Friday, March 12, 2010

Audiobooks and Children

Initially, children learn to read using a mix of ‘phonetic’ (sounding the letter and joining the sounds to form words) and ‘sight’ (recognising a word as a whole by sight through repeated exposure). Fluent readers read by ‘sight’, which means that they see every word as a picture and not as a collection of letters. 

There are two main reasons why children are reluctant readers:

- Phonetic reading is slow and often stressful. 
- Sight reading is not effectively taught in schools.

A struggling reader finds no joy in reading and often gives up quickly. By the time the child deciphers the word, he / she has lost track of the meaning of the sentence.

Sight reading is especially important for English because less than 30% of the words in the English language are phonetic words. When a child listens to a Karadi story and tries to read along with the book, the child hears and sees the word at the same time. This dramatically increases the sight vocabulary of the child.

Karadi stories are scripted in such a way that every sentence has a few phonetic and familiar words that the child recognises. Even if the child recognises only 2 or 3 words in a sentence of 7 or 8 words, he / she is able to stay hooked to the correct sentence. And since the audio always helps the child with unfamiliar words, the effort is minimal. The child can have a good time with the story while unconsciously grasping new sight words at his / her own pace.

Karadi sootradhars are among the best storytellers in India. They are carefully selected for their neutral Indian accents, effective speaking and ability to emote beautifully with their voices. Children imbibe these models very quickly.

In addition, the dramatic presentation supported by relevant background score and effects allows a child to understand and imbibe new words. So the use of appropriate words, choice of phrases and correct grammar develop naturally.

Our children are growing up in an increasingly visual world. Their ability to listen and learn is reducing rapidly. Listening is not merely hearing. It is the act of hearing, understanding and putting the information to memory. Whether inside a classroom or outside, a child with good listening skills will grasp quicker and with less effort.

Good listening skills and longer attention spans are critical to learning. Yet, we never nurture them consciously at home or in school.

When a child sits with a Karadi Tales audiobook and listens and reads along with a story for 22 minutes without being distracted, it almost seems like a miracle. This nurtures listening skills and attention span.

- Written by C. P. Viswanath, Director, Karadi Tales