Amy from Sunlit Pages is back with some great advice for helping your kids love audiobooks. Audiobooks have saved me on many on occasion. Amy has some suggestions for audiobooks at the end of this post , and you can also visit my list of audiobooks kids love. - Erica
I want to tell you a little bit about my son, Maxwell. He's five years old . . . and he is addicted to audiobooks. He will often spend an entire afternoon in his room listening to chapter after chapter after chapter. Sometimes these are well-loved and familiar books. Sometimes they're new and exciting. Currently, he's working his way through The Boxcar Children series.
When I ask him to put on his socks and shoes or make his bed, he goes into his room, and the next thing I know, he's engrossed in a story while his socks lay forgotten by his side and his sheets remain in tangles. When I come home from the library with a new audiobook, his eyes light up, and he's as happy as he is on Christmas morning. If he wakes up scared in the middle of the night, he turns on the comforting voice of an audiobook and soon falls back asleep.
I think Maxwell was naturally inclined to like audiobooks from an early age. He has the right temperament and personality for them. But my other children like them, too (although not to the same level). Today I wanted to share a few of the things we've done to help encourage and cultivate this interest.
Find out if your child is an introvert
No really, I'm serious. If your child is an introvert, then he will probably welcome some alone time where he can relax and listen to a story. I think this may be part of the reason why, even though I've followed all of my same tips and tricks with my four-year-old, he hasn't caught the audiobook bug the same way his older brother has. You see, the four-year-old's an extrovert, and he rarely wants to be by himself, so he's only interested in listening to a book if his brothers are in the same room with him. But Maxwell is an introvert and loves having that time to recharge. If you're unsure about your own child, ask yourself, Does he/she seem to be energized by being alone or by being with other people? If your child's an extrovert, that doesn't mean that he/she won't like audiobooks. I just find it helps me have more realistic expectations.
Listen at times when there is nothing else to do
Maxwell's love for audiobooks really took off when I started letting him listen to a book as he was going to sleep at night. At that point in the day, his options were limited: he could either lie quietly in his bed until he fell asleep or he could lie quietly in his bed while listening to a book. Of course he chose the latter! This plan has backfired a few times when he has actually stayed awake hours past his bedtime because he was so captivated by a new story. But if he listens to a book he's heard a dozen times, it's more comforting than exciting, and then we don't usually have a problem. If bedtime doesn't seem like it will work for you, look for other "boring" moments during the day when an audiobook could really seem tantalizing to your kids. We also listen during quiet time in the afternoons or when we're traveling in the car.
Listening is a skill, and you'll find that the more they do it, the better your kids will be at it. Of course, reading aloud will hopefully be their first introduction to books, but audiobooks should follow closely behind. You can try picture books with audio recordings (although, I must admit, we haven't had great success with them), or ease into it by choosing something that is more dramatized and has music and a story. There are a number of fun story podcasts that might also be a good introduction to learning to listen to something. (Stories Podcast and Sailaway Stories are two that we've enjoyed. Most of the episodes are in the 5-10 minutes range, which is perfect if you're just getting started.)
Keep hands occupied
Every child is different, but some kids listen much better if they can be doing something with their hands: building with Legos, drawing pictures, folding origami, putting together a puzzle, etc. You probably already know if this is something your child would benefit from. Audiobooks are meant to be enjoyed, not endured. So let your kids have some fun with their hands while keeping their ears and imaginations open.
Get audiobooks you've already read aloud
This was kind of a game changer for us. For some reason, I thought my kids would be more interested in listening to something they hadn't heard before rather than something they had, but the exact opposite was true. Once I started bringing home the audio of books we had just finished reading aloud, I couldn't get my kids to stop listening. They would listen to the same book over and over again--often at least a dozen times before they were ready to let it go back to the library. I've thought about why they prefer books they've already heard instead of new books, and I think it might be because the slower pace of reading aloud gives ample time to get acquainted with the characters and stop and discuss tricky words and plot developments. By reading the story together first, we've already done the groundwork, and so they can just jump into the audiobook, already anticipating their favorite parts and enjoying the story all over again. It's gotten to the point now when, immediately after we finish reading a book, my kids will ask, "Did you get the audio?" because they want to start listening to it right away.
Play them on something that's kid-friendly and easy to use
We are old school: we check out the books on CD from the library and listen to them on a CD player. My kids can easily operate it on their own--put the CDs in and take them out, adjust the volume, and skip tracks. The main problem we run into is that sometimes the library copies are so scratched up, we can't listen to them. We do have an audible account, so sometimes I will put the books onto the iPod instead, but honestly, the ease and convenience of the CD player have made us use it as our main source. A CD player would definitely not be the perfect solution for everyone, so try a few listening options until you find one your kids can easily manage on their own. You could use an iPod or mp3 player, or I've even heard of one family who buys a pre-paid phone and doesn't use it for calling but just for playing audiobooks.
Keep a variety on hand
I try to keep several audiobooks checked out from the library at a time so that my kids always have something to choose from. Also, like I said before, we do use audible, and I have used our credits to buy some of the collections (Henry Huggins and The Chronicles of Narnia). It's nice to own a few books so we always have something available, but we also like to keep some books circulating in and out of the library.
If you're wondering where to get started, here are a few of Maxwell's favorite books to listen to:
- The Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary (I think he has listened to the part in Henry and Ribsy where Henry catches a chinook with his bare hands at least fifty times).
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (Max is a big fan of the intro music on this one. Ha!)
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (Although, will you all hate me if I admit that I am not a huge fan of the narrator, Jim Dale? I promise I have my reasons.)
- Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater (When we read it aloud, it wasn't my favorite, but my kids loved the audio).
- My Father's Dragon trilogy (By the time I checked out this one, it had been months since we read it, so it was like my kids were listening to it for the first time. They loved it.)
I hope you've been encouraged to give audiobooks a try with your kids. And if you already love them, please share some of your tips, and tell me what some of your children's favorite books have been!
Amy is an avid reader and the mother of four rambunctious boys. Her life goal is to make them as obsessed with books as she is. (Judging from the dozens of books scattered all over her house, she has been successful so far.) She blogs at Sunlit Pages where she writes about a variety of books – from what she is currently reading to her kids’ favorite picture books.
Read more of Amy's posts here:
- Helping young children love chapter books
- Make and mail a giant hug
- Why you should read to older children
- How to memorize poetry with kids
- How to find time to read without neglecting your kids (more audiobook tips!)
Lucy Mitchell says
We love audio books too...and on a cd player! Btw try the Harry Potters read by Stephen Fry. They're not available new but we got ours from the library. They are really great. I'm off to check out your recommendations now. Thanks!
Amy // Sunlit Pages says
I had no idea there was an audio version narrated by someone else! Thanks for the tip!
Krista Loose says
I second the Stephen Frye Harry Potter audiobook. Jim Dale's Hermione drove me up a wall, but I'm loving the Frye version.
Also, my almost 4-year-old son has really enjoyed these classical music stories (there are 4 CDs in this set, plus there are two other collections). We listen to them in the car pretty much constantly.
Amy // Sunlit Pages says
Two endorsements for Stephen Frye--I must check out his recording!
Yes, we LOVE LOVE LOVE the Classical Kids collection also!
I realize it's been almost a year since your comment, but THANK YOU! Despite my current love for audio books, I didn't really listen to them growing up... the one exception being those 4 classical music stories on cassette tape, which I listened to on seemingly endless repeat. For some reason I never thought to seek them out on an updated format until reading this comment. Now that I have a child of my own, I can't wait to introduce him to them on CD or MP3. Thanks for the reminder and the walk down memory lane. 🙂
Jim Dale's Hermione was so disappointing! My son came out of that audiobook thinking she was completely annoying. I asked him to keep an open mind when he then read the book and watched the movie - luckily he was able to shake it off!
Great ideas, Amy! My kids enjoy old favorites again and again, but I've also found that listening to a good audiobook will often drive my 10-year old to pick up the book itself! So I think it can work both ways. A good book should be enjoyed more than once. 🙂
Amy // Sunlit Pages says
Good point, Carolyn! There are so many ways to enjoy good books!
Jen Robinson says
I need to try this more with my daughter. We started listening to the Wizard of Oz when we are together in the car, but this is actually fairly rare, so we haven't made much progress. I might have to see if I can dig up an old cell phone for this... Thanks for the tips!
Amy // Sunlit Pages says
Yes, we've done better with the shorter stories in the car rather than the full audio books for that very reason (unless we're going on a long road trip).
We LOVE audio books here, too. But for some reason, it was only recently (when I started homeschooling) that I started checking them out like crazy! Why have I not done this more in the past seven years of being a parent?!
We also love audio books. I think the kid listened to Odd and the Frost Giants 6 times in a row. Right now it's Mysterious Benedict Society, the narrator drives me a little crazy but she likes it.
One that was very useful to us for early audio was Robert Munsch's website. It has audio of him reading many of his books and the fact that there were lots of short options meant that she could listen to multiple books without having to change cds or anything. Great when she was about 4 or 5. Plus, it felt like extra screen time to her (which, technically it is) but isn't a cartoon or a video game.
Amy // Sunlit Pages says
That's a really great idea! Thanks for sharing!
My oldest was an avid reader, but didn't really figure out the knack of reading itself until he was seven or so. But he always considered himself a reader, because he was loved books, and would listen for hours to read alouds. Audio books gave him a great chance to keep his reading level high until his eye coordination caught up -- he could read books at his interest level via audio even when his actual text reading level had plateaued. Now that he's a teen he's still an avid reader, and also a connoisseur of audio books.
Love this post! My kids love listening to Tales2go for audio books. We use the app but they have a desktop site too. They have unlimited streaming audio books for only $9.99/month or you can purchase for a full year for $99.99. They have titles for all ages and they are all directly from the publishers so it's easier than going to the library constantly. The narrators are awesome too. Some of the favorites at our house right now are the 39 Clues, Boxcar Children and the Clementine series.
Linked to this post in my post Try, Try Again: How I Learned to Love Audiobooks
Christina Leonard says
My family also loved audio books, and it was a great way to enjoy literature that was "above" their current reading levels. I will admit: we started listening to them in the car as a way to keep the 3 children from bickering constantly. Pretty soon it was "Sshh! The book is starting!!" and then...silence except for the book. Bliss!
Anything that keeps the kids from bickering is a win!