Vocabulary building through audio books

Vocabulary building through audio books

One of the important elements of reading is building vocabulary and of course comprehension.
Building vocabulary in particular is the greatest issue for dyslexic readers as the “trickier” words are more complicated to read, but also given their reading age will often lag several years behind, they will often be reading books that are less complicated than their peers and therefore have less varied and challenging vocabulary.
How then to build your dyslexic child’s vocabulary given the above situation?
As a time-poor working mum, it’s unrealistic to try and set myself the target of reading all the books my child should be reading to her. For Jasmine aged 8, we are talking about the Harry Potter books, the Roald Dahl books etc.
 I’ve found the solution to be audio books. Jasmine absolutely loves them and can go through 2-3 novels a week!
Jasmine has an hour-long school bus journey everyday, so she has an iPod loaded with books; I have CDs of audio books in the car so she can listen to books in the car; I also have audio books downloaded on my iPhone and iPad, so if we are in a cab, on the bus or stuck somewhere and Jasmine does not have her iPod or it’s run out of battery, there is always a story available for her to listen to.
For some of the more famous books like Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, after listening to the book, we’ve gone to see the show at the theatre or watched the movie.
I recall one day Jasmine was home ill in bed, she listened to all 3 Chronicles of Narnia books in one afternoon back to back. In the evening she got out of bed and as a treat, I let her watch The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe which I downloaded from iTunes. The whole way through the film, she was running a commentary on what was to happen and why, but also interestingly, pointing out the key differences between the film and the book. She was clearly listening!
Audio books have been a life saver. We have listened to all the recommended age appropriate books for Jasmine and many at the next level. I have also introduced her to many classics – we are currently listening to all the Charles Dickens books which is wonderful, as I love them too.
The point of reading apart from it being a life skill, is building vocabulary and comprehension. Jasmine can discuss any book just as effectively as her peers who read them the traditional way. Also, wonderfully, we are told her vocabulary is 2 years ahead of her age. Amazing, I think, for a dyslexic child!
I can’t recommend audio books enough, they are not a chore at all and they have been our life saver.
Here are some of our favourites (Jasmine aged 7-8):
  • Roald Dhal’s entire collection
  • Harry Potter collection by J.K Rowling
  • David Walliams entire collection
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis
  • The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy
  • The Magic Faraway Tree & The Enchanted Wood series by Enid Blyton
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Goth Girl series by Chris Riddel
  • Murder Most Unladylike (and other books in the series by Robin Stevens)
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid collection by Jeff Kinney
A different way of teaching.

A different way of teaching.

So Jasmine goes to a specialist school now that delivers the standard national academic curriculum plus some very focussed teaching to dramatically improve her reading, spelling, writing as well as providing occupational therapy to support some of her dyspraxic challenges.

The approach is holistic, immersive and multi-sensory in its delivery. I recently observed a spelling class where the spelling pattern and sound “ea” used in words like “head” was being taught. They set up tables laid out with slices of bread and pots of jam. The children were asked to make jam sandwiches and hence to spread jam onto the bread. The activity was both visual and kinaesthetic and in turn consolidated their understanding of the particular spelling sound but also had given them a visual cue that could be called upon when they needed to remember the spelling in the future.

Being part of the 90% of the population whose brain works in a “normal” way when it comes to reading, I find the whole notion of teaching children this way odd. But of course, it is different – necessarily so.

The dyslexic brain works very differently (more on this another time), one of the key features is the importance of visual stimuli. Adult dyslexics have been reported to be able to “see” patterns and conceptualise / visualise complex problems much better than the average person. Indeed, many dyslexics go on to become architects, engineers, product designers (think of Johnny Ive, Apple’s legendary designer of the Mac, iPod, iPad) putting this particular skill into practice.

And so it just stands to reason that educating a dyslexic child should involve techniques and methods that enable visual and kinaesthetic learning.

I came across the following quote by Ignacio Estrada on Pinterest which I think just sums this up:

“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”

Honestly, the approach is different, it seems odd but alas, I am looking through my lens that has been shaped by a very standard approach to education that I’ve experienced my whole life and that worked for me. Now, I’m learning not to question, but to accept that if this is the right approach and it works, then its all good.

“I want to go to the Library”

“I want to go to the Library”

I never thought I would hear Jasmine say these words. Sure enough this whole past week she has been begging for me to take her to the library. With work, school, after school activities and homework we had not been able to go.

This afternoon she asked again this time with a wonderfully eloquent explanation about how she has developed a new found love of books and reading and wants to “get into the habit” of going to the library every week.

So thrilled was I with this new development, that I abandoned my lunch, flung our coats on and literally ran with her all the way to the library down the road.

It was such a joy to watch her run her fingers along the dusty row of books, select a book (about mermaids of course) and take responsibility for showing her library card and getting the book stamped. All the way home she wanted to hold the book and look at the cover.

The reality is that the book that she chose is too difficult for her to read independently so I will need to read it to her chapter by chapter, but hey, that’s absolutely fine. For me this is a hugely symbolic shift – a shift in attitude. I am just delighted that we perhaps may be moving out of the “I hate reading” phase that we have been stuck in for so long, to a phase of cautious interest and a willingness to discover.

I’m not sure what magic spells the new school is casting however, whatever it is I hope it continues.