In Praise of Audiobooks

I don’t go anywhere in the car with my kids without an audiobook. No personal listening devices allowed. We all listen to the stories together–we crack up together, we talk about what’s going to happen next together, we look forward to the next time we all get in the car together. I can check audiobooks out from the King County Library for thirty days (up to sixty days with a renewal) with just a library card. For free. What a treasure that library is.

Audiobooks have opened the rich world of children’s literature for both my kids, but mostly for my son. The other day he begged me to go to the bookstore to buy him the actual paperback book of On the Banks of Plum Creek, the fourth book in the Little House on the Prairie series. That would have never happened before we listened to Little House on the Prairie on audiobook.

It’s not like I didn’t try to read many of these same books during our nightly bedtime reading. But my son steadfastly refused to listen to me reading them, even though his twin sister would. I used to think that it was the gender divide at work and that my selection was to blame. I must be picking the wrong books, books for girls, and that was the problem.

But after listening to some of these children’s books on audiotapes, I can appreciate the difference between someone like Jim Dale reading a story and me. He is amazing! There are many fabulous readers of audio recordings and they are opening a wonderful world of books to my children in a way that I wasn’t able to do. Not all audio recordings of good books have good readers, however, so you must be choosy, because it doesn’t matter how good the book is, if it has a crummy reader, it’s not going to entertain.

My kids are a much more captive and willing audience in the car than they are at the end of the night after school, when they are cranky and tired (moreso now that they’re in elementary school). Listening to audiobooks in the car helps to relieve boredom and bickering, and I think my kids appreciate that as much as, if not more than, I.

I’m not suggesting that parents stop reading to their kids and substitute audiobooks. My kids still demand that I read to them at night. But what they don’t have the attention span for at night, we listen to in the car. And everyone’s happy.

Children’s books that my children and I have recently enjoyed on audiobook:

Jim Dale reading Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Cherry Jones reading Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Robery Llewellyn reading Pig Scrolls by Paul Shipton
Annie Kozuch reading Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Ryan
Henry Winkler reading Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
John R. Erickson reading Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson
Lana Quintal reading Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park

If you know of any other good audio recordings of favorite children’s books, please leave a comment and share it!

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3 thoughts on “In Praise of Audiobooks

  1. Memoir is a nice vehicle for audio books because you often get the writer reading their own story. I think Frank McCourt did the audio book for his first memoir, which I believe was very good. I have heard Augusten Borough’s work is done this way to great effect too. Of course, none of these are good for kids. I wish my mom had checked audio books out of the library for me when I was a kid! 🙂

  2. Jane Ray says:

    Simon listens to audiobooks daily — in the car and also as he’s falling asleep (after he reads to us and we read to him!) I have one important rule about audiobooks. We don’t listen to audiobooks of works that I’ve spent my whole life WAITING to read aloud to a child! (Ask Simon who does better voices, Jim Dale or his mom! When we went to see the new film version of Charlotte’s Web, he told everyone I did a better Charlotte than Julia Roberts!) Or I read it to him first and THEN we listen to the audiobook afterwards and compare… Here are some of our other-than-Harry-Potter favorites: the LIONBOY trilogy (we love the fact that the author “Zizou Corder” is really a pen name for the author & her daughter who wrote the books together); ARTHUR & THE INVISIBLES (Jim Dale again); BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE (Cherry Jones rocks!); PETER PAN IN SCARLET (Tim Curry narrates this pretty okay fake sequel to Peter Pan); anything by Jim Weiss (he does Greek Myths and many other classics). A favorite series of mine from childhood, The Melendy Family by Elizabeth Enright (4 books) is now available on audiobooks, but of course, I HAD to read them to Simon myself first…

  3. Oh, Jane, I want to come stay at your house one night and listen to Simon and you read wonderful books!

    Right now, the kids and I are listening to Tim Curry read A Series of Unfortunate Events. He’s a perfect reader for it.

    Also, I believe Jim Weiss read a very funny book, Pig Scrolls, which is a spoof on Greek mythology.

    I’m going to run out and check the books you recommend from the library today! We’re heading down to California on a big road trip and we need good books for the 25+ hour drive.

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