Elizabeth Heubeck, writing for EdWeek discusses how audiobooks can be integrated into high school curriculum as a potentional solution to the decline in reading among students:

There’s also compelling research that compares brain activity during reading with brain activity during listening. In one such study, researchers scanned the brains of participants as they read or listened to stories from The Moth Radio Hour, a podcast. The researchers then analyzed how the brain’s cortex processed individual words, both read and heard. Mapping their findings, they concluded that the stories—whether listened to or read—stimulated the same cognitive and emotional areas of the brain. The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Despite advocating audiobook usage, [Molly] Ness [a former teacher, reading researcher, and vice president of academic content at Learning Ally, a nonprofit volunteer organization that supports educators] cautions educators to be mindful of how it’s used.

“If we are trying to help kids improve their reading ability, then matching the speech to print is useful. But if we are a 10th grade history teacher just trying to cover content and give students background knowledge and exposure, then the audiobook a kid has in his earbuds on the walk home from school is just as rich,” she said.

I’m a big fan of audio content like audiobooks and podcasts because they are a great way to be productive while I am commuting or cooking dinner. For students, I agree that teachers need to consider the purpose of the reading when using podcasts or audiobooks. If the goal is to boost reading skills, then reading along with the audio is beneficial. However, for simply building background knowledge, listening alone is perfectly fine.