Good listening skills promote the development of learning, social, and literacy skills in children. Story time is an excellent time to teach these skills to children with visual impairments. In this excerpt of the transcript from the first webinar in the AFB eLearning Center “Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn” series, presenter Elizabeth Barclay provides story time listening tips for teachers and parents. The webinars and the companion book, Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn: Teaching Listening Skills to Students with Visual Impairments are available at

The ability to listen is essential to individuals who are visually impaired. In fact, the deliberate development of listening skills for all children with visual impairments needs to begin during infancy and continue throughout the child’s development.

The development of listening skills is included in two areas of the expanded core curriculum: (1) communication skills within compensatory or functional academic skills and (2) in sensory efficiency skills. Listening skills, however, are important in all areas of the expanded core curriculum.

Good listening comprehension is essential for true understanding of language concepts. The development of listening skills is essential for the development of literacy skills. Listening does not take the place of reading. Excellent listening skills support the development of literacy skills.

So, when we talk about listening, we are talking about more than the perception of sound. We are talking about the development of auditory perceptions. Auditory perception is how the brain interprets what it has heard or what we do with what we hear.

Story time is an important listening activity that, with the right support, helps children build listening skills.

Suzette Right and Josephine Straton, authors of On the Way to Literacy stress that every child should have a story time that encourages the child’s participation by:

  • Giving them toys to hold that are related to the story
  • Imitating animal sounds in the story
  • Saying the repeated parts of the story
  • Appealing to personal interests
  • Encouraging talking about the story with the reader
  • Allowing time for talking about new or interesting words in the story
  • Relating to familiar experiences
  • Suggesting new experiences to try
  • Fitting the level of understanding and attention span
  • Opening the door to the fun of communicating in print and braille
  • Creating the desire to read

Most importantly, reading aloud at story time should be very fun for children.

Meaningful experience is what builds understanding of what is heard. It is what provides the foundation for understanding basic concepts with language and essentially literacy. Carefully pairing verbal information with objects and action during a child’s hands-on experience helps build understanding of essential concepts.

Another way to enhance listening comprehension during story time is through a technique called “guided listening.” Basic guidelines for this practice include the following:

  • Before reading, talk about the title of the book and what it might be about.
  • Ask the student to share her ideas as well.
  • During reading, stop at appropriate times during the story and reflect with the student about what the reader is thinking about.
  • Relate the events in the story to prior knowledge and experience.
  • Ask questions about what is unknown and predict what might happen next.
  • After reading, discuss what actually occurred in the story, following up on predictions that were made.
  • Start asking how she feels about the story and clarify concepts that may have been confusing.
  • Think about objects or experiences that may be provided for further clarification.

To listen and view more from this webinar, “Exploring the Link Between Listening and Literacy Skill Development,” order from Save 10 percent on the companion book Learning to Listen/Listening to Learn with your purchase of the complete webinar series or any individual webinar in the “Learning to Listen” webinar series.