It seems like audiobooks are everywhere these days. Maybe it’s the rise of Audible, maybe it’s the fact that radio kind of stinks, maybe it’s the fact that we all want to read more and read to our kids more but don’t have the time or voice power. Whatever it is, it makes me happy. I love a good audiobook. I like to listen to them while I cook, fold laundry, drive. They are a great way to read more books without having to sit down to read!
But, what about kids (and adults) who aren’t auditory learners? Their minds might wander while listening or they get fidgety and wander off. Can you and your kids enjoy audiobooks even if you aren’t all auditory people? Yes, you can! Here are some ways I’ve found to make audiobooks work with my visual and kinesthetic learners.
Listen to stories they already know. This can mean books you’ve already read aloud to them (either the full length book or an abridged version) or books that have movies they’ve already seen (yes, sometimes we let them watch the movie first). If they’re already familiar with the story, it will be easier for them to follow the audio version. And if (when) their little minds do wander, they’ll be able to check back in and follow along much more easily.
Don’t be afraid to stop and explain. Sometimes the hard thing about audiobooks is that they move very quickly. Often we do things that help our kids comprehend when we read aloud to them without even realizing it. We show them the pictures or stop to explain a word they don’t know. We ask questions or answer questions. And all of this helps our kids to follow the story. It’s okay to do this during an audiobook! When the eyes start to glaze over or the plot takes a twist you think they might miss, press pause and talk about it.
Try a “radio drama” style audiobook. These audiobooks have different actors voicing characters, sound effects, and music. All of those elements help listeners differentiate between characters and visualize the story. It’s like listening to a movie you watch in your mind!
Choose books with dynamic narrators who use fun voices. A narrator can make or break an audiobook. We listened to one version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that was, in a word, boring. Now, everyone knows that is NOT a boring story! But this narrator managed to drone in such a way that it seemed to drag. Listen to those Audible samples! When you find a great narrator, look for more books they’ve read. And, if you start a book with a terrible narrator, stop listening!
With these things in mind, here are some of our favorite audiobooks:
101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, read by Martin Jarvis: This is a great one that follows a story most kids are familiar with, even though they probably haven’t read the book. We totally lucked up on this one at the library one week and it is a gem. It’s slightly different from the Disney movie (they always are) but so, so good. My oldest enjoyed it so much she checked the book out at the library to read herself the next week!
The Chronicles of Narnia Radio Dramas by Focus on the Family: These are by far the favorite audiobooks of my never-sits-still 5 ½ year old son. They are fantastically done with excellent acting, mood-setting music, and enough realistic battle sounds to keep young adventurers on the edge of their seats. My kids were familiar with a few of the chronicles before we listened, but they thoroughly enjoyed all seven of them. There were a few where we had to press pause and make sure everyone was following along (Magician’s Nephew and The Horse and His Boy specifically) but we have now listened to all of them at least twice and they are definitely family staples.
Anything read by Jim Dale: We originally discovered Jim Dale reading The Harry Potter series. If you know me, you know I love all things Harry Potter. And, after hearing Dale speak as Hagrid, Harry, Dumbledore, and Hermione, I now love all things Jim Dale. He also reads the Peter and the Starcatchers series, which, while a little long for younger listeners, is really fun. My kids' favorite by Dale is a musical fable called The Shoe Bird. It’s whimsical and funny and the music is fantastic. It’s also short, meaning that even the youngest and fidgetiest of listeners will enjoy it.
The Ramona Quimby books read by Stockard Channing: Ramona is another character we were familiar with before listening to the audiobook. I read Ramona Quimby, Age 8 aloud to all 3 of my kids last year and my oldest has read several more of the Ramona titles on her own. Stockard Channing (whom I remember from Grease, way back when) reads them so well and does a great job of capturing Ramona’s quirky personality. They are also short!
Those are just a few of our favorites. Does your family do audiobooks? If so, what are your favorite titles?