Listening to Literature: Great Audiobooks for Kids

How do I love audiobooks?  Let me list the ways:

  • Road trips are exponentially more enjoyable when the whole family is listening to the same thing—we have delayed stopping a few times so we didn’t have to stop listening mid-chapter. (But, full bladders trump literary cliff hangers, let’s be honest!)
  • Walking the dog around the same neighborhood takes on a new excitement when listening to a compelling story. One night my dog got an extra 45 minutes of walking because I wasn’t ready to stop listening. (It was The Circle by Dave Eggers in case you were wondering.)
  • Sibling fighting in my car comes to a stop when the soothing voice of Jim Dale (he reads the Harry Potter series—more below) or Michael York (he reads the Chronicle of Narnia series—again, more below) comes through the speakers.
  • Time spent working on puzzles and coloring drastically increases when my kids are listening to a good audiobook. That’s time that is not spent bickering or asking me for yet another snack. Win-win.
  • My time driving all over town for work and kid activities is much more pleasant and even a bit more relaxing when I can get lost in a good audiobook.

Here is a list of audiobooks my family has loved. We get some audiobook CDs from the library if we are looking for a certain reader and others digitally from the San Antonio Public Library using the Overdrive app. I hear the Audible app and service is fantastic.

Audiobooks for Kids

  1. Harry Potter series. These books, written by J.K. Rowling, need little introduction. The audio versions are all performed by Jim Dale, who won two Grammys and multiple other awards for his audiobook performance in the series. He is simply spectacular and, for the non-British among us, he makes the series feel even more alive and authentic. The first book is 8.5 hours long, and the final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, clocks in at 21 hours, so these aren’t exactly quick listens. (Can I share again how much I love these books?)
  2. Roald Dahl books. These are a close second to the Harry Potter books for my kids. Dahl had a brilliance with fanciful words, unapologetic mean characters, tenderness toward the underdog, and bizarrely charming stories. We’ve loved Natasha Richardson’s reading of The BFG, Eric Idle’s reading of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (so much energy!), and Kate Winslet’s reading of Matilda. The Twits and James and the Giant Peach were also highly entertaining.
  3. Chronicles of Narnia series. Written by C.S. Lewis and performed by Michael York, these stories are classics for a reason. They are captivating and inspiring. There is some debate about the order to read/listen (chronology vs. publication dates)—you can read more here.
  4. Kate DiCamillo books. We have loved The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Magician’s Elephant, Flora and Ulysses and The Tale of Despereaux. There has yet to be a DiCamillo book that we haven’t enjoyed.
  5. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater. This book is 70 years old and aging wonderfully.
  6. American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osbourne. Fantastic and very energetic narration. My kids were particularly taken by the story of John Henry.
  7. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingals Wilder. The whole series is great, but I’m partial to this book. My kids were taken by the sheer amount of time it took just to find food and prepare for winter. I especially like having Texan kids read/listen about that white stuff called snow…
  8. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Clearly and read by Stockard Channing (“Rizzo,” for you Grease fans). Haven’t we all felt like a Ramona at times?
  9. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and read by E.B. White. Timeless and makes me cry every time.
  10. Treasure Hunters by James Patterson. A little outlandish, but thoroughly entertaining. Better for older kids, as there is some potty humor, sibling teasing/insulting, and a few tense exchanges with shady characters. My kids learned a few new insults, but loved the excitement and laughed out loud many times.

I’d love to hear some of your favorite audiobook suggestions in the comments! We are currently re-listening to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on the morning drive to school, and I’m looking for a good new-to-us book to start next. What audiobooks have your kids enjoyed?

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