My younger daughter, Lil Sis, is a new reader. She can handle the basics and read simple sentences, but she does not sit for hours reading books... at least not yet. She will, however, sit happily for long stretches of time if someone is reading to her. We cherish this fleeting time and I take pleasure in reading to her as well. Even Big Sis volunteers to read to her now and then. However, there are times when we can't devote the attention to reading, such as when I am driving, when we are at an appointment or meeting, or during Big Sis' violin lesson.
Audio books to the rescue! They are a particular blessing while we are in the car, even more so when I would like the girls to be calm and not play loudly or bicker. Given the right audio book, it can really bring relative peace to our drive. Sure, Lil Sis has less of an attention span and patience for audio books that aren't her favorite, but the right book can have both kids engaged and occupied. Of course, the best books are those that I can contentedly listen to as well (at least, not be annoyed by the story or the narrator). The trick is to find audio books that engage my 5-year old AND my 8-year old, while also not irritating me, the driver. (A children's audio book that my husband won't mind is even harder to find, but they are out there!)
Read on for a list of our favorite children's audio books! Some of our audio books are in CD form, some were borrowed from friends or the library, but most came from Audible. This is NOT an advertisement or compensated review of the books or Audible. We acquired all these books on our own, whether it be with our own funds, earned credits, or they were borrowed. There are NO affiliate links in this post, nor is OHM (or myself) associated with any product or service herein. All opinions are completely that of my own and/or my children.
1) We liked many books by Beverly Cleary. Both girls were engaged and the narrators and story lines were acceptable, sometimes even enjoyable, for me as well. There may be other versions or narrators of these stories available elsewhere, but our versions are the ones I linked to below. I've listed some of them as collections, versus the individual books, because we liked each book in the series. Those books are usually available individually as well.
2) The Chronicles of Narnia Radio Theatre Collection. We listened to the CD version of these books (7 volumes in total), which we bought used from another family. This was a beautifully done series of audio books! Big Sis absolutely loved this series, which inspired her to read the actual books, which she then couldn't put down. The whole series was an enjoyable listen for me as well... I even found myself wanting to drive somewhere just so we could hear more! However, there is violence and darker/scarier moments in the story, so it wasn't fully appropriate for Lil Sis. I had to turn the volume down to "skip" some parts or only have the story on when Lil Sis was not in the car. This was not surprising, however, since the target age range is 8 and above. While some believe these are Christian stories (and they do have a large Christian following and can be found at Christianbook.com, such as linked above), they are not specifically or overtly religious. Indeed, some people believe the stories have pagan influences as well. A Christian family could find things that align with similar themes in Christianity but should not expect it to be mentioned directly. A secular family could expect to enjoy the series as the fantasy novels they are.
3) The 101 Dalmations, by Dodie Smith. A classic story everyone knows, narrated well, and enjoyed by all. Big Sis has played this FIVE times already from our Amazon Echo, her computer, or my Kindle. Both kids were excited to listen to it whenever we got in the car and were happy to watch the movie after completing the book.
4) Nate the Great Collected Stories, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. A favorite series of stories for Lil Sis that was also acceptable (though not a favorite) for Big Sis too. Cute, simple, and fairly brief, these were probably the most fun and engaging for my 5-year old among the variety of audio books we listened to in recent months. My husband dislikes the narration for them, but while I don't find the books particularly interesting, I don't personally mind the narrator. I would definitely recommend these books for those with preschool and early elementary kids. I've linked to the first collection above, but there are others (I think we have them all). I think I've also seen these on CD at the local library.
5) A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond. This one was harder to get into and took us two tries before we actually stuck with it, but the girls both eventually got pulled in and wanted to listen to the whole thing. They have since said they liked it. It was well written and a nice, lovable kids story.
6) Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White. Another obvious classic with great appeal! Big Sis has this one on her favorites list. Lil Sis mostly just tolerated it and was a little upset by Charlotte's passing at the end, but she had no objections to listening when it was played in the car. The narration took a little getting used to for us, but we got accustomed to it quickly enough, even liking it later on. A delightful story that I would not say is better than the print book itself, but a decent quality audio book worth giving a try with your kids.
7) The BFG, by Roald Dahl. We loved the narration on this silly story. Both girls cracked up with nearly every odd thing the BFG said throughout the book, which I think helped keep them engaged and interested. It does have some descriptions and names that might not be suitable for young kids, like Bone Crusher, Blood Bottler, and the fact that the giants - aside from the BFG - eat people and snatch kids from their beds. I imagine this could pose a problem for little ones, particularly if they are afraid of the dark or have other fears at bedtime. Nonetheless, neither of my girls were troubled by any of these aspects, which might stem from how silly the wording was most of the time. It did take us more than one try before the girls wanted to listen to this audio book, but once they did, they were hooked and have since listened to it twice. I don't think it's a story that everyone would enjoy, but it might be worth a try since it's well loved by many.
8) The Magic Treehouse Collections, by Mary Pope Osborne. These books were among the first ones Big Sis read when she was a beginning reader and were perfect for a quick but fun read that even her dad didn't tire of reading too. Big Sis probably went through nearly the entire series and was quite fond of the stories. She and her dad would even pretend they were Jack and Annie while hiking or adventuring outdoors on father-daughter excursions. So it is no wonder that she loved listening to the audio books as well. Since they were so simply written, Lil Sis was also interested in following along. All that said... I personally really disliked the narrated version! The repetition of "Jack said" and "Annie said" just got to be a little annoying to me over time. I think this might have been better done as a dramatization (where the characters just speak vs. reading so-and-so "said"... the word said was highly overused).
Do you and your children have any favorite audio books? I'd love to hear about them. Please feel free to comment below or email me. Please include the narrator's name, if you know it, since the narration can really make a big difference in how much we enjoy listening. We're always looking for more books to add to our collection (or borrow) and since we have a lot of time spent in the car, we appreciate having plenty of options!
I'm a homeschooling mom of two, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.