Whether you’re dealing with reluctant readers, enjoying a book as a family, or just switching up the typical story time, there are tons of excellent reasons to stock up on audiobooks for kids. Reading via audiobook has been a staple in my family for almost a decade now, with books we’ve finished together becoming the lullabies my sons drift to every bedtime. As an elementary librarian, I delight in helping children and their adults understand that “listening to a book” actually is reading, and that their audiobook reading is not only “real,” it’s important. Audiobooks for kids allow them to immerse themselves in the story, racking up cadence, expression, and an impressive vocabulary as they go.
Audiobooks for kids are also great because they often can be enjoyed by the whole family. I particularly delight in listening to mysteries with my sons because we start stringing together clues and guessing at culprits. As they get older and age out of our common interests, we can keep finding audiobooks to read together and keep debating red herrings as we listen to the plot unfold. Some of the books on the list below are the favorites of kids in my life, some I choose because I love the narrator, and some are just plain fun and need to be read more often. There’s something for everyone.
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, Narrated by David Tennant
I’m a huge David Tennant fan, which puts this audiobook right at the top of my list. Finding narrators you know from other parts of life is an audiobook bonus and an additional hook for many kids. This book is very different from the movie adaptation, so even those familiar with the popular film have an entirely new plot to enjoy!
Diper Överlöde: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 17 by Jeff Kinney, Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo
Diary of a Wimpy Kid continues to have a hypnotic hold on elementary students everywhere. I’ve included the most recent release, but there are a 17 books and several accompanying novels, all narrated by Ramon De Ocampo. Follow Greg and his friends and family as they navigate middle school and all its ups and downs.
Zoey and Sassafras Boxed Set: Books 1-6 by Asia Citro, Narrated by Janina Edwards
I’ve been a fan of this series since I discovered it a few years ago. An amazing mix of fantasy and science, the Zoey and Sassafras stories include mystical creatures with problems that can only be solved using very real scientific method–based solutions. This is a great entry to audiobooks for beginners — the slim books have short running times without sacrificing any of the interest!
The Magician’s Nephew: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, Narrated by Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh reads this so damn well. His voice perfectly brings to life the various characters, and the magic of being there at the beginning of Narnia is undeniable. A great kick start to an exciting series.
The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo, Narrated by Graeme Malcolm
This is the first audiobook I ever read with my kids. They were only 2 and 3 when I first started playing the CDs while we drove around town, and I was sure they had no idea what was going on. When my oldest started asking for “the mouse” whenever I buckled him in his carseat, I cried with joy. The book alone is gorgeous; the audiobook, breathtaking.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston, Narrated by Imani Parks
I actually have not listened to this one yet, but it is getting rave reviews from friends and students in my circle. Amari plunges into a previously unknown world of paranormal magic, frantically pursuing her lost brother.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser, Narrated by Robin Miles
The Vanderbeekers are the new American sweethearts. This vast and still growing series follows the family as they adventure on their beloved block in New York City. Add in pets, neighbors, and a brownstone that is a character of its own, and you have a charming set up guaranteed to provide hours of pleasant reading.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Narrated by Cynthia Holloway
This is a bonus recommendation in that you should also read the science fiction classic A Wrinkle in Time to truly flesh out the magic of this book. When You Reach Me is about middle school growing pains and family strife, but it’s also a mystery about time travel, complete with ominous letters and dangerous strangers. It’s hard to explain without giving anything away, but it is beautiful.
Aru Shah and the End of Time: A Pandava Novel, Book 1 by Roshani Chokshi, Narrated by Soneela Nankani
I’ll be singing the praises of this series until I’m gone. Funny and engaging for people of all ages, with rich character development and equally stunning, layered world building, Aru Shah will make you wonder why you settled for certain middle grade powerhouse surprise-you’re-a-chosen-one series in the past. I love Soneela Nankani’s voice. I love the Pandavas. I love that Roshani Chokshi rejects bland “good and evil” narratives. If you read one audiobook from this list, make it this.
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Narrated by Rainn Wilson
This is one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever read. It’s not flashy or highly produced. The story is the same slim classic that has been delighting readers for decades. The cover art remains the same. But something about it is just perfect. Rainn Wilson’s delivery of the absurd pilgrim’s journey that is The Phantom Tollbooth is delightful. I’m so glad my family was introduced to the book in this format — it was a huge hit.
Hopefully you’ve found some audiobooks for kids to pique your interest! Looking for more audiobook content? Check out this list of audiobooks for toddlers. Happy reading!