Wednesday, June 26, 2019

How My Kids Listen To Audio Books (Plus a Few Favorite Titles)

Okay, I'm alllllll for letting kids listen to audio books, but in these days when cds are going the way of tapes and records, and digital files can only be played off screen devices, it is honestly so tricky to figure out how to let kids listen to audio books.

And I don't necessarily have it figured out. I wish we had a better system, a better way for my kids to access especially library app audio books other than through my phone (I'm selfish, I don't like sharing my phone with my kids one bit). Janssen over at Everyday Reading talks about how she lets her girls listen to audio books in this post here, and they own several tablets (Kindle Fires, I believe) that their kids use.

I can totally see the convenience of this option, but I also can't in any sort of realistic way see me purchasing such expensive devices (screen devices, with internet and games no less) for such young children (no judgment on Janssen, her girls seem to handle them extremely maturely, I just don't think that would work for our family). Maybe in a few years I might consider this option, but right now... no.

So, what do we do right now?

Well, mostly I check out cds from the library and we listen to them in the car (we do not own a cd player, unless you count the dvd player, which we very occasionally use). My younger two spend just as much time in the car as I do because they come on my commute out to campus every day, and while they request a fair amount of music (The Piano Guys and Mama Mia soundtrack being current favorites), we often listen to audio books. At their age, I mostly stock picture book audio books, we grab a handful of those every time we're at the library. When we go on road trips I'll grab some longer cd audio books for my older son. This is probably the number one way they consume audio books right now.

For night time, my boys have an extremely old (we're talking maybe 9 or 10 year old, which is ancient in electronics) iPod and speakers that has a few audio books loaded on it, along with some other music and stuff. The benefit of this option is that it doesn't hook up to the internet or present any real interest beyond playing music/books (there are a few ancient games, like TicTacToe, but they haven't posed too much of a problem yet). The problem with this option is that it doesn't hook up to the internet. It's a beastly process to load new material onto this iPod, because it's so old that iTunes freaks out every time we hook it up to a computer, and it's so limited on space that we have to carefully select what we can add. We've had the first 8 Magic Tree House books on there for a while now, and they get lots of listens, but I've been wanting to switch them out for some of the Harry Potter books, but we're kind of too discouraged to even try. Curse the inexorable march of technology!

So occasionally for longer trips I will download kid books through my library app on my phone, especially titles we're all interested in listening to as a family. The problem with this is that, once again, I'm selfish with my phone and want to listen to my own books, thank you very much.

Anyway, this is still a kind of pinch point I'm trying to figure out. If any of you have any brilliant solutions for how you let your kids listen to audio books that don't involve handing over expensive screen devices, I'm all ears! But now, for a few recommendations of kid audio books that we recommend.

Harry Potter - All 7 of them, by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

You guys had to have seen this coming, right? I mean, while the Harry Potter series is incredible in its own right, all of the audio books together are possibly the greatest audio book collection of all time. Jim Dale (who I talked about in my last post) won all sorts of awards for this narration. It's just timeless and classic and absolutely perfectly done. We have MP3s of all seven books, but only let my son listen to the first two right now (as far as he's read in the series).

Magic Tree House - All 55 of them, by Mary Pope Osborne, narrated by Mary Pope Osborne

I must confess that these are not my favorite books to read aloud. I personally find them repetitive and boring. But I'm more than happy to let my son read as many as he wants on his own, or, as he prefers, to listen to as many as he wants to on his own. They are narrated by the author, and Osborne does a great job.

Beezus and Ramona - and really again, the whole series, by Beverly Cleary, narrated by Stockard Channing

You guys, we borrowed the complete Ramona Quimby audio collection from our library for a road trip a few years back, and completely fell in love. Stockard Channing does such a fantastic job as narrator, and these books were so much fun for the entire family. We were all so entertained. Highly recommend!

Mercy Watson - again, the whole series, by Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Ron McLarty

This one might just prove my theory that good books make good audio books. We love Mercy Watson so much, these books are hilarious fun, and that makes the audio books hilarious fun as well. Ron McLarty does a great job with the narration. These are just fun for the whole family.

Skippyjon Jones - again, all of them, by Judy Schachner, narrated by Judy Schachner

Okay, I had to include at least one picture book on this list (well, technically Mercy Watson has lots of pictures), but I posted about these Skippy books on Instagram last week and I have to give a plug for them here as well. These books are just the most fun to listen to, and I love listening along myself because the audio books are narrated by the author herself, and I've learned how to pronounce/say/sing some of the trickier parts of these books by listening along. My kids love getting these ones from the library and listening to them in the car.

Okay, I could go on and on, because my old belief holds true that if it makes a good book, it likely makes a good audio book (and there are so many good kids books), but we'll leave it at these top favorites for now. Maybe someone will find this useful. I'd love to hear, what are your favorite children's audio books? Let me know!


  1. I can't help with the technology, because my kids are old enough to have their own phones (college aged), and back in the day we just had CDs from the library. Or even cassettes from the library when they were listening to picture books -- our library had the book and a tape in a bag, and I'd pick ones I also owned or could find spare copy so both boys had a copy.

    My library has these MP3 players that are loaded with a book, and you can plug them in to a car or a device. Would those work with your ipod? Except that you are in a library desert... I'm guessing you have checked out the library system both at the university and your house? Your commute is long enough that you might cross lines, and around here you can get a card either where you live or where you work (I have a city card based on volunteering at a previous school which was technically over the city line, and I'm hoping no one ever notices that my kids have now graduated from high school...).

    Nation by Terry Pratchett was a huge favorite, and the full-cast Tamara Pierce books were popular on road trips (I'm not a fan of full-cast for a driving-around book, but it works for me on long hauls). For a year or two the Cybils had an audio category and I enjoyed pulling from that.

    1. I'm pretty sure our library doesn't offer anything like the MP3 players you've described (just audio cds, which we do check out all the time), but luckily the library system my mother-in-law lives in (and is letting me borrow from) has fantastic online resources. I'll have to check out the Cybils, see if they still have an audio category. And I'm definitely interested in more Terry Pratchett and Tamara Pierce!