Basically, audiobooks build these reading skills:
- background knowledge
- listening skills
Get Kids Off Screen Time with Audiobooks: Favorite Audiobooks for Kids
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins, narrated by Paul Boehmer
An excellent performance by Paul Boehmer hooked me on this exciting audiobook adventure right away. One minute Gregor and his little sister are in New York City, and the next, they’re in the Underland — where insects and Rats are as large as humans. But all Gregor wants to do is return home…until he learns that his missing father might be in the Underland as a captive of the Rats. He’s a very good big brother so he makes sure his (darling) toddler sister can go with him before he leaves with a group of human and animal allies to search for his dad. Oh, and he’s meant to fulfill a prophecy, too. Tweens LOVE this series.
Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty, narrated by Emily Rankin
Front Desk by Kelly Yang, narrated by Sunny Lu
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston, narrated by Imani Parks
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this book. Amari is an exciting action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari whose beloved older brother has vanished. But, she gets a virtual message from him revealing that she’s a magician like him and at his bequest, gets to attend a secret school. There, she discovers she’s actually a dark magic magician (which is outlawed) but she’s determined to prove she isn’t evil, stay in the school, and find her brother.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, narrated by Michael York or Sir Michael Hordern
We got hooked on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because it’s an incredible fantasy story with heroic and flawed children on a hero’s journey and British narrator. Four siblings are transported into a magical world where an evil queen is terrorizing the land.
The Unteachables by Gordon Korman, narrated by Sarah Beth Goer, Oliver Wyman, Josh Hurley and others
The Unteachables has everything you’d want in a story — funny, sensitive, well-written, brilliantly paced, relatable, and poignant. The middle school assigns Mr. Kermit, the worst teacher, to the unteachables, the worst kids in the whole school. It’s clear to the students in the class, including Kiana who isn’t even registered at the school, that Mr. Kermit has no interest in teaching. Or disciplining. Or anything. As we get to know the different kids in this small class, something surprising happens! Mr. Kermit starts to care just a little. And that opens the gates to even more caring and a big life change. Then things get complicated when the school decides to fire Mr. Kermit. That’s when the students make a plan for saving their teacher’s job…
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly Baptist, narrated by Adam Lazarre-White
With themes of grief, family, poverty, poetry, the power of writing, and friendship — this beautiful story captures your heart with a struggling, heroic main character. After Isaiah’s dad dies, his mother stops working and starts drinking too much. The family of three now lives in a smokey motel where Isaiah watches his 4-year-old sister when his mom is passed out. He finds strength and inspiration in his father’s journaled stories about Isaiah Dunn Superhero and eventually, begins to write poems again in his own journal…(LOVE this audiobook narrator!)
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, narrated by Jesse Bernstein
Kyle and a few classmates win a sleepover at the new town newly created library by game-creator Mr. Lemoncello. The silly Mr. Lemoncello devises a fun way to get OUT of the library — you can only get out if you solve the puzzles around the entire library. Will the kids work together or will it be every child for himself?
The Giver by Lois Lowry, narrated by Ro Rifkin
Set in a dystopian society, this Newbery medal winner grabs your attention and keeps it until the end. What is going on in this community? When Jonas is assigned his job as “Receiver of Memory” he learns just how much his hidden and controlled. Now he’ll have to decide just what he’ll do with this horrifying information.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman
This book is so excellent, I’d say it’s a modern children’s book classic. Bod lives in the graveyard with an assortment of ghosts and other cemetery creatures who raise him after his parents are killed when Bod is only a baby. Bod’s main guardian is Silas who cares for him, feeds him, and teaches him about the human world. The ending is bittersweet (my daughter yelled at me for making her read a sad story) but perfect. Despite the scary-sounding title, the scariest part is in the first chapter when Bod’s parents get murdered.
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, narrated by Tara Sands
Quirky and delightful, this is the tale of a girl named Flora who rescues a squirrel and keeps it as a friend. Together they experience the world in a unique, funny, and wonderful way, and straighten it out, too.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, narrated by Christina Moore
Wonderfully crafted and imagined, this is a fairy tale of sorts about a good witch who rescues a town’s abandoned babies and gives them to another town to love. Except for one baby who she adopts for her own; a special baby named Luna who is accidentally infused with moon magic. It’s also the story of the baby’s magical, bereaved mother, a wicked witch who feeds off sorrow, a woodcarver who wants justice, and most of all, Luna.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
The best-selling children’s book of all time, this is a MUST READ (LISTEN) for so many reasons: the brilliant storytelling, a complex and entertaining plot, relatable characters, rich language, essential life lessons about friendship and bravery, and more.
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, narrated by Julie Roundtree
Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. And Sophie has a secret—she’s a Telepathic elf. In danger, she leaves her adopted family in the human world for the Elvin world where she’ll find more dangers and adventure. Her only hope of survival is to regain the memories of her past. Mesmerizing!
The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer, narrated by Chris Colfer
Fairy tales come alive when Alex and Conner (brother and sister) find themselves in the fairy tale book given to them by their grandmother. Their only way home is to find the ingredients for a Wishing Spell. Finding them will be dangerous, mysterious, and life-changing. A wonderful adventure that kids adore!!!
Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo, narrated by Giordan Diaz
From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks, narrated by Bahni Turpin (*One of the BEST narrators EVER!)
On her 12th birthday, Zoe discovers a letter to her from her incarcerated biological father, Marcus. She decides to write him back, even daring to ask him about the murder he’s in jail for — did he really do it? Marcus writes to Zoe that he’s innocent and he can prove it which sets Zoe on a quest to find out the truth for herself, even if her mom and dad forbid it. She enlists the help of her Grandma and her best friend, Trevor. You won’t be able to put down this winsome story with a heroine you can’t help but adore; a story that illuminates social justice with themes of family, friendship, and love.
The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, narrated by Jesse Bernstein
This series is amazing! Basically, there are really still Greek gods and sometimes they have kids with humans and those kids are half-bloods with unique powers. Unfortunately for these kids, monsters are out to kill them and they are the only ones who can save the world from a war between the gods and in a later book, between the Titans and the gods. Once you get hooked on this book, you’ll appreciate that there are SO many more books in this series.
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, narrated by David Baker and Cynthia Bishop
Sudan’s reality, past and present, collide in this beautifully written true audiobook story narrated by two distinct voices. In 1985, we follow the harrowing journey of a young boy who, after his village was attacked, walks miles and miles to a refugee camp. In 2008, we learn about a girl who must walk two hours morning and night to get fresh water. Their stories are compelling; families will have a lot to discuss with this audiobook.
The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, narrated by Jill Clayburgh
This is a wonderful adventure for families to listen to about two siblings who run away from home to live at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. There, they discover a mystery. While unraveling the clues about who created the angel statue, they’re helped by Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler who might just help them with growing up and going home, too.
Allies by Alan Gatz, narrated by many narrators + sound effects
Written from many different voices about one day in history, readers easily can see the massive amount of cooperation, planning. and troops from different countries involved in D-Day (when the Allies invaded France at Normandy.) We hear from an American teenage soldier who was born in Germany, a French Algerian girl whose mom is a recently captured spy, a Canadian paratrooper who lands in the wrong spot, and an American black medic. It’s violent and disheartening yet despite terrible losses, racism, and injuries, the fighters persist despite everything to accomplish their goal — to take back the area for the Allies. What an incredible retelling of this day!
Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny, narrated by Jason Segel
Charlie’s dad has remarried and moved Charlie and his younger brother into the stepmother’s frightening purple mansion. There Charlie begins to have the most horrible nightmares — nightmares that blur between reality and dream. When witches steal Charlie’s brother into the nightmare world, Charlie and his friends must learn to face their fears in order to save his little brother and our world. Don’t worry, it’s not too scary but it is totally compelling. Your kids won’t want to stop listening to this audiobook.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, narrated by Adam Grupper
Ivan is kept in a small cage in a run-down mall for 27 years without seeing another gorilla, only the stray dog, Bob, who sleeps with him, Stella the Elephant, and Ruby, a newly purchased baby elephant. Before she dies, Stella begs Ivan to find Ruby a home with other elephants – and Ivan agrees, but it won’t be easy. Moving and powerful, this audiobook is (sadly) based on a true story.
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman, narrated by Neil Gaiman
If your child hasn’t learned about Nordic mythology, this will be a great intro! To end the long winter, Odd must journey to find Asgard, a city under siege from the Frost Giants. It’s one of my favorite nail-biting hero’s journeys.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson
Hands-down one of the best life-changing books you’ll ever read. Narrated by Melody, we learn what it’s like for her, trapped in a body with cerebral palsy that doesn’t allow her to speak or take care of herself. No one, except her parents who hope that she is smart. Then one day, she gets a chance to prove it. Heartbreaking. Real. Inspiring. Your family will have a lot to discuss with this exceptional audiobook for kids narrated by a spunky girl whom you’ll come to love…
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Wow. This book is a must-listen/read audiobook for kids. Not only are the intertwining refugee stories compelling but the stories are important and relevant for kids to learn what it’s like to be an immigrant, particularly a refugee. Follow three distinct, alternating stories to experience being displaced from your country, on the run, and in danger. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba, only to be turned away from the Cuban port and sent back to Europe. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who, with her family and neighbors, flees in a homemade raft to the United States at great peril. Finally is a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. He and his family travel a great distance to find a country that will allow them shelter. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, narrated by Karissa Vacker
Aven Green is used to making up creative stories for why she doesn’t have any arms. Especially now in Arizona where her parents are the new managers a rundown theme park. She befriends a boy at school who, like her, feels different and isolated from the other kids. His name is Connor and he has Tourette Syndrome. Together, he, another new friend named Zion, and Aven investigate a mysterious storage shed at the theme park which leads them to a mystery involving Aven’s past. This story is about restorative friendship, facing your fears, and discovering your true (not insignificant) potential.
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, narrated by Miranda Raison
In old-time London, we learn that dangerous ghosts and spirits are appearing everywhere with evil intent BUT only kids can see them. Teens Lucy, Anthony, and George badly need money for their ghost agency so they take a perilous job that may just be their last. (I love audiobooks for kids like this one that have British narrators.)
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, narrated by Jayne Entwistle
Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust but slowly the trust grows and all three regain something lost – hope and love. “I slipped my hand into hers. A strange and unfamiliar feeling rang through me. It felt like the ocean, like sunlight, like horses. Like love. I searched my mind and found the name for it. Joy.” I can’t recommend this audiobook enough, not only did it touch my heart at a deep level but my kids loved it and we all loved the narrator.
Warriors: Into the Wild by Erin Hunter, narrated by MacLeod Andrews
Housecat, Rusty, enters the world of warrior clan cats living in the wild. He’s adopted into the ThunderClan where he begins to train as a warrior just in time to help with a dangerous rival clan attack and betrayal. Brilliantly written, this is an epic adventure perfect for audiobooks.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, narrated by Hope Davis
A Wrinkle in Time is a remarkable, well-written adventure in space that deals with the overarching theme of good vs. evil. Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin set off in space to find her scientist father who disappeared while researching tesseracts. Families will enjoy listening to this audiobook for kids together, it’s mesmerizing.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, narrated by Allan Corduner
Death narrates the story of Liesel, a girl who lives in Munich during the time of Nazi Germany. Through impossibly hard times, she has a burning desire to read. Her first stolen book, which her foster father uses to teach her, is The Gravediggers Handbook. I don’t love this book but many kids do. I dislike the German curse words and the flow of the book bothers me. But, I do see that it’s a powerful story of growing up, friendship, and the human condition.