Yes, Audiobooks Count as Reading
Sometimes I notice hesitation from parents around audiobooks. There can be a concern that somehow if a student listens to an audiobook it's "cheating," or not "really" reading. Neither of those is true, and actually, for students with dyslexia or other reading differences, audiobooks can turn non-readers into readers.
This article in Edutopia written by dyslexia specialist Dana Blackaby explains that "exposure to words in context via ear-reading can significantly reduce reading barriers, and human-narrated audiobooks really do make stories come alive for these students."
That first piece is so crucial: the students are hearing vocabulary words and word pronunciations. More exposure to words, in any form, is going to benefit students. In addition, audiobook producers often place a lot of effort into finding voice talent that makes the prose shine. Often, students who believe that they are not readers shift that mindset when they begin listening to audiobooks, and go on to make significant reading progress.
In academic circles, audiobooks and the platforms that provide them are called assistive technologies. Examples include Audible and Learning Ally. Overdrive and Hoopla are accessible through your local library. Some students may also qualify for Bookshare. Some school and local libraries offer and many local libraries offer Playaway Audiobooks audiobook versions of texts. Apps like Epic! include audio versions of titles so students can choose to listen and read along.
Another helpful tool is text-to-speech software like Snap&Read and Natural Reader. This will turn a PDF or website into something a student can listen to, which is immensely helpful for students in middle and high school who have a higher volume of reading to accomplish.
If you have questions about any of these resources, please let me know. I'd be happy