How Audiobooks Saved My Sanity

10 Tips for Getting Started with Audiobooks

By Emily Classon, guest writer for Macaroni Kid Lowell, MA June 1, 2017

One thing I didn’t realize about parenting was how much time I would spend in the car. From driving to swimming lessons and gymnastics, to play dates and running errands, I sometimes feel like a personal chauffeur. As thrilled as I am that she’s having fun and learning cool things, sometimes we need a break.

When talking about our day and word games weren’t cutting it, music became a welcome distraction. It was fun to sing along to child-friendly music and to see my daughter elated when her favorite songs would play. Unfortunately, she whittled our impressive CD collection down to two CDs by the same artist. I came up with a new plan when repetition became too much for me.

I’ve always been a fan of audiobooks in the car or when I’m exercising. I figured that since my daughter enjoys reading and was starting to enjoy more chapter books, she might be ready to try some audiobooks. I started with a few recommendations from a friend, then began our wonderful and entertaining journey into children’s audiobooks.

Our life changed! Now my daughter can’t wait to get into the car to pick up where she left off in her book. Car rides are smoother and more enjoyable since we have something interesting to do while we’re going from place to place. I find myself giggling along to some of the stories or able to tune out the ones that only appeal to younger ears. Shockingly, my daughter prefers to listen to audiobooks instead of watching DVDs on long trips too! The only drawback is that sometimes I have to encourage conversation instead of listening to the audiobook, and that can get a little tricky. She’s also been a voracious listener so we have to get several audiobooks from the library to keep us stocked.

If you’re looking to start listening to audiobooks with your kids, here are a few of our favorites, as well as a few recommendations.

1. Start with titles you think will appeal to your child. Since my daughter was in a princess phase, we started with some Disney titles, such as the junior novelizations of Frozen and Brave. She enjoyed these very much, although Brave had an accent that can be a bit difficult to understand at times. We also listened to many of the Disney Fairies Collection, which feature gentle friendship stories about Tinkerbell and her friends.

Animal lovers might want to check out the Poppy series by Avi, The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, and Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo.

2. Start small. If you’re concerned about the length of some of the stories, there are many great picture book and audio collections available at area libraries. Search for your favorite authors for some quick read-along fun. For sweet, short stories about friendship, check out the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel. Librarians have also recommended the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant.

3. Go for a laugh. Our favorite audiobooks have been the ones that make us laugh. By far, our favorite has been Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. It’s about two hours full of penguin antics with a gentle, feel-good story that had the entire family laughing through repeated listens.

4. Make it relatable. My daughter has loved the Judy Moody and Stink books by Megan McDonald. These fun tales about Judy, a spunky third grader, and her younger brother, Stink, address a lot of the topics in my daughter’s world, including friendship, school, and making choices. Our favorites have been Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express and Stink and the World’s Worst Super-Stinky Sneakers.

5. Have an adventure. Reading can take you to new places, so why not combine a car ride with a trip to the past with the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne? This series is very popular with kids, and my daughter has enjoyed learning more about history. It’s probably best to read these titles in order, since there is an ongoing plot that runs between tales, but each book seems to recap that info for the reader. The books are fairly formulaic, but that helps my daughter when she’s a bit nervous about some of the topics, including the Titanic and various wars. The formula reassures her because she knows that Jack and Annie will always return home safely. Despite some of the troublesome settings, the stories are gentle and give a child-friendly overview of historic events without a lot of difficult details. It’s a lengthy series, so there are plenty of books to experience!

6. Use your imagination. There are lots of wonderful fantasy and adventure books that are often available on audio. Our current favorite is The Secrets of Droon by Tony Abbott. Through Eric, Julie, and Neal, listeners get to explore the world of Droon, which is filled with creative characters, magic, and the evil Lord Sparr. I’ve found these stories to be a lot of fun too! Another short series to consider is Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale. My daughter giggles while Princess Magnolia manages to hide her secret while defeating silly monsters.

7. Talk about the tricky stuff. Since books deal with all types of life situations, sometimes we read or listen to something that my daughter hasn’t experienced yet. I’ve found that many of the books about school-aged children can be a bit sassy. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park and Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows are popular series titles for girls. Reluctantly, we started with Ivy and Bean, and my daughter is enjoying the books. While the language and name-calling might not be something I want my daughter to pick up, I appreciate having the opportunity to talk to her about these stories. We talk about friendship and how to handle situations when people aren’t nice. We talk about the choices the characters make and if there are better ways to handle things.

8. Ask a librarian. If you aren’t sure where to start, make sure to ask your local librarian for help. I was able to find all of the titles listed above in my local library catalog. Librarians are great at helping you locate titles that will suit your child’s interests and age level.

9. Plan ahead. If you end up with a ravenous audiobook listener like my daughter, you’ll want to make sure you always have a couple of titles available. We usually have two or three titles ready at a time in case a CD is scratched and won’t play, or a title doesn’t particularly appeal. It’s made my life much easier to have a backup (or two or three) just in case.

10. Test drive your audiobooks. You can always start with a print copy of the book to get your child interested in a title or series before trying the audiobook.

To find audiobooks, check with your local library or favorite place you purchase books. In addition to books on CD, check OverDrive through your library for downloadable audiobooks. Get started on your audio adventure today, and regain a bit of your sanity while you drive.