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Why Press Play?

Why Press Play?

March 11, 2024 0 Comments

Why Press Play?

Why encourage struggling readers to listen to audiobooks?

First of all, let's establish what Reading is. If you ask virtually any teacher nowadays, the word 'phonics' will probably trip off their tongue within the first sentence. This refers to the sounds that letters make when they are on their own or put together with other letters. Yes, it is a part of learning to read, but only a part.

Let's look at the purpose of reading, the bigger picture...the fact that the 'reader' derives meaning from words that have been put together, be it them seeing the words on a page, or someone getting those words off the page for them.

Struggling readers are often presented with written texts that have a lower interest level and therefore lack the mental challenge, imaginative escape, and in-depth verbal responses that the child is capable of at their age. This is when boredom can set in and the 'switch off' can happen.

Great reading instruction ensures that struggling readers, who are reading at a lower text level than their chronological age, have access to age-appropriate and interest matched texts. These kinds of printed texts ARE available, but I have lost count of the number of hours I have spent seeking out good ones. The general offering is the more contrived, decodable books that seem to drown out the language-rich texts.

It is our struggling readers who need, more than anyone, to be exposed to texts containing rich language structures, challenging vocabulary, and interest-matched topics. This is where audiobooks come see, I got there in the end! For struggling readers, audiobooks provide a welcome invite into a world that would otherwise be exclusively reserved for their peers, who are happily reading age-related books.

As a dyslexic child of dyslexic mother, in the 1970s, my world was opened up when my mum subscribed to a storytelling magazine that came with a tape. I still remember the excitement of the new tape arriving, pulling it off the front of the magazine, sticking it in my cassette recorder, pressing the big, clunky 'play' button and following along with the printed text. Although, sometimes, I just liked to listen. From those stories, I was able to access language that was beyond my verbal capabilities, as well as my text-level reading. It was then, and only then, that I didn't feel like a struggling reader. I was accessing the texts that my peers were, and that provided me with literary currency, which enabled me to derive meaning from texts that were appropriate to my cognitive level and interests.

Now, as the creator of an intervention that focuses on reading for meaning and pleasure and promotes reading to learn, I always advocate for giving struggling readers access to audiobooks, as well as the handpicked printed texts that we use.

Audiobooks provide the struggling reader with a personal storyteller or encyclopaedia on demand. They nurture a desire to derive meaning by digesting the words, making their own interpretations, going down curious thought tunnels, and igniting sparks of interest. Audiobooks engage multiple senses and make the reading experience more immersive.

The Reading Doctor understands that everyone's journey to reading with confidence and understanding is unique. Sometimes, that journey may involve pressing play instead of picking up a book.



The Reading Doctor is a tuition and school intervention service, founded by Deborah Salsbury. While its conception as a private tutoring programme was in 2012, it is the last 4 years, during which they have been able to rapidly increase their reach, by franchising the existing, highly successful, model and taking it into mainstream and Special Schools. 

There are now 32 Reading Doctors across the UK, with numbers set to increase. They are in over 50 schools, unlocking the potential in hundreds of struggling readers from home Reading Rooms and School Hubs. Like the founder, many of the pupils they work with are dyslexic. Click here to find out more about the service.


Listening Books provides access to over 10,000 audiobooks for all ages and interests for anyone whose illness, disability, mental health condition or learning difficulty affects their ability to read or hold a book. If you think we could help, click here to find out more. 


Author: Deborah Salsbury, Founder of The Reading Doctors

Editor: Annabel Morgan

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Our Sunday Staff Pick is The Audacity, written and narrated by Katherine Ryan, recommended by Amy! 📚

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