Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Anthony Dralle


In a Title I school located in a southeastern state, 60% of 3rd grade students are reading below grade level. The state's new reading initiative ties grade promotion to 3rd grade students reading on grade level. At the study site, administrators identified audio books as a possibly helpful reading tool. Vygotsky's zone of proximal development theory, which holds that learners can learn new skills more readily with guided assistance, framed this study. The purpose of this quantitative, comparative design study was to explore the associations between the use of audio books and the reading levels of 3rd grade struggling readers. Research questions were used to compare the reading levels of struggling readers who use audio books with the reading levels of: (a) struggling readers reading silently, (b) at or above grade level readers who read with audio books, and (c) at or above grade level readers who read silently. Two 3rd grade classes were selected, with 25 students using audio books and 25 students reading silently, to participate in this project. Scores from the AR and from the pre- and posttest STAR assessments over a 9-week period were analyzed and compared using an independent samples t test to explore associations between the use of audio books and the comprehension and reading levels of the participants. Analysis of the results showed that the use of audiobooks was not significantly related to increased reading or comprehension levels for struggling readers. Significant improvements in reading comprehension were shown for students reading at or above grade level that read silently or used audio books. Based on the findings, a professional development project for teachers providing research-supported reading strategy instruction was developed. The findings may lead to improvements in instructional practices by encouraging the use of research-based reading strategies, which could promote positive social change by supporting greater academic success for elementary students through improved reading comprehension.