Do you have a child who loves to read? Check out our list of the best audiobooks for kids. Equally great for road trips and during quiet time at home!
When I was a child, we had a few audiobooks on vinyl. Before I learned how to read, they were my most treasured possessions – I could listen to them without asking adults (who were surprisingly reticent to sit down and read me a book for the hundredth time, what with all the cooking and cleaning they always had to do).
Since then, I have loved audiobooks. Not more than written books, but almost. And it is definitely a better time for audiobooks now than it was in my childhood – with so many more available and so many more ways to listen to them!
What’s the Best Way to Get Audiobooks?
First, we tried CDs. It didn’t work out very well. They were easily scratched and covered with gunk, especially at the ever-sticky hands of toddlers. In the worst case scenario, they broke. Finally, I found it impossible to find a good CD player that a kid could use.
But MP3-method can get trickier as books get longer. When my son grew into chapter books, I started buying audiobooks for him off iTunes. He learned to turn them on pretty easily, and they could never get scratched or broken. I loved this, but the prices were steep.
Just recently we have started growing our Audible collection as well. It’s probably the most economic way to accumulate a lot of audiobooks over time, and you usually get a few months and a few books as a free trial. If you have never tried Audible before, you can actually get one of the books below completely free right now. All things considered, this would be my choice.
In addition, we have started recording audiobooks as we read a chapter or two (or half a book at a time if it was particularly good) to our son at night. Just as long as we are not overly perfectionist, it is an easy way to get our hands on audiobooks that have not even been published officially, like Emil’s Pranks by Astrid Lindgren or Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat. Of course, there were coughs and giggles and occasionally kid’s questions recorded at the same time, but somehow it made the recording more personal.
Why Listen to Audiobooks?
Audiobooks come in handy on many occasions – during road trips and during quiet times. Right now, when my son is six – old enough to love good stories, but still not old enough to read fluently – he turns them on every day. It has done wonders for his vocabulary, and it is a fun accompaniment to his drawing or LEGO-building time. For me as well, it has turned into a pleasant experience where we both enjoy a book together while doing our own things.
Below you will find a list of our favourite audiobooks, up until now.
I’d like to say that the age limits I suggest are offered for general guidelance and not in any way absolute. As I have been looking for audiobooks for my children since they were tiny tots, I thought that the approximate minimum age limit would be useful. Regardless of this, most of the books here can be enjoyed by children and adults of any age! On the other hand, every child is different, so if your child doesn’t take a shine to one of them, just try another. :-)
Audiobooks for Preschoolers (3-5-year-olds)
The list contains Amazon affiliate links.
These are the books that have narration, possibly music, and text that is simple enough for preschoolers to follow. In the beginning, we would always read these books to our son aloud first, making sure that he had a chance to ask questions. Then, we would get the audiobook. All of these books have been played dozens of times in our house. I am certain that I have heard Finn Family Moomintroll and Children of Noisy Village at least fifty times each. Back when my son was little, he would just start those books over when he came to the end.
Frog and Toad Collection by Arnold Lobel narrated by Arnold Lobel (Audible | iTunes | CD ): This was the first audiobook that captured my son’s attention when he was not quite three. One hour and twenty eight minutes of pure bliss! We tested this audiobook in various conditions, the most extreme of which was a thirty two hour trip across eastern Canada. Even after that, we still loved Toad and Frog and their quirky relationship of best friends who occasionally get on each other’s nerves, as only best friends are allowed to. The collection consists of short stories that are clever, funny and use simple words, so even a toddler can follow them. A special perk of this narration is that it was done by the author!
Winnie-the-Pooh Collection by A.L. Milne narrated by Stephen Fry, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Palmer, Jane Horrocks and Michael Williams (Audible | iTunes): The story of the famous toy bear hardly needs an introduction. Perhaps, a couple of words about this particular audiobook though? It’s a dramatization narrated by a selection of actors. While I don’t usually recommend books that have been abridged and adapted for younger readers, I feel like dramatizations are a different matter. They do lose some text, but all the same they present the story with such artistic flare that I listen to it as if it was my favourite song! This particular adaptation is one of the best that we have. I mean, Stephen Fry as Winnie-the-Pooh? Sold! The dramatization is also easier to listen to than a unabridged narration, which is why my son has been enjoying this version since he was three, but if you’d like the full version instead or in addition, check Winnie-the-Pooh narrated by Peter Dennis (Audible). We’ve got it as well, and it’s also good!
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond narrated by Stephen Fry (Audible | iTunes | CD): Stephen Fry seems to specialize in giving voice to famous British bears. Well, strictly speaking, Paddington comes from Peru, but his adventures described in the book have a certain atmosphere that would be familiar to lovers of British literature – railways, weekends at seaside and elevenses (with marmalade!) pour from the pages. Interestingly, while I had a soft spot for Winnie-the-Pooh, my son, at least at his age, strongly preferred Paddington and listened to the stories about him again and again. Fortunately, it pays off to be a Paddington fan – there are currently fourteen books in the series! Many of them have also been turned into audiobooks – check More About Paddington, Paddington Helps Out and so on.
Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson narrated by Hugh Laurie or Hugh Dennis (Audible | iTunes | CD) I grew up with stories of Moomins, so I was delighted when my son fell in love with their world soon after turning four. Having listened with him to the story (about fifty times!), I think that it is a perfect children’s book. It fills youngsters with a dozen ideal scenarios for adventures they can dream about later on. Finding a magician’s item that works in a mysterious way, but can turn water into raspberry juice? Check. Going to an uninhabited island and combing the beaches in search of treasures? Check. Fishing with friends in the early hours of the morning and catching a giant sea beast? Catch. And, finally, attending a party where one of the special guests is a magician who’ll grant one wish? Check as well. In my opinion, this book is the best introduction to the world of Moomins, but if you like it, also check Comet in Moominland, Moominland Midwinter and Moominsummer Madness. There are a few others as well, but they sit better with a slightly older crowd. If you can, find the narration by Hugh Laurie – in my opinion, it is considerably better than Hugh Dennis, though Laurie only ever did the first book.
The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren narrated by Catherine Byers (Audible | iTunes) This is one of those books that can stay with your children forever, filling them with warm memories about the life and customs of six children from rural Sweden some hundred years ago. This book doesn’t have magicians and great adventures, but it has the magic of childhood that turns a walk from school into a great escapade, makes invention of a secret language necessary for weeding the garden, and suggests that crayfishing at four in the morning is the most wonderful thing in the world. I heard a lot of adults who read this book say that they wish they grew up in Noisy village, and I am also one of them. I was undoubtedly delighted when my son chose this audiobook as one of his favourites to listen to! If you like it, there are a couple more books about Noisy Village. Unfortunately, they have not been turned into audiobooks, but you can have a few fun evenings, reading them aloud.
All About Sam by Lois Lowry narrated by Bryan Kennedy (Audible | iTunes | CD) Lois Lowry is best known for The Giver and Number the Stars, both novels for middle-graders dealing with serious topics, such as nazism and totalitarianism. But before she wrote those, she created a series about Anastasia Krupnik, a girl on the verge of teenage-hood. That series is full of comedic situations which are easy to come upon if you live in a family with a father who is a poet and a literature professor, a mother who is an illustrator with a good sense of humour, and a very smart little brother. Well, this brother just happens to be Sam. After writing half a dozen books about his sister, Lois Lowry gave him a story of his own. It starts with Sam being born, and in the beginning it’s one of those hilarious “how the baby sees the world” books. In a few chapters though, Sam grows into a toddler, learns to walk and to talk, and goes to preschool. There is a lot for preschoolers to relate to in this story! Truth be told, parents will also find quite a few things to relate to. Have you ever had a kid come down from a bathroom break with a funny haircut? I sure have! If you like Sam, there are three more books that were all turned into audiobooks – Attaboy, Sam!, See You Around, Sam! and Zooman Sam.
Little House in the Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder narrated by Cherry Woods (Audible | iTunes | CD) Having read this series in my twenties, I couldn’t imagine that my five-year-old son would love it this much. But he did, especially this first book. After listening to it together with him again and again, I have decided that it is actually great for little kids. Laura is five in this book, and she is curious about the world around her. From her experiences around their farm come many detailed descriptions of how things work. No matter that the story is set one hundred and fifty years ago – my son was mesmerized by the stories of how to turn maple sap into syrup, or harden it into candy by throwing it on the snow. In a few months, he listened to the first book so many times that I had to get the next one and then the next one for him. Little House on the Prairie and On the Banks of Plum Creek were also his firm favourites, but he didn’t show as much interest in By the Shores of Silver Lake, so we’ve decided to postpone the rest of the series until he is older.
Also for this age group:
Audiobooks for Kids (5-8-year-olds)
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren narrated by Christina Moore (Audible | iTunes | CD) If you are fond of stories about spunky girls, this is the one to offer to the younger crowd. Pippi is the strongest girl in the world – she can carry a horse around – but she is also very kind and creative. She lives in a house all by herself, has a chest full of gold coins, and she is always up for organizing a fun afternoon for her friends and pretty much all the other kids in town. I fell in love with Pippi when I was about six, and she was my role model for the next few years. “Everything is more fun with Pippi!” says one of her friends. I was delighted when my son decided so as well. There are two more books about Pippi – Pippi Goes Aboard and Pippi in the South Seas. Unfortunately, they haven’t been turned into audiobooks, but you can read them aloud.
Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry narrated by Lee Adams (Audible | iTunes) Want still more spunky girls? Gooney Bird Greene definitely fits the bill. You need to have spunk if you are a new kid coming to school in pajamas and cowboy boots! Her classmates are quickly fascinated by the new girl and ask her to tell them more about herself. Gooney Bird doesn’t disappoint, so together with her classmates we learn how she got her unique name, moved to their town from China on a carpet, directed a professional orchestra and more. The best thing? Gooney Bird only tells true stories! Hint: she does like to play with words and double meanings. The series of Gooney Bird books is actually quite educational. In the first book, the children learn about the composition of a good story; in the second book, they find out about the story of Thanksgiving; the third book is about fables; the fourth one is about poetry. Then, there are also two books that are about anatomy and geography. Basically, the children are listening to the stories about other children learning at school, but because this is a book written by Lois Lowry, the winner of two Newbery medals, the story is irresistible – full of humour and quirky characters. The narration by Lee Adams deserves a special mention – she is great at giving each of the children in the book his or her own voice.
Henry Huggins Collection by Beverly Cleary narrated by Neil Patrick Harris & William Roberts (Audible|iTunes) There is no denying that audiobooks can be quite expensive, and that’s why I love it when they come up with a good collection that I can pick up for one Audible credit. This one features fifteen hours worth of really good narration and includes six books about Henry Huggins (Henry Huggins, Henry and Beezus, Henry and Ribsy, Henry and the Paper Route, Henry and the Clubhouse, Ribsy). Henry is a clever and enterprising boy from the 50s. While the books are pretty old, they don’t seem dated. There is a certain earnest and honest attitude about Henry, but that only makes the books better. They are also really fun and clever, encouraging ingenuity in children. I personally loved the books about Henry, after reading them already in my twenties, but wasn’t planning to give them to my son until he is about Henry’s age. He however had other plans: after finding the audiobooks at the library, he listened to those fifteen hours several times and loved the adventures of Henry and his dog Ribsy.
The Ramona Quimby Collection by Beverly Cleary narrated by Stockard Channing (Audible|iTunes) Ramona first appeared in the books about Henry Huggins, but later on she got a series of her own. In my opinion, the Ramona series is more suitable for the younger crowd, though my son preferred to skip it altogether and go on to following Henry Huggins’ exploits. The stories of Henry Huggins do have more anecdotal quality in them, while the stories of Ramona are about growing up, with a fair number of funny and embarrassing moments along the way. In the first book, Ramona is five. In the last book, she is ten. She goes a long way, and it is interesting to witness, especially since she is also a very spunky and creative kid. There is also no denying that this audiobook collection is awesome – it has eighteen hours of great narration and follows Ramona all the way to the last book.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum narrated by Anne Hathaway (Audible|iTunes) or The Complete Oz Collection narrated by Eric Vincent (Audible|iTunes) If you want a more artistic narration of the first (and most famous) book, we loved Anne Hathaway’s performance. She was especially good as a witch! But if you want to go for a good value – and have the full emerging experience, you can get the complete collection. It includes twenty books from the series, and the narration takes some ninety hours. Or why not get both, really? We did!
Magic Tree House Collections by Mary Pope Osborne narrated by Mary Pope Osborne (Books 1-8: Audible|iTunes; Books 9-16: Audible|iTunes; Books 17-24: Audible|iTunes) Not my favourite, but definitely my son’s favourite. Some of the books present a simplified view on history, which can be a little painful to listen to for history geeks like my husband and I, but one can’t really expect the introduction to history for little kids to be full of nuance. On the positive side, these books do inspire an interest for history in little kids. Thanks to these books, we have already lived through a major Titanic obsession in our household, after my five-year-old listened to the 17th book in the series, Tonight on the Titanic.
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell narrated by David Tennant (Audible|iTunes) Chances are, by this age your kids have seen the animated movie by Dreamworks that is based on this book, so they may be curious to listen to it. And – they will be in for a bit of a surprise! It is very different from the movie. There is still a boy who doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the viking crowd. He does have a dragon called Toothless. But that’s about where similarities end. For instance, in the very beginning of the book, we find Hiccup trying to catch and train a dragon as an old rite-of-passage tradition. Even though different from the movie, the book is quite good for the age group, with some funny bits and some clever bits. Besides that though, the artistic narration by David Tennant is a real treat! There are eleven books and audiobooks to follow this one. If you’re interested, look up How to Be a Pirate and How to Speak Dragonese next.
Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr narrated by Luke Daniels (Audible|iTunes) Do you like foreign children’s books? I certainly do. In my childhood, my favourite characters were the Moomins from Finland and Pippi Longstocking from Sweden. Since then, I’ve always been eager to get newly translated books, and now I share this fondness with my kids. If nothing else, we can always learn about little customs from around the world that seem a lot more fascinating when mentioned in passing in a book of fiction than in a tourist guide. That was the premise behind picking up this newly translated book in the first place. It didn’t disappoint! Trille and Lena are next-door neighbours who live among the Norwegian fjords, and their life is filled with imaginative adventures, unexpected catastrophes and eating waffles. The situations they get themselves into are intermittently hilarious and touching, sometimes both. We laughed a lot as we read this book, and afterwards I promptly got us an audiobook, so that we could relive Trille and Lena’s adventures again. If you liked this audiobook, also check Astrid the Unstoppable by the same author!
Also for this age group:
The Borrowers by Mary Norton (Audible)
Audiobooks for Older Kids (8-12-year-olds)
Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren narrated by Khristine Hvam (Audible|iTunes) This is one of those books that can easily lose its magic and appeal in a dry annotation. Ronia lives with her father, the robber chieftain, in a castle in the woods. Their life gets turned upside down when she befriends Birk, the son of a rival robber chieftain. That’s the plot of the story. What it can’t convey is the mesmerizing beauty of the forest that Ronia calls home or how it influences her personality, making Ronia one of the most charming girls in literature. And then, there is Birk! While Ronia is headstrong and passionate, he is calm, caring and resourceful, which, of course, leads to an enviable friendship. Together they have many an adventure, and, yes, in the end they do turn the life in the robbers’ woods upside down. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful book that I’d be happy to recommend to anyone. I’d like to mention that it can certainly be enjoyed by children as young as five. My son at five loved Ronia, especially after watching the great animated TV adaptation that studio Ghibli made a few years ago. But I believe that in order to fully comprehend the subject, he should try it again when he is a little older. All in all, there is enough magic in this book for various ages.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien narrated by Robert Inglis (Audible|iTunes) I always thought that The Lord of the Rings was epic, but The Hobbit was whimsical and cozy. I liked it more for that and looked forward to suggesting it to my son when he was about eight, the age I got my hands onto that book. In reality, he listened to The Hobbit again and again when he was five. Was it the success of the narration? It was wonderful! Robert Inglis has voices for everyone, and he even sings songs.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones narrated by Jenny Sterlin (Audible|iTunes) A strong heroine, exotic places, wicked witches, and friendly demons – this book has it all and also a good dose of irony, which makes this story likeable for a variety of ages! The narrator also does an amazing job of reading, so while both of my kids are still a little too young to appreciate this book, I sometimes turn it on and enjoy by myself.
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Animal Stories narrated by Jim Dale (Audible|iTunes) From the springtime frolic of Oscar, Cat-About-Town to the yuletide warmth of The Christmas Day Kitten, these selected stories will make a great introduction to James Herriot’s novels, which were, of course, never meant to be for children, but for people of all ages who love animals. If your children like this collection, in a few years they can move onto All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and so on. Filled with humorous and touching situations, those books would charm anyone who ever cared for an animal – or has an interest in the quirky characters of the English countryside.
The Giver by Lois Lowry narrated by Ron Rifkin (Audible|iTunes) The Newbery medal winner of 1994 about the seemingly ideal world of conformity and contentment is as important as ever in the modern days. The narrator Ron Rifkin did a great job of drawing suspense as well as presenting the haunting world where Jonas lives. Definitely not for younger children, who simply would not understand all the secret meanings of what is happening, but a very powerful story, both as a book and an audiobook. Look up Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son if you liked this one.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone by J.K. Rowling narrated by Stephen Fry or Jim Dale (Audible|iTunes) This addition is so obvious that I almost forgot to put it on the list. The first book of the series is everything a children’s book should be – it is whimsical, humorous, full of magic, mystery and great friendship! Now, the question is – which narration to choose? The fans are still debating it. I’ve listened to Stephen Fry’s narration at one point and loved it, but it seems difficult to find in North America at the moment, and there are many people who insist that Jim Dale did as great a job.
Anne of Green Gables Collection by L.M. Montgomery narrated by Susie Berneis and Tara Ward (Audible|iTunes) I don’t know if my children will ever feel like they need all 73 hours of Anne’s stories, but I got this one for myself. It’s perfect for turning on whenever I feel like having a book in the background. :-)
Also for this age group:
What are the auidobooks that your children like? Share with us, please – we are always looking for new titles to listen to!