Do you find yourself wishing your kids would do more reading? Are you tired of those long family road trips with nothing but Disney singalongs for entertainment? Or maybe you wish you had an excuse to re-read some childhood favorites without looking immature?
Audiobooks! They are the answer! They’re easy to listen to, so your kids can either sit and pay attention OR multitask. They make for great entertainment on road trips, bus or train rides, and even airplane voyages. Not to mention they’re a convenient way for more than one reader to enjoy the same book at the same time – they’re just the best!
So, without further ado, here’s a list of our favorite audiobooks for kids!
Books Featuring Animals
1. Stuart Little, by E.B. White
Although a shy little mouse, Stuart Little manages to have some rather grand adventures! And although he is a tiny mouse in a family and a world full of average humans, he has rather ingenious ways of adapting to and engaging in this life. He avoids the family’s hungry cat, makes friends with a wounded bird, gets trapped and accidentally sent out to sea, drives a motorized toy car to a different state, and takes a job as a substitute teacher. Is there anything this little guy can’t do? It’s an endearing classic that children have loved for generations, and yours will, too!
2. Redwall, by Brian Jacques
Kids want to read stories filled with adventure, danger, dashing heroes, and dastardly villains, right? Right! Well, buckle up, because Redwall has it all. The young mouse named Matthias must outsmart the evil rat, Cluny the Scourage, to save Redwall Abbey. Some have said it’s a great precursor for introducing your kids to the Lord of the Rings series. If your kids are as enthralled by Matthias’ adventures, like we think they will be, they’re in luck because there are over 20 books in the series!
3. How To Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell
Okay, so this one isn’t technically about an animal, per se. Your kids have probably seen all three of the How To Train Your Dragon movies, but have they read the books? Start with Book One and meet Hiccup and Toothless for the first time (read by David Tenant! A treat for you AND the kids!), then move on to Book Two and learn how to be a pirate! Book Three is called How to Speak Dragonese, and Book Four is How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse – information that every young’un needs to know!
4. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
The sweet tale of friendship between a young pig and aging spider is a timeless classic and one of America’s most-loved books for children. Wilbur was born the runt of the litter, but he is SOME PIG and his unlikely relationship with a spider named Charlotte is what ultimately saves him from the butcher’s knife. Your kiddos will fall in love with a host of barnyard animals, including a sneaky, glutinous, amusing rat named Templeton. Keep a box of tissues handy, though, because there are some tough themes put forth in this story.
5. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
If ever there was a group of lovable animals with human characteristics and abilities, it’s these. Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad are an adorable group living near a river in the English countryside, and they have proper English manners to boot. Their adventures include getting lost in the woods, joyriding in a new car, escaping prison, and reclaiming the great Toad Hall after it’s been taken over by some very unfriendly weasels! It’s a never-ending succession of escapades that’ll have the whole family gasping and giggling.
Books About Changing and Growing Up
6. Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan
While this book starts out by describing a rich young girl living a sweet life on her family’s ranch in Mexico, it soon becomes a tale of hardship and heartache. Esperanza’s father dies, she and her mother flee to California, and they end up as laborers in a farm camp during the depression. A heartwarming tale about overcoming the odds, it will also educate your children about the Mexican Deportation act and the Great Depression. For an added bonus, you can get this audiobook in Spanish!
7. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan
Okay, prepare to shed some tears and feel your heart swell. This book tells of Ms. Hill’s fifth-grade class and the poems they wrote during the year before their school gets torn down. In a variety of different forms and verses, the poems describe each child’s particular views and struggles, including divorce, sickness, first crushes, and even cultural differences. Be prepared for an onslaught of poetry from your young bards after they read/hear this book. They’ll be teeming with ideas!
8. Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary
Now here’s an absolute adolescent classic. You probably read this book when you were young and now it’s time to share the joy with your own kiddos. Ramona has a hard time with life in the third grade, including being nice to her after-school caregiver, Mrs. Kemp, being teased at recess by a Yard Ape, and getting sick at school. Young listeners are bound to sympathize with Ramona, and they’ll probably ask you for the rest of the series of audiobooks, too. There are eight in total, so they’ll be entertained for a while!
9. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
When 10-year-old Mary is suddenly orphaned, she is forced to leave her home and lavish lifestyle in India to move into her reclusive uncle’s large, isolated house in Yorkshire, England. She acts spoiled and cranky at first, but eventually warms up to and makes friends with her uncle’s household staff, including 12-year-old Dickon, who helps her navigate the estate’s large gardens and property. The two discover a secret, walled-in garden that changes everything – and Mary discovers she has a cousin. This book is a story of secrets, emotions, and personal growth.
10. Listen, Slowly, by Thanhha Lai
Do you find that your kids are disconnected from their roots, their ancestral heritage? Do you wish they had a better understanding of the language or culture their family comes from? So did the parents in this book. They send Mai with her grandmother to Vietnam, and an unwilling Mai finds herself out of place. She feels that she’s from California, not this place. She can barely speak the language, she’s always feeling hot and sticky, and the local customs baffle her. A lot of learning takes place, though, and Mai’s world changes. A great read for all children, but especially those with culturally diverse backgrounds.
11. See You in the Cosmos, by Jack Cheng
As Alex Petroski, his mom, and his dog travel around the USA, young Alex makes recordings of what life looks like. His dream is to send his iPod into space just like Carl Sagan – his dog’s namesake – sent his Golden Record out with the Voyager spaceship. Along the way, he meets some pretty cool people and learns about his own life too, including things about his deceased dad and often-absent brother. This story has heart, suspense, and a fair share of humor!
Books That Inspire
12. Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle
What can you do when nobody around you appreciates a good show tune? Nate Foster feels your pain. Your kiddos will love hearing about this young boy with a dream to perform on Broadway. With the help of a friend, Nate escapes his boring Pennsylvania life and heads to New York City where there is an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical. Especially for kids who love to sing, and for those who love American Idol and the like, Nate will bring some high pitched joy to their lives!
13. Hidden Figures (young readers edition), by Margot Lee Shetterly
Yes, this IS the story of the four African American women who worked for NASA during the Civil Rights Movement in America. It’s a heartwarming tale of feminism and perseverance, teaching your kids – especially your daughters! – that hard work does help make your dreams come true! Anyone interested in pursuing a STEM career will be fascinated by the beautiful, stubborn mathematicians in this book, even little boys. They’ll also love learning about NASA and the space race of the 1950s.
14. Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen
A perfect read for any outdoor, wilderness-loving child. After surviving a harrowing plane crash in northern Canada, thirteen-year-old Brian is forced to survive on his own, with only the hatchet his mother gave him as a gift. He learns to make a fire, craft a bow and arrows, create a shelter, and he eats whatever he can find, including berries, birds, fish, and even turtle eggs. During his time alone, he grapples with the memory of his mother’s infidelity and wonders if he’ll ever see his father again to be able to tell him about it. A true tale of growing up, in more than one sense, your older kids will appreciate Brian’s ingenuity and heart.
15. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
You guessed it, this IS the book that inspired the heartwarming movie. Augie Pullman has a facial deformity and is going to school for the very first time, entering fifth grade. As much as he wants to be treated as a normal kid, he finds himself the brunt of teasing and bullying. He does make a few special friends, though, who help get him through the tough school year. Augie and his friends are true heroes and will teach your kids about love and acceptance in a very special way. Keep the tissues handy!
Books That are Timeless Favorites
16. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkein
Yes! Your kids need to meet Bilbo Baggins and hear of his wondrous adventures! From homeless dwarfs and giant spiders to powerful wizards and greedy dragons, Bilbo encounters more than a few crazy characters and finds himself involved in many dangerous situations. Tolkein has created one of the most endearing and exciting fantasy worlds in this genre and your kiddos will listen with rapt attention – and you’ll be right there with them.
17. Matilda, by Roald Dahl
Narrated by Kate Winslet, the tale of Matilda and her unconventional family will have YOUR whole family experiencing a range of emotions. Although her parents think she’s stupid, Matilda is actually super intelligent AND has magical powers! The evil Trunchbull – aka her school’s headmistress – is no match for this youngster’s powers, wit, and determination. Neither are her parents a match for her big heart… but let’s not give too much of the story away! A great read for kids of all ages.
18. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
Another unforgettable story by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is just as wacky as Matilda is heartwarming. When Charlie wins the Golden Ticket and gets to tour Willie Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory, he meets some people and situations that he isn’t quite prepared for. Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike Teavee are the other ticket winners and their experiences with Willie Wonka are all… memorable, to say the least. Even the names in this story are funny! Your kids can have a good laugh while also learning some valuable lessons about greed, fairness, and truth. And you can all watch the movie later!
19. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
You had to know this book would be included on this list! J.K. Rowling’s epic tale of a young wizard as he enters the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the first time is absolutely mesmerizing. There are more than a few adventures awaiting young Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione, including his shopping trip to Diagon Alley, learning to play Quiddich, an encounter with a rogue troll, and discovering a certain professor is not who he seems. Your little Potterheads-in-training will be dying to find out what happens next, so be prepared to download the other seven audiobooks in the series.
20. Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The first in the Little House on the Prairie series, this book introduces you to Laura Ingalls and her family, living in a small log home in the wilds of Wisconsin. Pioneer life is tough and Laura must help with gathering wood chips, assist when her parents were butchering the animals, keep up with household chores, and help take care of her baby sister Carrie. It’s not all work though! There’s a “sugaring off” with lots of maple syrup and a big party, plus a special Christmas celebration where Laura gets her own doll. This is a great series to teach your kids about what life was like for American pioneers as it’s told from a young girl’s perspective.
21. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
This is the perfect audiobook for a summer road trip with your little ones, especially if you’re headed to Prince Edward Island in Canada! The famous story of red-headed, orphan Anne Shirley is timeless and her adventures, heartaches, and hilarity appeal to all ages. They’ll laugh when she accidentally dyes her hair green, they may cry when she is forbidden to see her bosom friend ever again, and they will certainly appreciate the hardships of being bullied at school. And you’ll appreciate how Anne’s foster parents find their lives are changed by this remarkable girl.
22. Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia Maclachlan
Perhaps the sweetest story of a mail-order bride you’ll ever hear, this book features young Anna and Caleb as they get to know the woman who responded to their widowed father’s advertisement. This classic story will teach your kids about American history, geography, and human nature as they follow the emotional journeys of each character. The Audible version is even narrated by Glen Close, who also plays Sarah in the film version.
Books That Will Be Future Classics
23. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a big name in YA literature, and this one will entertain teens and adults alike. This story of young Nobody “Bod” Owens as he’s raised in a graveyard by ghosts is both exciting and a bit chilling. It’s a bit of a dark tale, with more than a little other-worldliness to it, but also progresses with a surprising kind of logic. Gaiman is a master storyteller.
24. Save Me a Seat, by Sarah Weeks
Is there a worse time in a kid’s life than middle school? Ravi and Joe come from extremely different backgrounds yet experience a lot of the same life difficulties. Their story covers bullying, friendship, loneliness, family, and fitting in. It’s a great tool for helping your kids to understand multiculturalism and the issues that families from different backgrounds have to face.
25. A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
They’ve probably already seen the super cool Netflix series, but have they read the books? Well, now’s the time! With the inimitable Tim Curry (as well as a cast of others) reading, your children will hear the terrifying tales of the Baudelaire kids and their encounters with the exceptionally vile Count Olaf. They’ll also get some great vocabulary lessons as the author introduces cool new words into the narration. It’s what every parent wants for their kids: entertainment PLUS education!
And there we have it! This list of audiobooks is bound to revolutionize your road trips, pique your kids’ interest in reading, and offer you a reasonable excuse for listening to kid literature. (Not that you need an excuse – children’s books are the best!)
We won’t tell anyone if you decide to use this list and listen to the books on your own time. Go for it!