My love for reading goes back further than I can actually recall. As an educator, I want my students to love to read, not just learn to read. Parents of students with diagnosed reading disabilities want their children to read and enjoy reading as well.

Students with diagnosed reading disabilities spend more of their educational hours in intensive reading instruction than the average reader. For this student, reading as a leisure activity often seems just out of reach. Students are working hard at developing reading skills, making gains as they and their teachers plan for individual skills development.

When the student has the opportunity to "free read" — to choose a book to read leisurely outside of a reading lesson the book choices at the student's decoding level may not be the book that holds his interest. Often a student with a diagnosed reading disability has the ability to comprehend at a higher level than he can decode. This causes a disinterest in leisure reading, as students want to read books from which they will gain enjoyment.

Using audiobooks has been a successful means of reading engagement for students. Audiobooks provide text in oral format, often with simultaneous printed text. Students use their eyes and ears to decode and comprehend the meaning of the text. Hearing the text often improves comprehension, as the student decoding the text without the oral modality may misread and in turn miscomprehend the text.

Audiobooks also model expression for the reader, as the narrator includes dramatic voice inflections and changes his voice to represent different characters. The reader becomes more drawn to the story as it becomes alive to him.

There are audiobook organizations that specialize in serving the population with reading disabilities. In the past, the idea of students listening while reading at the same time that class peers are reading regular text, may have been stigmatizing. In our world of technology, it has become a normalized behavior.

The Common Core even includes language that contains the use of measuring reading using digital text. Students can listen and read their leisure and academic texts to improve their comprehension and motivation to learn. Audiobooks can be read in just about any environment and are available on technology that is found in a typical home or school.

From the educator's perspective, students demonstrate improved desire to read when they have the option of using an audiobook. The students can read whatever book is popular with their peers and is the book that all the students are discussing. The students can participate as part of their peer group in the identity of being a reader.

Students also have an easier time locating books to read when using an online audiobook system.

When students have to navigate a library to locate a book to read, they often describe confusion and frustration. The means to locating a book is organized into a series of codes that are found by accessing a computer. This system requires an understanding of locating the books by author's last name and by classification of types of books.

In an audiobook system, books are sorted by grade level or by interest level, but always with a picture of the book and at times a sample to preview. Students find success in locating a book to read with this system.

Students who use audiobooks to read are developing other skills they would not develop while reading typical text. For example, they are developing attending skills as they listen and read text simultaneously. They must attend to where the narrator is reading in the text.

They are learning new words as they are modeled for them. They are learning to listen to and remember the details that are enfolding in the text being read. Their memory for details may become stronger as they listen to the text and think about connections they can make to deepen their comprehension. They are developing their inner reading voice in a more distinct way as they listen to different voices, dialects or even languages read to them that they may not be able to decode independently.

The students whom I have encountered using audiobooks to read are engaged, interested, comprehending and excited about reading the book they have chosen. It has been proven that for students to become experienced readers, they must practice reading. To practice reading, they must have the desire to read.

Students who want to read are practicing the skills that have been taught in the many specialized education lessons in which they have participated. The technology of audiobooks has become a constant with the students I teach. I know they are learning lifelong skills as they encounter the books that they enjoy reading.