Want to get your kids off of screen time and reading more? Try audiobooks! This list gives you ideas of favorite books perfect for families with kids of different ages and genders. These titles appeal to both boys and girls with different interests. Try audiobooks on family road trips, at home, while carpooling, or any time. If only one child wants to listen, use headphones.
What we like about audiobooks, is the kids can listen and do other things — play with LEGOS, color, draw, knit, or clean.
For us, we NEED audiobooks right now. My kids have been spending way too much time on their screens. Part of it, I’m okay with because of some ongoing medical complications from the mold toxicity; the pain is making it hard for my kids to function and they want a distraction. But it is getting out of hand.
So back to audiobooks we go.
For families with many kids, audiobooks are a viable alternative choice to reading a regular book. Listening increases the volume of text consumed which improves reading comprehension and vocabulary. Listening also gets kids involved in a story where the scenes aren’t shown and they must use their imaginations. Plus, it’s so fun to have a shared story experience!
Basically, audiobooks build these reading skills:
- background knowledge
- listening skills
Audiobooks make reading more manageable for children with learning disabilities. Listening to books has helped my oldest get through the texts, even in her high school English class.
We recommend using Overdrive with your public library to save money. Other options for audiobooks include Amazon, iTunes, and Audible (which is also linked to Amazon). If you’re wondering about the narrator or story, the books all have short audio previews which can help you decide.
And don’t forget to get kid-friendly headphones with volume control if your kids are listening to the books by themselves.
ALSO READ: Recommended audiobooks for TEENS.
Get Kids Off Screen Time with Audiobooks: 27 Favorite Audiobooks for Kids
Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty, narrated by Emily Rankin
Set in the time of early American settlers, this is a beautiful story of love about a night-spirit who is still connected to the powerful wood magic of her ancestors. When Willa accidentally discovers that her clan is keeping human captives and forbidden technology, her Faeran clan leader tells his minions to kill her. Fleeing the danger of the woods, Willa cautiously observes a cabin with a solitary human man, slowly beginning to trust him. When she realizes that his children were among the human captives she saw, Willa knows she must return to her clan and make things right. The author deftly explores the meaning of family, as well as the themes of prejudice and caring for the natural world. Magical and memorable.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang, narrated by Sunny Lu
Mia and her parents have struggled ever since moving to America from China. When her parents take a new live-in job at a motel, they end up working around the clock for very little pay. Mia helps out by working at the front desk. She befriends the weekly tenants and uses her English skills to write letters advocating other people in tough spots— like her uncle whose sweatshop boss has taken his passport and weekly, Hank, who needs a letter of recommendation to get a job. This book is more than a memorable coming-of-age immigrant story, it’s also about tolerance and diversity. The author writes in a note at the end, “what happens when you include [others]…despite all your suffering and heartache…” I loved this story— the writing, the characters, the plot, and the messages of inclusion and determination.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, narrated by Michael York or Sir Michael Hordern
We got hooked on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because of it’s an incredible fantasy story and British 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 2017 Newbery winner 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
Get ready for an exciting adventure filled with Latin American and Spanish mythology! (Which the author calls Hispanic mythology.) This story is immediately engaging with the perfect balance of action, dialogue, & description interspersed with Spanish words and phrases. Charlie Hernández’s house burns down, his parents go missing, and he is sent to a foster home. But it’s when he grows HORNS, the WINGS, and meets the MYTHS in real life — like calacas, mukis, and El Justo Juez — that he’s really freaked out. Fortunately, a persistent classmate Violet Rey (also his crush) helps Charlie follow the clues to find out what happened to his parents — and what it has to do with La Mano Peluda and the prophesied Morphling who is meant to save the world. Incredible writing makes this magical adventure come to life.
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.
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 story. 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.
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.
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, 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 one…
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Wow. This book is a must-read. Not only are the intertwining refugee stories compelling, it’s 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
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. I loved the physical and mental diversity shown with strength and compassion. This would be a GREAT read aloud for classrooms and for at home. There’s much to love and discuss!!
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.
Sky Raiders (Five Kingdoms #1) by Brandon Mull, narrated by Keith Nobbs
Brandon Mull has outdone himself with an inventive, totally unique world and characters! Cole, a regular kid, is trick-or-treating with his friends when they all get kidnapped. Cole manages to hide but follows the kidnappers — to another world – a world of five kingdoms, slavery, and magic. Cole is found and sold to slavers on the Outskirts. There he’ll battle mysterious beings living on cloud castles, discover an exiled princess, escape from slavery, and have unimaginable adventures.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
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 rand 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, it just touched my heart at such a deep level.
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 audiobook.
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 together.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, narrated by Allan Corduner
Death narrates the story of Liesel, a girl 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.