, 2014 @ 22:18:52

    Principal Vincentsen,
    I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. I love this post because growing up I was a struggling reader and I know what it was like to feel out of place not getting to read the same books as my peers. I then discovered audio books. I loved to read, but I always hated reading books below what my friends were reading. Audio books allowed me to be able to join in on the conversation with them about books. In the class room it would be great to have a center set up where anyone in the class could use audio book so you are not singling one person out.


  16. Ellen Dunn
    Oct 26, 2014 @ 21:58:05

    Principal Vincentsen,
    I am a student at the University of South Alabama studying to be an elementary school teacher. This semester I am enrolled in course on child literacy and we are tutoring students that are having trouble with reading. These resources are very helpful and I intend to use them when making lessons for my student. I especially like that Book Share highlights the text that the students are hearing, this is a great tool to help with word recognition. I will also keep these sites in mind for when I encounter struggling readers in my future classroom.
    Thank you,
    Ellen Dunn


  17. Kyle Parrish
    Nov 12, 2014 @ 15:51:46

    Hi Ms. Vincentsen. I’m Kyle Parrish and I’m a student at the University of South Alabama in EDM310. I really enjoyed your post on the audio books. I actually use audio books quite frequently and find them to be a great asset to me. I’m taking a class learning all about IEP’s right now and I think audio books are a great solution to the problem. Thanks so much for posting the links!


  18. Patricia Tremblay
    Jan 30, 2015 @ 19:06:41

    Principal Vincentsen,
    My name is Patricia Tremblay and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I think it is a great idea for struggling readers to use audio books to help them read at the same level as their peers. I have a 9-year-old who reads well, but does not comprehend a lot of what she reads due to focusing issues and too many distractions in the classroom. The audio books have really helped her out at home. They are a great choice for children who need something different to help encourage their love of reading.


  19. Jordan Sweat
    Feb 22, 2015 @ 19:55:32

    Principal Vincentsen, my name is Jordan Sweat and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. This semester I am in a class called EDM310 which is about educational media and it’s benefits. This goes hand and hand with your post about audio books. The age of technology we are in now opens the doors for many struggling students, who years before would fall behind. Nowadays with things such as audio books those struggling readers can keep up with the rest of their peers. The list of references you left is extremely beneficial and a great tool for present and future students. I will be summarizing your post on my blog that we created in class. You can check it out here:


  20. Justine Spicciani
    Mar 30, 2015 @ 01:58:02

    Principal Vincensten,

    My name is Justine Spicciani, and like many students above me, I also am in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama.

    I appreciate your suggestion of audio books for struggling readers, I currently am tutoring an eight year old in 2nd grade who is a struggling reader and I hope to incorporate audio books into his reading time.

    Thanks so much for sharing,
    Your Friend Justine


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