How to read through listening, plus e-book and audiobook resources!

There are many ways to read, and if you haven’t tried it yet, listening to a book (with or without highlighted text) is a wonderful option for many students (and their parents)!

Building listening comprehension skills (understanding and making sense of spoken language) are important when listening to a story/text being read out loud or when using text to speech (such as in Read&Write or WordQ). Listening comprehension takes practice and strategies can be used to individualize learning for your child.

Two good ways to build and practice listening comprehension are reading a book/story/text out loud and using text to speech to read.

Reading a book or short text to your child out loud.

Reading aloud develops vocabulary and builds a connection between the spoken and written word, and is something that can be done at all levels (even for high school). Its also something we recommend even when students are already using text to speech because its always nice to hear a human voice, especially for a story. Here are some strategies for listening to a story/text:

  • Before reading, you can explore what you and your child know about the topic or the book. You can also explore unfamiliar words or topics.
  • During reading, it’s a great strategy to pause and ask questions. So for example, you can ask: “What do you think will happen next?” or “Why do you think the character did that?”
  • After reading, you can summarize your thoughts on the book, talk about a sequence that happened in the book (first, then, last) or discuss a particular aspect more in-depth.

Read using WordQ, Read&Write for Google Chrome, or the free text to speech on your device.

Listening to a text with text to speech takes practice. Its important to set the pace of the voice (remember its different than a human voice!) and to stop periodically to think about what you are reading. Here is a short video from Texthelp that demonstrates what reading looks like with text to speech tools.

Reading strategies specific to text to speech are also important because they help individualize reading and listening for each student.

For those using text to speech, here are some reading strategies from the EMSB WordQ guide.

Before listening:

THINKING: Before listening, think about the topic that you are listening to. What do you already know about what you will be listening to?

During listening:

LISTEN: Listen as many times as you need to. Many students find that this can help to understand the words more effectively.

CHUNK: Chunk means to highlight only small parts of the text, not the whole page. This means that you can listen to small parts of the webpage or your document. Listening to a whole page can be hard to do.

After listening:

REVIEW: If you like, you can review (go over) what you know about the topic in your own words.

OK now let’s get reading with books, e-books and online resources! (with or without assistive technology)

Books and children’s magazines, in print.

You can try picture books, fiction or non-fiction. For emergent readers, you can even use wordless books (just pictures) and do what we call a “picture walk” through the book. Click here for a good example (video) of a picture walk from a speech-language pathologist.


Rat de bibliothèque: Available on the EMSB virtual library. Levelled books with narration. French only, elementary.

Bookflix: Available on the EMSB virtual library. Stories that have highlighting, narration, and animation. English only, elementary.

Tumblebooks: Available on the EMSB virtual library. There is a section on “read-aloud”. Also, these stories work with text to speech. Elementary.

Teen Book Cloud: Available on the EMSB virtual library. There is a section on “enhanced e-books” with narration and highlighting. Also, these stories work with text to speech. Secondary.

OverDrive-Available on the EMSB virtual library. There is a great selection of read-alongs (highlighted text and narration) as well as audiobooks for elementary and secondary students. Highly recommended for secondary students, there are a lot of options!

StoryLine Online-Always free. An e-book library, with books read by actors. We highly recommend “Arnie the Doughnut” by Laurie Keller and read by Chris O’Dowd 🙂 English only. Elementary.

The Fable Cottage-Audio books at a slower pace. French only. Elementary.

Audible-An excellent collection of audio books. There is normally a fee to access the collection but it is currently free until the end of the school year. French and English.

Non-fiction and news for students that can be used with text to speech.

Time for Kids-Always free. Articles on current news topics. Online news content that can be read with WordQ, Read and Write or free text to speech on your device. English only. Elementary.

Youngzine: Always free. Articles, news, poetry and comics for students. English only. Elementary and secondary.

CBC Kids News (Canadian). Always free. Articles on current news topics. Elementary.

Canadian Encyclopedia: Available on the EMSB virtual library. Upper elementary and secondary. The articles can be read with text to speech. Secondary only.



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