Listening to Audiobook

How to Find the Best Audiobooks for Kids and Teens

Parents and teachers seeking to encourage children to read almost invariably think of traditional, paper, hold-in-the-hand books. However, in our modern, multi-media culture, many more, less-traditional options are available to get kids hooked on reading. Audiobooks are among the most accessible and enjoyable of these alternative options and can be an excellent choice for kids of all ages.

To get a jump-start on your quest to find the best audiobooks for kids and teens, check out our selection of the best children’s audiobooks of 2020.

The Power of the Spoken Word

There are significant benefits to audiobooks for both parents/educators and children. When it comes to your child’s reading development, audiobooks offer models to listeners of excellent pronunciation and articulation—both in terms of accuracy and in terms of expression and liveliness. Audiobooks may also provide access to texts written at a higher level than printed books for children who struggle with decoding.

Audiobooks also score high in terms of convenience. Even young readers need very little supervision while listening to an audiobook, and they can be listened to in situations where a paper book might not be practical, such as on long car journeys. Audiobooks are also easily stored and much less easily damaged than paper books and take up much less space. This article will share hints and tips and a few recommendations for finding and choosing audiobooks for young readers.

Where to Find Audiobooks for Kids

As with traditional paper books, there are many options for finding audiobooks, and not all of them come with a price tag. One of the best options for finding audiobooks for free is your local library. Audiobooks from the library are usually cataloged according to age range and genre and come with the benefit of a knowledgeable and helpful librarian to help you choose. Even better, audiobooks borrowed from your local library are free, so long as you remember to return them on time. Many local libraries are offering online access to audiobooks during the lockdown.

If you don’t want to depend on your local library (or can’t find the audiobook you want there), you can buy audiobooks from traditional bookstores. Audiobooks purchased from a bookstore often come in CD format, so check before you buy if your playback options are limited.

Online download and subscription services like Audible are probably the most popular choice for audiobook access for readers of all ages. The selection on these sites is vast, so you are sure to find something to suit your reader’s tastes. Free online options include StoryNory and Lit2Go.

Best New Audiobooks for Ages 4-6 and Their Families

Audiobooks for Preschool and Elementary

When choosing audiobooks for young readers, it’s best to start with books that are not too long. Books with familiar storylines (they’ve read the paper version or seen the film already) can be a good starting place, as can books that include video read-alongs or illustrations. Books with a lot of verbal play and auditory richness work particularly well with this age group. It can be a particular pleasure for group reading to revisit the stories that you loved yourself as a child, creating shared memories and experiences across generations.

Anything by Roald Dahl is an excellent option for listening with young readers. Particular favorites include Fantastic Mr. Fox (especially if you can find the now-rare BBC recording read by Dahl himself) for younger readers and The Witches for those who can handle a slightly scarier story. In old classics, Treasure Island and Charlotte’s Web are both gripping listens. Try Aesops FablesShel Silverstein’s Runny Babbitor Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories for auditory wordplay and rich language.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for even more recommendations for this age group, or try this list of audiobooks for Ages 3 to 6 (and up).

A little boy sitting on a bed

Audiobooks for Middle Grade Readers

For middle school, the whole rich world of genre fiction opens up in the audiobook market. The difficulty when choosing audiobooks for this age group is in sifting the chaff from the wheat. Series books and popular authors abound, and care should be taken to select books with rich, accurate language, diverse characters, and clear, positive messages. Choosing books with complex themes for discussion will also help foster your listeners’ love of stories.

Favorite authors for this age group include J. K. Rowling, Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan, and Anthony Horowitz, and their work is readily available in audiobook form. Classics to explore include C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Tolkein’s The HobbitThe Diary of Anne Frankand Avi’s Sophia’s WarJacqueline Woodson’s Harbour Me is a grown-up exploration of relatedness for more serious readers. And, for the dinosaur lovers out there, the Audible Original A Grown-Up Guide to Dinosaurs is a genuinely fascinating non-fiction option.

There are even more standout audiobook recommendations for kids ages 8 to 12 below.

Teen with Headphones

Audiobooks for Teens

When choosing audiobooks for teens, there is a fine line to walk between what is challenging and what is age-appropriate. Always vet the content of a new book or author before handing it over to your teen reader and make informed judgments about what your teen can handle as well as what they will enjoy. While there is a plethora of series fiction for this age group, exploring new authors and stand-alone novels will likely expose your reader to a broader range of ideas and greater diversity. Quality over quantity will pay off with this age group.

Try Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell or John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars for books with a romantic spin. Malala Yousafzai’s I Am MalalaAngie Thomas’ The Hate U Giveand Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner are mature novels about sensitive topics and themes that will provide plenty of scope for discussion and debate. Gayle Forman’s If I StayTomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Boneor Karen M. McManus’s One of Us is Lying are all gripping and well-written for those who prefer genre fiction.

You might enjoy checking out our lists of 5 Unforgettable Young Adult Audiobooks and Must-Listen Audiobooks for Teens.

This article, How to Find the Best Audiobooks for Kids and Teens​, was written by Dr. Jen Harrison.


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