Digital Text & Audiobooks

  • Students with disabilities including learning, attentional, organizational, visual, hard of hearing, or cognitive challenges benefit from alternative format text, which includes braille, audio, large print, and e-text.  The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) philosophy suggests that all students will benefit from having the option to access text in alternative formats because some students may have a temporary need for alternative access, eg. a broken arm, eye strain, traumatic brain injury, a poorly lit room, studying on a bus after an away game, too many chores, too little sleep, ESL student. By offering alternative formats for all students, we can ensure they have access to their educational materials in a format that meets their individual needs.

    Studies have shown that listening to text can benefit students struggling to read in many ways.

    1. Increases fluency, vocabulary, and decoding skills; audio bridges the gap until automaticity of decoding is achieved
    2. Builds background knowledge
    3. Supports working memory by decreasing the cognitive load needed to decode
    4. Decreases anxiety associated with decoding
    5. Increases comprehension
    6. Gives access to grade-level knowledge
    7. Gives students educational independence

    A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (Sept. 2019) demonstrated that “semantic tuning during listening and reading are highly correlated in most semantically selective regions of the cortex, and models estimated using one modality accurately predict voxel responses in the other modality.” In other words, the same parts of the brain lit up with fMRI whether listening to text or reading text.

    Studies show audiobooks can improve listening skills and help develop an ELL student’s language competence. At Hood River County School District, students have several options to access audiobooks and digital text.


    How text to speech benefits students over time (MCPS HIAT)

    7 ways audiobooks benefit students who struggle with reading



    Audiobooks are read by a human and may or may not include the text. Students will typically follow along in a book.


    Primary Schools

      • Sora & Library Books - Professionally read audiobooks are available for check out through the library system.
      • Epic! - A selection of audiobooks, read-to-me, and ebooks geared toward elementary students.
      • Audiobooks built into Wonder and Benchmark
      • Storyline Online
      • YouTube

    Secondary Schools

      • Sora & Library Books - Professionally read audiobooks are available for check out through the library system.
      • DS Audio - Professionally read audiobooks are available for download onto students' school iPads.
      • - A nonprofit digital library providing access to public domain books. 
      • Other Audiobook Options
      • YouTube

    Available to students with print disabilities

      • Learning Ally - Human-read audiobooks are available for students with reading challenges. Students can access books using a free app on any type of device.
      • Bookshare - Digital books are available for students with reading deficits. Students can listen to the books with a third-party app such as Voice Dream Reader.
      • Talking Books/BARD

    Digital Text

    Digital text can be read aloud by a computer or app. Most often, the text can be highlighted during the reading.


      • iOS Spoken Content (TTS)
      • iOS Camera
      • Safari Reader

    Available to students with print disabilities

      • Prizmo Go, Google Lens,
      • Bookshare
      • Voice Dream Reader - Use Voice Dream Reader to read documents and digital books out loud.
      • Snap and Read

    Available to trial

      • KNFB Reader
      • Seeing AI
      • AAC
      • Voice Over / JAWS
      • Switches / Buttons
      • C-Pen Reader Pen
      • Franklin Discover Anybook


    Works Cited

    Boston College and CAST. “Audio-Supported Reading for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired.” AEM CAST, 1 2012, Accessed 1 June 2022.

    Deniz, Fatma, et al. “The Representation of Semantic Information Across Human Cerebral Cortex During Listening Versus Reading Is Invariant to Stimulus Modality.” Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 39, no. 39, 2019,

    Gorelik, Kimberley. “7 Ways Audiobooks Benefit Students Who Struggle with Reading - We Are Teachers.” WeAreTeachers, 26 October 2017, Accessed 1 June 2022.

    Imawan, Muhammad R., and Yogyakarta State University. “Audiobooks for Assisting EFL Students in Reading Independently.” JELTL (Journal of English Language Teaching and Linguistics), vol. Vol. 4(1), 2019, chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/ Accessed 26 5 2022.

    National Center on Accessing the General Curriculum. The promise of accessible textbooks: Increased achievement for all students. 2004; Updated 2009, Accessed 1 June 2022.

    “7 Ways Audiobooks Benefit Students Who Struggle With Reading.” Learning Ally, Accessed 1 June 2022.

    Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (España). “The Benefits of Audiobooks for ESL Students.” Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (España). Facultad de Filología. Departamento de Filologías Extranjeras y sus Lingüísticas, 2020, Accessed 26 5 2022.