At our house, summer is prime audiobook time. We love reading silently and aloud, but one of our favorite things to do is to just sit down, turn on an audiobook, and color or do puzzles. We buy a lot of Dover historical coloring books for school, and when we sorted through our school bins at the end of the year, I pulled out all of the half-completed coloring books and put them in a stack (along with our beloved Prismacolors) for easy, breezy summer coloring sessions. I’m a big believer in not forcing writing too early, and I’m a big fan of developing those writing muscles through coloring and drawing. No pre-writing worksheets here–just quality colored pencils, lots of scratch paper and coloring books, and audiobooks!
Here are some of our current favorites. (See here for my suggestions–and Anna’s–from a few years ago.) Don’t forget to check your library’s overdrive or Hoopla Digital to stream many of these for free!
Swallows and Amazons is our family’s favorite series. At this point, it’s up there with Narnia in how it is shaping our family culture. Set in the Lake District in England in the 1930s, it follows the adventures of two groups of siblings whose parents have allowed them to mess around in sailboats during their summer holidays. Further along in the 12 book series, we meet new characters, and they have other adventures (building an igloo over the winter holidays, mining for gold, saving birds along a river, accidentally going to sea), but the common thread is their delightful imagination. I can’t tell you how much I love the parents in these books (some of my favorites in all of literature), too.
We read/listened to The Cricket in Times Square for a summer book club with friends last week, and this sweet story of talking animals who help a struggling newsstand hits all the same notes of our beloved Charlotte’s Web. My ten year old finds it hilarious, and my four year old came home from book club and took my phone up to my room and proceeded to listen through the book one and a half more times in one sitting. The girls want to listen to it every night. I think we’re approaching obsession level.
Okay, this is the book cover for The Railway Children, which you should all own, but you don’t need to buy the audiobook–get it from free at loyalbooks, where it’s read for free (thanks to the librivox project) by Karen Savage. I prefer the loyalbooks interface to librivox itself, but you can search for it both places. This volunteer reader does justice to one of my all-time favorite children’s books. When their father is unjustly imprisoned for a crime, three children in Edwardian England have to move with their mother to the countryside, where they make friends and have adventures in and around the nearby railway station. Delightful sibling dynamics, fun side characters, and a wonderfully happy ending.
E. Nesbit was not a part of my childhood, but she’s quickly becoming one of our family’s favorite authors. Five Children and It is more fantasy than The Railway Children, with a sand fairy who grants wishes to a family of children, one per day. Of course the wishes never turn out as the children intend, and all sorts of crazy adventures follow! Because there’s a good mix of brothers and sisters, this one captures the attention of my son and my daughters. (Sarah Mackenzie of Read-Aloud Revival explains how to get this particular recording-and many other classics-for cheap from Audible. Or find it for free at your library!)
My girls just love, love, love All-of-a-Kind Family (and its sequels), read by Suzanne Toren. Following the adventures of a Jewish family of five girls in turn-of-the-century New York City, this series is both sweet, funny, engaging, and a great look into a different culture than ours. I know for a fact that you can stream it on Hoopla.
All four of my kids adored The Wizard of Oz when we read it together this spring. And they find Anne Hathaway’s audio version hilarious. She does great voices and really brings the story to life. I’m still searching for an equally engaging reader for the next few books in the series.
And I might have done this before, but I want to put in a big plug for KayRay Reads to You. She is lady who loves to read aloud, and she has recorded sooo many great books (for free!) on librivox (public domain books) and her own website (newer books–note, she doesn’t always edit out the coughs and things, which we don’t mind since it makes them feel real to us). You can subscribe to her podcast in itunes or just visit her site to download your favorites. My son is perpetually listening through her Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy and has recently gotten into the Dark is Rising series, and my girls love Betsy-Tacy (and sequels) as much as I do, thanks to KayRay. She has a great Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and…well, I’ll stop myself. Go visit her site. It’s a treasure trove of great children’s literature.
Does your family use audiobooks? What are your favorites?