The world of audiobooks is an exciting one! There are so many wonderful titles that have now been recorded, but there are also incredible voice actors that read these stories and they become alive in a new way.
My kids and I are listening to “On the Banks Of Plum Creek” at the end of morning time as we work on our handicrafts or projects. Cherry Jones reads the books with a slight twang and brings Laura’s world to life for us. I can close my eyes and hear her voice exclaim “Laura!” in Ma’s way and it makes me smile. Or when the ox’s foot fell through the roof (oops, spoiler!) and she read those words with genuine surprise and shock.
As I’ve shared pieces of our homeschool days I’ve received many questions about audiobooks, such as what would you recommend for younger kids? What do your kids do while they listen? Does this count as reading or entertainment?
These are all such great questions and I LOVE that you’re asking them! This is not just a “homeschool” thing, it’s a great tool for all families who want to find creative ways to cut down on screens and increase a love of literacy, while not being tied to the couch reading when things like supper need to happen!
I’m sharing titles that are on HOOPLA because it’s free, but if you have another audiobook service you should be able to find all of these easily!
Before I dive into some book titles, I want to give you some ideas that have worked for us. My kids are 8, 6 and almost 5. They each have very different personalities, and I find that different techniques work for them.
My almost five year old has grown up reading a lot more than my oldest. My oldest still was read to a lot, but just by way of being the youngest, he’s learned to sit through chapter books, long pictures books and has a high stamina for listening. I didn’t force this, it happened naturally. He hated being left out of what his siblings were doing, so he fought through his urge to run away and play. Now he is the one who hates when read alouds are over!
- Make audiobooks more special than screen time. Audiobooks are becoming expressions of warmth and comfort in our family. This has taken intentionality but slowly the idea of being cuddled up in a cozy corner you’ve built out of some favourite pillows and a blanket, with special bluetooth headphones that only you can hear, and a little snack, is more exciting than having to agree on a show with your siblings. My oldest listened to almost an entire novel on the swing in the backyard the other day! Fresh air AND literacy! That’s a big win!
- Have some activities they can do while listening. Now that cozy spot I described can hold my six year old for a long time. She doesn’t need much else. Her imagination is so vivid the only thing that might interrupt her is a urgent desire to find me and quickly explain what is happening and why it makes her feel so wonderful! But the younger one will eventually need some activities if he wants to keep listening. Things like playdough, lego, blocks. colouring pages, drawing, Where’s Waldo or other Look & Find books, cutting and glueing all help. Once I even caught my youngest jumping up and down on his bed while listening. I didn’t mind! He wasn’t being wild, he was just moving his body to keep himself going on his book. I wasn’t forcing him to keep listening, By providing activities and allowing him to jump on the bed, I was just empowering him to keep doing what he wanted to do, which was find out what happened to the Boxcar children!
A note from my six year old: If you can close your eyes while you listen, you will find that a whole story plays out right in your head. It is imagination.
- Stagger some of the same titles amongst the kids if age ranges allow it. When my three first stated listening to the Boxcar children, whoever had finished the first one was pacing around the living room waiting for the other to finish. When they walked out of the room they both exclaimed at the same time: BENNY IS SO HILARIOUS! And then dove into a deep conversation about the book. I through in a little question here and there just because I was jealous of this beautiful connection (haha!), but otherwise this book club culture (that Sarah MacKenzie at Read Aloud Revival talks about) came about organically.
- Invest in comfortable headphones. It took us a while to find the right ones for our daughter. She is a lot like me, and we both have tendencies toward HSP (highly sensitive personality), and things like fabric, sound and light can bother us. We finally found the right bluetooth headphones at Best Buy that were smaller kids sized ones, with padded ears. My oldest will be driven by pure motivation to listen and will tough out uncomfortable ear buds missing the rubber piece if he needs to, but not having the right equipment will stop my daughter, which we don’t want! We also prefer bluetooth so that our children don’t have to carry a device around!
All right, without further ado, here are our favourite audiobook titles on HOOPLA! All you need to use HOOPLA in a library card and you have four borrows a month. You can get movies and ebooks on here too, but we only use it for audiobooks since they are expensive to get through subscription somewhere else! If you get everyone in your family an account you can increase the amount of titles a month. If you are listening at the same time, it has to be on different accounts. So if all three of our kids are listening I have one logged into my phone playing from that, one from the laptop and one from an old phone that we use for white noise and audiobooks! If my husband is home we can also play off his device.
- The Boxcar Children Series – Four orphaned children band together to survive and live in an abandoned Boxcar. Subsequent adventures have them solving mysteries. Our kids, aged 5 to 8 love it. By Gertrude Chandler Warner
- Anne Of Green Gables – the Classic Starts Series (many more titles of these classics that have been modified for children. We have read the “Little Women” version of this.) My 5 and 6 year old have been enjoying this one. Adapted from Lucy Maud Montgomery.
- The Hardy Boys – Brother duo solves mysteries. I prefer the original books, but Hoopla has some of the newer audiobooks. Because of intensity only our 8 year old has listened to this.
- Basil: The Great Mouse Detective (there are 5 of the titles in this series on HOOPLA). Because of intensity and intrigue this one has been just for our 8 year old. With less sensitive children you can probably listen younger or with a parent! By Eve Titus.
- A House At Pooh Corner (also available: Winnie-The-Pooh, and Christopher Robin’s poems: Now We are Six and When We Were Very Young, by A. A. Milne) – All ages.
- James Herriot Animals Stories (also available: James Herriot’s Dog Stories). My six year old devours every possible story centred around animals and she listened to this huge treasury in one go! Suitable for all ages. Written by James Herriot.
Here are some other titles that are on HOOPLA as audiobooks that we have read. So we haven’t listened to these ones as audiobooks, but we can attest to the quality of the story!
- Aesop’s Fables – We love these timeless stories teaching character lessons.
- Bible Stories – search kid’s bible stories and lots of good options will come up!
- The Moffat’s – My 5 & 6 year old are doing this as a bedtime read aloud right now! By Eleanor Estes
- The Orphan Train Series – This has some intense moments dealing with tragedy and hardship, but Arleta Richardson does a fantastic job of weaving in how God is working and inspiring courage. Our whole family enjoyed this series.
- Grandma’s Attic Series – a little girl hear’s stories from her grandmother’s days as a pioneer. Another wonderful one for the whole family. Also by Arleta Richardson
- The Children’s Book of Virtues (by William J. Bennet) – A compilation of stories, fables, and poems that impart virtues. We had so many favourites from this story!
If you’re looking for the Little House On the Prairie series it’s unfortunately not on HOOPLA, but it is available in CD form from our library system, so it’s probably in yours too!
The Read Aloud expert, Sarah MacKenzie says that audiobooks absolutely count as much as if you read aloud to your own child! And the benefits of reading aloud are massive (check out Read Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie or The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease if you’re curious to learn more about it’s superpowers)! So a healthy mix of audiobooks along with your own wonderful gift of reading aloud will give your kids a rich literary experience!
We hope you enjoy this list of audiobooks! Let us know what some of your favourites are and if they are on HOOPLA so we can check them out!
Monica (with help from my graphic designer Caleb, and content input from Amayah & Eli)