Big 5: Ear Reading Not a Substitute for Effective Reading Instruction

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October 2015

Linda Siegel, author of the book Understanding Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities, recently addressed some frequently raised questions about ear reading and how it is not a substitute for effective reading instruction. (Click here for the IDA fact sheet about effective instruction for students with dyslexia).

Q: A lot of successful professionals who have dyslexia have said they don’t eye read any books, but rather they fully rely on audiobooks or “ear reading.” If that’s the case, why should my student continue the hard work of reading therapy?

A: Good reading therapy can really help a child struggling with reading.  Continue with the reading therapy but also embrace the assistive technology.  They are not mutually exclusive.

Q: What kind of assistive technology can I request in an Indivdualized Education Program (IEP)? Audiobooks for book reports? Oral testing? Audio textbooks?

A: All of the above, but also word processing software and speech recognition software.  Also request the use of a recording device so the parent and teacher can hear the ideas when writing is difficult.  That is, have the child tell the story or do the book report or assignment orally.

Q: Is it okay to go back and forth between ear and eye reading in a given book, such as for a book report? Can my child listen to a chapter and then read a chapter? Does that do more harm than good?

A: Alternating between reading and listening helps.  Most children with dyslexia remember more of what they listen to than when they read something.

Q: What should I expect my child to get from reading? How do I know if the combination of ear reading and eye reading is working?

A: We read for two reasons: for information and for enjoyment and sometimes for both at the same time if we are lucky.

Q: How can I tell if audiobooks and assistive technology have moved from being helpful to being a crutch?

A: Glasses are necessary for people who have vision difficulties; hearing aids are necessary when people have trouble hearing.  Audiobooks and assistive technology enrich our lives, whether or not we have dyslexia.  Most people prefer writing on a computer even if they have a good handwriting.  For those of us with poor and illegible handwriting, a computer is essential.  Some people would rather listen to a book than read it or listen to a lecture rather than read the material.  These differences should be respected.

Linda Siegel is a retired professor from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is the author of Understanding Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities published by Pacific Educational Press.

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