The joy of listening – audio books for kids!

Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car with my kids listening to the same kids’ songs over and over again. Then one day I picked up the Little Golden Treasury on CD. On our next car ride, my kids and I listened to “The Poky Little Puppy”, “Scruffy the Tugboat”, “Tawny Scrawny Lion” and “The Saggy Baggy Elephant.” The delightful narration kept my toddler, preschooler, and I entertained through the entire recording. The next week I brought home a picture book with an accompanying CD recording and my three-year-old had a clear sense of pride following along with the book. While I had often listened to audio books for myself, I felt like I had discovered an untapped resource for my children. I had to wonder how many other parents and teachers had yet to learn how fun listening to audio books could be for a child.

As a parent, I feel good knowing my kids are learning as they have fun. Struggling and new readers listening to audio books, especially when reading along with a book, might benefit from learning about the rhythm of the words, connecting the letters to sounds, and pronouncing new or difficult words. The same could be said for those learning a second language. All readers can benefit from audio books as they might allow them to read above their level in addition to teaching critical listening. They also allow families to listen together, sharing the experience of a good story, or allow a child to listen alone when an adult isn’t available to read aloud to them. And, while audio books should never replace parents and teachers reading aloud to children, audio books sometimes add excitement through sound effects, multiple performers and talented narrators. As a bonus, at the end of some recordings, you will find commentary from the authors, describing how and/or why they wrote the book.

The Mercer County Library System offers audio books in several formats, allowing you to find the one most suited to your needs. I usually listen to books on CD in the car, but they are also available on cassette tape and on preloaded Playaway devices, so you don’t need any CD, cassette, or MP3 player. You can also electronically download audio books from your home using ListenNJ. Some picture books also come with a CD, sometimes putting the book to music, and allowing a child to read along with the narration.

To get you started, here are a few of my favorite audio books for kids:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Jim Dale received two Grammy Awards for his narration of the Harry Potter books. He has a unique voice for each character, truly bringing the story to life. This is a great listening experience, even if you’ve already read the book.

The Collected Stories of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

This is a full-cast dramatization the classic stories “Winnie-the-Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner” featuring the voices of Stephen Fry, Judy Dench and others.

Runny Babbit: a Billy Sook by Shel Silverstein

This collection of spoonerisms by well-loved poet Shel Silverstein is easier to listen to than to read aloud and kids will have fun trying to read along.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This story of a boy raised by ghosts in a cemetery is narrated by the author.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

This classic story of a red-headed orphan is adapted and performed in radio theater style by a full cast.