Reading Aloud to a Visual Spatial Learner – Improving Listening Skills

listeningAs a parent I had envisioned times where my son and I could cuddle together and enjoy books.  From the time my son was small, he would run around and play and interact with other things around him as I attempted to read aloud.  Some kids have the ability to move around and listen at the same time, but my son wasn’t one of them.  He was off into his very vivid world of imaginary play.  Books couldn’t complete with that.  As he grew closer to Kindergarten age he was able to sit and listen to books with plenty of pictures.  Any attempts at having him listen to a chapter book fell flat.  He could sit still or lay down as I read, but he wasn’t paying attention.

By the time my son was in first grade I decided to help him learn to listen to books better.  Listening skills were going to be important as he entered the school years.  I had a goal for him to be able to attend to chapter books without pictures and follow the story as I read.  I then went to the library and went through tons and tons of books to select ones that would gradually increase in difficulty so there was more and more writing on the page and less and less pictures.

My son is now in 4th grade and he has no difficulty with listening to books read aloud at all.  Going through this list of books and gradually increasing the difficulty was a huge help to his skills.  By the end of first grade he was listening to chapter books without needing pictures.

I read about 3 picture books a week for the first half of the school year.  I also read a chapter book at a slower pace.  Towards the second half of the school year, I was pretty much reading only chapter books aloud.  I started off by having him narrate back a sentence after I read it.  After a short time, he was able to move to narrating back longer periods.  He was not a fan of narration so as he grew in skills and I grew confidence that he was following along with the story, I required less and less and mostly ascertained his comprehension through a few questions or conversation.

Here are the picture books we used.  They are listed in the order that I used them.  Since my son loved the world of pretend, I included plenty of fairy tales.

Mama Panya’s Pancakes

Tom Thumb

Henry’s Freedom Box

Little Red Riding Hood

A Chair for My Mother

Shoemaker and the Elves

The Story of Babar

Babar the King

The Princess and the Pea

Harold and the Purple Crayon

The Fisherman and His Wife

The Giving Tree

The Snow Queen

Kali And the Rat Snake

The Sleeping Beauty


The Wild Swans

How I Learned Geography

The Emperor’s New Clothes

The Little House

The Little Match Girl

The Tale of Three Trees

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

The Ugly Duckling

The Children We Remember

The Nightingale

The Velveteen Rabbit

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters


The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain

Blueberries for Sal

Make Way for Ducklings

Ox-Cart Man

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Very Last First Time

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The Fir Tree

The Reluctant Dragon

Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Story of Ferdinand

Doctor De Soto

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom


A Giraffe and a Half


Day of Ahmed’s Secret

The Monkey and the Crocodile

The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash

Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina

The Bee Tree

Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Jan Brett’s Snowy Treasury

The Polar Express

Katie Morag’s Island Stories

The Selfish Giant

The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot


Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears


Here are the chapter books I read aloud.  I read these in order starting at the beginning of the year at a slow pace and gradually increased our pace as the school year progressed.  The first ones on the list have some pictures and the last ones on the list have no pictures or very long chapters with few pictures.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret


Now We Are Six

American Tall Tales

Tomi Ungerer’s Heidi: The Classic Novel

Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook

James and the Giant Peach

A Collection of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories


A Bear Called Paddington

My son now loves listening to books read aloud.  Since we started this list, we have had many years of snuggling up and enjoying literature together.  He still loves movies much more than books and is attracted to books with pictures, but he can find enjoyment in listening to a book read aloud.


  1. Every kid is so different in this respect. My oldest would literally listen to me read an encyclopedia when he was four. He would sit as long as I would read. My next son can sit still for more than a few minutes to save his life. My fourth son is the same. He moves, he plays, he does his own thing. But when I’m done he could repeat back to me what I read. I’m grateful to be teaching them at home because I know these behaviors are punishable offenses at school.

  2. I’m having the same difficulty with one of my two boys. He is very visual and is the first to jump on the couch to be removed ad to if it is a picture book. He runs away if it is a chapter book without pictures. When you started narration did he just parrot back the sentence to you or was he able to make it his own, using his own words?

  3. Thanks 🙂 I hope the list can be helpful.

  4. Wow. You are an amazing mom. Thanks for posting the list.

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