In Praise of Audio Books

At my house, we are very big fans of children’s audio books. It started, I think, when my daughter was not even two. I took a stack of her favorite board books to my family’s house for Christmas and had each of my siblings and parents record themselves reading one. Her eyes would light up whenever she heard a beloved relative reading a beloved book – it was audio perfection!

Later, when she was closer to 2 1/2, I bought Blueberries for Sal on a whim at Audible. We had read the book many times by that point, so the words were already very familiar to her and she was able to listen and follow along.  After that success we started exploring the collection of book+cd packs at our library. In the beginning I would simply look for picture books that we had already read aloud at home (like those by Kevin Henkes, read by Laura Hamilton), because I found at her age that if the stories were familiar she could listen to them independently. As she got more and more hooked on audio books we branched out and found new favorites, such as All Pigs Are Beautiful and Dogger.

Fast forward a few years and audio books remain an important part of our family culture. They’re great for road trips, rest time, dinner prep, and sick days. And plain old regular days, too! Sometimes I get my daughter the audio version after we’ve particularly loved a chapter book read aloud so she can enjoy it again on her own, but other times she listens to a book without any intro.

I try to add to our owned collection from time to time (they make great gifts!) but we also make use of our library’s offerings. There are some great resources in this post  if you’re interested in figuring out how to find good deals.

Here are some of our favorites:

I’ve gotten more into audio listening in recent years, too.  Here are some books and podcasts that I enjoy:
I’d love to hear what your family’s favorite podcasts and audio books are, so if you have some I haven’t listed above please comment and share them!
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11 thoughts on “In Praise of Audio Books

  1. Yes! We love audio books! We, too, own (and love) the James Herriot Treasury. Another favorite is Winnie-the-Pooh, read by Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, and more. It’s slightly edited and read by a large cast, but we all love it.

    I also love This American Life 🙂

    • I actually have the Winnie-the-Pooh ones, but haven’t shared them with my daughter yet. Several people recommended to wait until she was a bit older so she’d catch more of the humor… but I don’t really have a plan for when I’ll give it to her! How old were your girls when they first started listening to that one?

      • We read the books with our girls when they were pretty young, and got the audio books for a road trip when they were about three and six. I had heard the warnings about waiting to read Winnie-the-Pooh, but we reread books so regularly that we figured they would enjoy more the humor each time we read the books, so we decided to go for it.

        As it stands, our four-year-old loves the audio books so much that we had to take them out of rotation for a while, lest we get tired of them (that would be terrible!).

    • Oh, we just listened to the entire Winnie-the-Pooh recording on the way up to Tahoe and back last weekend. Eeyore is an entirely more complicated, funny, and sad character than I ever really realized before. My kids are 4 and 8, and their comprehension of the subtleties of humor definitely varied, but it was an entirely delightful experience all the same!

  2. Thanks for the tip about Jim Weiss on Spotify; we have been listening to Story of the World, 4 volumes written by Susan Wise Bauer and read by him. It’s wonderful and engaging history that my kids will beg to listen to. And thanks so much for this blog; my children and I have been immeasurably blessed by your reviews.

    • How did I miss Jim Weiss reading the Story of the World? My 8-year-old and I have slowly been making our way through volume 2 (we got slowed down when we hit the Vikings and have spent the last three months just reading Norse myths from a bunch of books) and I need to pick it up again. Thanks for the heads up, Christina!

  3. We LOVE audiobooks too. And many of Jim Weiss’ recordings are also available on Google Play: we stream them at home on our Sonos system. Other favorite books we’ve enjoyed from Audible (besides a bunch that Haley listed!) are the magic series by Edward Eager (start with Half Magic), Stuart Little, and The Tale of Desperaux. My otherwise extremely active four year old loves sitting on the couch after preschool, or on the floor with some Legos, and having some quiet time with King Arthur. Me too 🙂

    • And also: for grownups — all of the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries (by PD James) on Audible. Penelope Dellaporte reads them, and is marvelous. Serial, too, is completely addictive. And another second-grade mom told me yesterday that she has been hooked on listening to Wendell Berry interviews on podcasts: you can search for him in the iTunes store; apparently he’s been interviewed by a bunch of programs/podcasters. That’s my next listening venture!

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