Dear exhausted caregiver, have you tried audiobooks for kids? Furthermore, have you tried any audiobooks for kids lately? Even if you’re not exhausted (and who among us isn’t?), the benefits of audiobooks for kids can’t be beaten.
I remember teaching second grade and having literacy stations, or centers. The listening station was always a hit. There would be some children’s book or another on a cassette tape, accompanied by a copy of the book. My delighted children would don gigantic blue headphones, buddy up, press play on the massive cassette player, and read along.
While those experiences were magical, we’ve come a long way since “books on tape” really meant on tape. Now, there are many ways to access recorded books, from free library rentals to audiobook subscription services. Presently, it’s pretty easy to get our hands — and ears — on quality literature.
Much like traditional read-alouds, audiobooks for kids offer a variety of benefits. They provide a model of fluent reading, allowing children to access and comprehend texts above their independent reading levels. Additionally, they can help motivate reluctant readers and expand children’s vocabularies. Whether your child is reading along with the audiobook or just listening, the benefits abound!
If you’re still reading, I assume you’re sold on the idea, so let’s get started. Here are 20 awesome audiobooks for kids to get you toddlers, teens, and in-betweens reading and loving it!
Audiobooks for Younger Children
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes, Narrated by Sullivan Jones
Naturally, starting kindergarten can be a nerve-racking time for kids and families alike. This story stars a happy kiddo excited for his first day. Your child will get a nice confidence boost from this empowering tale.
Kindergarten, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg, Narrated by the Author
Similarly, this story helps with those first-day-of-school-jitters. With fun illustrations, this collection of funny poems touches on all the big kindergarten moments. Laugh with your little one as they listen to the fun in store for them at school!
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad, Narrated by the Author
Likewise, Muhammad presents a tale about the first day of school. This one, however, centers on two sisters — one of whom is wearing her hijab for the first time. Faizah hears how some children react to her sister’s hijab and realizes not everyone recognizes its beauty and meaning. She learns a lesson about family, faith, and her own strength.
I Believe I Can by Grace Byers, Narrated by the Author
I’m a big fan of Byers’s I Am Enough so I have no doubt this book is a gem as well. It’s one big affirmation. Like in her first book, the rhyming pattern of this book makes it a beautiful read. I imagine having the author narrate makes it even better.
Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, Narrated by Adriana Sananes
Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela realizes her name is a mouthful. Consequently, Alma goes to her father to learn the story of her name. I absolutely love this sweet tale and how it honors the importance of the names we carry.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, Narrated by the Author
This 2021 Caldecott Award winner tackles one of today’s most important issues. In kid-friendly prose, Lindstrom highlights the importance of water and how integral clean water is to our lives. Inspired by Indigenous-led movements across the U.S., this book is a call to action for all of us.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Narrated by Joshua David Scarlett
Experience Black boy joy at it’s finest. As always, Barnes captures the fullness of Black children in his prose. From the center of a cinnamon roll, to skateboards and scraped knees, Barnes reminds readers that they’re everything good they can imagine. I’ve bought this one for several of the kids in my life and highly recommend it.
Outside, Inside by Leuyen Pham, Narrated by Anastasia Nguyen
Excuse me while I clutch my heart with all the drama of a Jane Austen heroine. This book is so relevant it hurts. Inspired by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the story is about how we all moved inside to protect ourselves and others. Particularly, Pham highlights essential workers who have worked to keep us safe. This is a great audiobook for kids to listen to as they make sense of our new normal.
Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, Narrated by Pe’Tehn Raighn-Kem Jackson
Sweet and direct, this book is a poem dedicated to Black children. The author dares kids to imagine who they can be, while celebrating who they are. It’s perfect to listen to as an affirmation, or to read along and enjoy.
Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho, Narrated by Natalie Naudus Bradner
Last but not least, this beautiful book celebrates the uniqueness of Asian features. With rich language and descriptions, one little girl compares her eyes to those of her classmates and her own family. This story is a must-read for children of all ethnicities — perfect for helping us to see the true beauty in ourselves and others.
Audiobooks for Middle Schoolers and Older Teens
It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumason
It’s not easy being the new kid. Zomorod Yousefzadeh knows this very well. She’s moved four times by middle school and she is sick of it. This time is going to be different. She’s decided on a safe nickname, Cindy, which she knows is going to help her fit in. Unfortunately, tensions between Iran and the U.S. make it harder and harder for Cindy to find her place. Like most great middle grade novels, this book will resonate with lots of readers trying to find belonging in the world.
Recipe for Disaster by Aimee Lucido, Narrated by Gail Shalan
This hybrid novel combines recipes, poetry, and prose to tell the story of Jew-ish middle schooler, Hannah. Hannah prefers baking to religion, until she decides to throw her own bat mitzvah. Unfortunately, there is a lot more to a bat mitzvah than food and fun. Between parental resistance, family secrets, and friend drama, Hannah learns a lot about herself and what it really means to be Jewish.
The Thirteenth Cat by Mary Downing Hahn, Narrated by Stephanie Willis
This thrilling middle grades horror novel follows Zoey on her summer visit to her Aunt Alice. Though Zoey loves her aunt’s new house, she’s not sure about the creepy forest next to it or the swarm of black cats that haunt it. Will Zoey unlock their secrets or will she fall prey to the danger they hide?
Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy, Narrated by Phoebe Strole
Sweet Pea has been through a lot of changes lately. Her parents are divorcing, so now she has two homes on the same street. Plus, now her ex-best friend sits right beside her in school, reminding her constantly of the life she used to live. When Sweet Pea’s neighbor, advice columnist Flora Mae, asks her to check the mail while she goes on a trip, Sweet Pea is happy to do it. Then she recognizes the handwriting on one of Miss Flora Mae’s envelopes. What she does next will change everything…again.
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, Narrated by Bahni Turpin
On her 12th birthday, Zoe Washington receives a letter from her father. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except Zoe has never met her father because he’s been incarcerated for her entire life. Now, instead of focusing on her baking internship, Zoe is secretly trying to solve the crime that her father swears he didn’t commit. The author does a beautiful job of handling complex families and the flaws in our criminal justice system.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Awkward: Dealing with Relationships, Consent, and Other Hard-To-Talk-About Stuff by Dr. Drew and Paulina Pinsky
In this informative volume, pop culture celeb and medical doctor Drew Pinsky teams up with his daughter Paulina to answer teens’ tough questions. With their vast knowledge and unique perspectives, the Pinskys offer a waaaaaay less uncomfortable approach to “the talk”. Leading with trust, compassion, and boundaries, the authors answer all the questions teens might have, and some they might not even know enough to ask. This one would be great to listen to together as a family. I’m adding it to my Christmas shopping list for all my friends with kids.
The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow, Narrated by Joy Sunday and Christian Barillas
Seriously, this book made me genuinely happy. The story is original and engaging and the narration is fabulous. Ellie Baker has survived an alien invasion — barely. Many around her aren’t so lucky, whether they’ve become mindless drones, depressed human husks, or are waiting to be killed. However, thanks to Ellie’s secret stash of books, she and a few others are holding on. Then, Ellie meets Morris. He’s one of them, but also not. Together, the unlikely pair build a relationship on books, music, and freedom and try to save the world.
A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell, Narrated by Tara Sands
Creepy magic YA with found family and a full-sized heroine on the cover? Yes, please. I was sold before reading the synopsis. If you need a bit more, let me elaborate. Derry lives in a secluded house bordering a spooky forest, along with her eight magical siblings. They’re kept “safe” from a world that doesn’t embrace magic by their caretaker, Frank, who took them all in after their families abandoned them. But then Derry’s siblings start to disappear and she hears their voices calling from the trees. Can she save them and control the dark magic she feels growing inside her?
Slay by Brittney Morris, Narrated by Kiersey Clemons, Michael Boatman, Alexandra Grey, Dominic Hoffman, and Sisi Aisha Johnson
17-year-old genius gamer Kiera Johnson has created a Black Panther-inspired secret multiplayer online game. It’s a safe space for Black gamers like Kiera, who is one of the few Black kids in her school. Unfortunately, an anonymous troll soon infiltrates the game and threatens Kiera with lawsuits over “anti-white discrimination”. As a Black woman and teacher, I can commiserate. You, too, will cheer for Keira as she fights for her creation and all those who need it.
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
If you and your family like adventure, this is for you. Bree is away for the summer at an early college program, but she’s learning a lot more than she anticipated. Ravaged by grief after her mother’s death, Bree discovers a secret underworld where legends are real…and so are demons. As she infiltrates the ranks of the descendants of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, she finds out more and more about her own heritage. I suggest this one as an audiobook for the pronunciations alone! This fantasy story has demons and people speaking Welsh and other archaic tongues, so it’s a fun one to listen to.
There you have it — 20 great audiobooks for kids guaranteed to offer hours of enriching amusement. Now, go forth and spread that sweet book magic! If you need more suggestions, check out these other great lists: