In Praise of Audiobooks for Children

Photo of girl listening to an audiobook while in the car
In Praise of Audiobooks. Noel Hendrickson/DigitalVision/Getty Images

If you haven't listened to any children's audiobooks (also known as audio books) lately, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much is available. You can borrow audiobooks from your public library, listen to and/or download audiobooks for free from a number of websites, buy and immediately download audiobooks online and buy both audiobooks and books that come with an audio version at online and traditional bookstores.

The Benefits of Audiobooks for Children

I was amazed (and irritated) to have someone tell me, "Audiobooks make kids lazy and not want to read." That's ridiculous. Children go through a number of years when their reading ability is lower than their intellectual capacity. That's when it's particularly important to read aloud to your children and expose them to children's audiobooks. Audiobooks also make a nice supplement to parent's reading aloud, and in the case of tweens ans teens a nice substitute. There are a lot of benefits to listening to audiobooks for all ages, including teens. Benefits include:

  • Improving listening and comprehension skills
  • Increasing vocabulary
  • Learning the proper pronunciation of words
  • Learning to "see" a story by using imagination instead of illustrations
  • Getting motivated to read more by an author they've been introduced to through an audiobook
  • Keeping tweens and teens listening and learning after they feel too old to be read to by a parent
  • Providing an enjoyable family activity, especially on car trips.

For additional information on the benefits of audiobooks, see Research & Articles on the Benefits of Audiobooks for Young People.

Where Can You Find Children's Audiobooks?

You can borrow or download audiobooks for children from your public library, and, increasingly, download them from online bookstores and other sites.

There are free online audiobooks available, as well as audiobooks you can download for a fee and services to which you can subscribe. Many children's publishers have an audio division.

Storynory is a good example of a webstie where you can listen to stories and/or download them for free. The site has a lot of different stories to choose from, including fairy tales by the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault, Aesop's fables, myths and world stories, and audiobooks of such classics as Alice in Wonderland and The Secret Garden. Some authors may include a free audio version or one or more of their books on their website. For example, you can listen to, or download, a free audio of Love You Forever read by the author Robert Munsch.

Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishes book and CD/cassette tape sets for younger children. Each audiobook includes sound effects, music, and professional narrators. Generally, there are two versions, one that includes page-turn signals and one that contains an uninterrupted reading. Titles include such classics as Curious George and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. You can listen to excerpts online.

The Penguin Random House Listening Library publishes a great many audiobooks for kidsĀ  and teens.

on their site, you can browse by authors, grade levels and narrators. You can also check out audiobooks by collection, such as Dr. Seuss audiobooks. Like many publishers, the publisher provide audio excerpts for their audiobooks on their website.

Previewing an Audiobook for Your Child

When you preview an audiobook for your child, consider the following:

  • Is the reader's voice both pleasant and appropriate for the subject matter?
  • If there is music, is it in keeping with the text or does it detract from the words; is it too loud?
  • Do the sound effects, if any, enhance the story?
  • If the audio book is presented by a cast, are their voices appropriate for the ages and characters they represent?
  • If the narrator is also the book's author, don't assume it will be a good reading. Not all wonderful writers are wonderful readers, although some are.

    Recommended Children's Audiobooks

    Finally, just to whet your appetite for audio books for your children, from young kids to teens, here are some recommendations:

    • Children's Audio Books to Enjoy at Home and on Vacation
    • Quick Pick List of Top Audio Books for Teenagers.
    • One of the best sources for information about excellent audiobooks is the Odyssey Award for audiobooks website. There you can learn about the winners, including the 2016 award winner and Honor Book, the audiobook versions of two middle grade novel: the book by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and the book .