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Kids' Audio Books

Kids' audio books are a fantastic alternative way for kids to hear stories.

They can listen to them with or without headphones, at home, in the car or when you're travelling. They can listen on their own or with a sibling or, on a long car trip, the whole family can listen together.

listening to audio book

Kids' audio books are brilliant for:

  • younger children who can't yet read;
  • kids who struggle with reading;
  • older kids when you're travelling or when they're ill;

Our family often listened to audio books during long car trips when my three children were younger. They were a huge hit, although you do need to chose the books carefully if you have children of different ages. I looked for books that sons would enjoy but that would also appeal to my husband and I and to my daughter who's three years younger than her brothers.

Our favourites were the Narnia books which we listened to when the boys were eight and their sister was five, starting with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Audio books aren't a substitute for cuddling up with Mum or Dad for a read-aloud session. When you read aloud, your child can stop you to ask questions and you can discuss the story together, things you can't do with an audio book.

That said, listening to an audio book is a different experience and it has its own joys and benefits.

When To Try Kids' Audio Books

There are now lots of kids' audio books available and there really is something for everyone of every age.

Try them with:

  • 3-4 year olds who have outgrown a day-time sleep but need a bit of down time in the afternoon. Get them to lie on their beds or somewhere else that's quiet, tell them it's "rest time" and put the CD on. They may even fall asleep!

  • beginning readers. If you have a print copy of the book as well as the audio version, your child might like to look at that while he listens. Listening to audio books lets children hear how good reading sounds: the intonation, pace, emphasis, pauses, how punctuation is handled and so on. This is really important!

  • in the car or on a long plane or train trip. Load audio books for children onto ipods and let them lie back, close their eyes and listen. You can also put the CD in the car's CD player and all listen together.

  • children who are ill and don't feel like reading. Listening to an audio book can be very soothing.
  • children for whom English is a second (or third) language.

About Kids' Audio Books

There are basically two kinds of kids' audio books:

  • the narrated story, where a narrator simply reads the book as it was originally written.

  • the full dramatisation, either abridged or unabridged. This is where actors read the parts of all the characters.

Both are great, although I have to say that our family loved the BBC dramatisations of the Narnia books by C S Lewis and Winnie-the-Pooh by A A Milne.The different voices made it easier for the kids to follow the stories and really brought them to life. Just be aware of the two different types so you know what you're getting. 

audio books for childrenReading along while listening to an audio book

Getting Started with Kids' Audio Books

There are loads of books for children available in audio book format. You can get them on CD from the Book Depository, download some of them from iTunes or borrow them from your local library, as I used to do.

If you're interested in audio books, have a look at the books I've reviewed for various age groups by clicking on the tabs to the left. Clicking on the book covers will take you to the Book Depository website where you will also be able to see the audio version, if it's available. 

Kids' Audio Books for Struggling Readers

If your child struggles with reading, you may think that getting him listening to audio books is cheating a bit and that it has nothing to do with learning to read.

But did you know that listening to audio books can actually help improve your child's reading?

This is because kids who struggle with reading need to practise their reading but it can be very hard to get them to do this. Motivation is obviously key here but what do kids need to become motivated to read?

I think there are three main things:

  • good reading role models;
  • to feel relaxed about reading;
  • to enjoy reading;
audio books for children

Obviously these factors are all related:

  • a child who enjoys reading is usually motivated to read and is therefore getting a lot of practice at it;
  • kids enjoy reading more (and become more relaxed about it) when they get better at it and it becomes easier for them;
  • kids get better at reading when it becomes easier for them and vice versa:

Listening to audio books can help with all these things simply because it can help kids get excited about books while also taking the pressure off them to read.

Listening to an audio book shows kids how good reading sounds. They hear the fluid way the text is read, the way pauses are used for emphasis and the way the reader speed up to convey the excitement or urgency in a scene. They can use these skills with their own reading.

Struggling readers have often learnt the basics about decoding words and sounds so that they can read but they have not yet reached the stage where it is automatic and more or less effortless. At this point, they're often reading very boring, basic school readers so there's nothing to capture their interest. This means they're not motivated to read so it can be hard to get them to practice. This in turn can be stressful, for you and for your young reader.

So, we have a difficult activity that your child finds exhausting, stressful and just plain boring and there's you, the parent, becoming stressed about it all and possibly communicating that stress to your child. Listening to a carefully-chosen audio book can take the stress, boredom and effort away so that your child has a chance of actually enjoying an exciting, absorbing story. And that's the most important thing we need to do if we want our kids to become good readers: we need first of all to get them excited about books and reading so that they really, really want to read.

So if you have a child who struggles a bit with reading, it may be worth putting aside the reading practice for a bit and getting hold of a few audio books! 

Storynory: Free Kids' Audio Books and Stories!

I recently came across This is a brilliant site which provides access to loads of stories and poems specially-recorded and provided free of charge for children to listen to or download. The stories are provided in written form too so children can read along as they listen, if they wish.

The stories included are all out of copyright and include classic fairy tales such as Cinderella, nursery rhymes, stories like The Three Little Pigs and famous stories like Aesop's fables.

It's a wonderful site and well worth exploring with your child.

If you'd like to read more about the benefits of audio books for children, check out this page.

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