The Kids Are All Right

How To Get Kids Excited About Audiobooks

Lucas Maxwell

Contributor

Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

Penguin Random House Audio

Tackle school summer reading lists with audiobooks! Start listening to THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton, THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred D Taylor, THE HATCHET from Gary Paulson, Anne Frank’s DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL, and WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS by Wilson Rawls now! Discover more audiobooks by tapping the banner.

As a high school librarian and a parent, audiobooks are a great way to ensure kids maintain their reading habits. Not only are they kinder on the eyes, they are amazing ways for struggling readers or kids who claim they hate reading to get engaged and excited about reading. It can be hard to know where to start, though. It’s important to know that your local public library will often have free audiobooks readily available. If your child has a school library and a librarian, they will also know how to get their hands on some and will hopefully also have a program that will offer them to their students.

No matter what the age, audiobooks can open up a new world to those who have shunned reading because they think it’s boring or find it overwhelming. Sometimes, that is a massive issue: simply seeing a wall of text can be quite overwhelming for some kids, especially those who struggle to process information, or for many autistic and dyslexic youth. Audiobooks are, in my opinion, the best gateway to a trillion new worlds. Here are some tips on getting started with audiobooks and how to kids excited about them in general. I really hope it is useful! We also have a list of other ways to listen to audiobooks to check out.

a photo of a kid listening to headphones in a park
image via Canva

Listen Together

This can be tough depending on the age of your child, but I have really enjoyed sitting down to listen to a book together with my children. It’s become part of a daily routine that generates discussion, creates a nice bond, and gives us all something to look forward to at the end of the day. One easy way to do this is to put an audiobook on in the car.

Choose Shorter Books

In my experience as a high school librarian, giving students shorter books packed with things they enjoy has developed into a win-win situation. Audiobooks are no different. Allowing kids to engage with audiobooks that are over in a relatively shorter period of time means they will experience a sense of accomplishment for completing the book and hopefully want to jump to another to repeat the feeling. If their initial experience with audiobooks is getting in a 40-hour long audio-slog, it’s probably not going to work out at all.

Choose a Book They Know

Listening to a book that a child has already read is a great way to get started. It will make the experience easier and it will allow them to view the book differently. This happened to me when I listened to the audiobook of Watership Down. I found myself experiencing the scenes in a much different way than I did when I read the printed version.

a child wearing cat ear headphones and showing the peace sign
image via Canva

Let Them Quit If They Want To

Like books in print, it’s important that kids know they don’t have to finish a book. As an adult and a librarian, I still struggle with this concept! It’s an important part of getting started with audiobooks. There is no shame in ditching an audiobook 20 minutes in. Maybe the narrator’s voice is grating to you, maybe the entire genre is suddenly off-putting, or maybe the kid is just not in the frame of mind in that moment to carry on with the book, and that is fine.

Short, Sharp Sessions

I have had great success with this in regards to audiobooks. Don’t feel you have to sit down with your child and listen to a full hour of a book. My suggestion is try ten minutes. If they like it, try twelve minutes the next time, and then maybe eight or nine the next. Keep it in the ten to fifteen minute range and you might find that they start to look forward to listening, as they know they are going to get it in short chunks.

a child listening to headphones
image via Canva

Choose a Dedicated Time

This, paired with the advice above, will in my opinion help establish a love of audiobooks. If your child struggles to get settled towards the evening when everyone is getting ready to go to sleep, listening for ten minutes to a great audiobook is the perfect way to wind down. I personally have had great success with setting a time to get comfortable and listening to a book.

Pause, Discuss

I love doing this as well. If there’s a particularly cool moment, I pause the audiobook and talk about it. This works amazingly well when we are listening to the book together. For example, we are listening to The Lord of the Rings (not a short book, I know), but what has happened is we often pause to look up cool artwork based on where the characters are — especially in places like the Mines of Moria where some pretty terrifying stuff happens, but that results in some seriously cool artwork that exists on the internet. It’s been a great way to discuss the setting and the book in general.

Using these methods, I hope you find you have a house full of audiobook fans in the near future! If you’re looking for a good place to start, try these lists: