Audiobooks Can Make Reading A Family Affair by Michelle Pendleton
Our family has been socially isolating for seven weeks now. Like a lot of people, I thought I would be spending more time reading, but in fact, it has been very hard for me to even crack open a book, much less spend time losing myself in one.
However, our family has still been reading with audiobooks. We have been audiobook readers for nearly four years now, and I know it has helped us read more, especially now. As a bonus, when we listen together as a family, we have a shared experience that we can talk about.
If you haven’t tried audiobooks before, this might be a great time to start. When my kids were younger, I used to read books out loud to them. It was great, and I truly enjoyed it, but when we started listening to audiobooks together, it was a whole new world. I found that I loved being read to as much as my kids did, and the professionals who do audiobook narration are amazing. In addition, our family could still enjoy a book together, but we didn’t have to find a time when I wasn’t busy. We now listen when I’m working on dinner or when we are doing other chores.
Where to get audiobooks
The first place I would start is your local library. There are several apps that connect with libraries that lend out audiobooks. The three that I know the best are Overdrive, Libby and Sora. I would say that about 80 percent of the books our family has listened to have been borrowed from the library. And because most middle-grade books are three to eight hours long in audio, it’s very easy to finish a book within the library’s loan period.
You might also look to see if your school district has a digital library. Our district does, and although it doesn’t have as many audiobooks as our city and county libraries, there are plenty of options; often, I find that there’s no wait to borrow a book, or there’s a much shorter wait list.
Sometimes a book I want to listen to just isn’t available at any of our libraries, or there’s a very long waiting list. Sometimes there’s a book that we like to listen to again and again, or a book is so long, there’s no way we can listen to it within a two-week borrowing period. That’s when it’s time to purchase an audiobook.
There are several services that sell audiobooks, and some of them offer discounts if you sign up for a subscription. If you are thinking that you might buy a book a month, I would recommend libro.fm. Their monthly subscription and discounts are the same as other services, and part of your purchase goes to an independent bookshop.
What book should I start with?
I love giving audiobook recommendations. Last summer, a friend asked for recommendations for a summer driving trip. I sent her an email, and by the time I was done, I had suggested 95 books.
Our family listens to a wide variety of books. I often start with recommendations from the Texas Library Association’s Bluebonnet List and Lone Star List. The books on these lists have been widely commended, and they cross a range of genres. They also introduce us to authors who we may have not read before. I also get a lot of recommendations from authors I follow on Twitter and through the MG Book Village. Sometimes, I have picked a book just because it was available to borrow—that happened a lot when we first began listening to books.
In addition, I look for books that would appeal to both my 9-year-old daughter and my 13-year-old son, and if we have listened to something pretty serious, we often will follow that book with something a little more lighthearted. There are also some books that are stand-by favorites that we will listen to again and again.
With that said, here are some different books to get you started.
GENTLE VIBE Perhaps with the pandemic, you need a book with a gentle vibe. Here are some great options:
● Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks series
● Karina Yan Glaser’s “The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street,” "The Vanderbeekes and the Secret Garden," and “The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue”
● "Saving Winslow" by Sharon Creech
HISTORY If you are into history, these are awesome:
● Kirby Larson’s Dogs of WWII books: “Duke,” “Dash” and “Liberty”
● “Echo” by Pam Munoz Ryan has both fantasy and history, and I’d recommend listening to that one because the music in it is so, so good. This book is also set during World War II.
● "The Bicycle Spy" by Yona Zeldis McDonough is also set in World War II, but it takes place in France.
● Gennifer Choldenko’s Alcatraz books like “Al Capone Does My Shirts,” and its sequels are really good.
● "The Night Diary" by Veera Hiranandani is about the split of India and Pakistan when the English government withdrew from India as a colony.
FUN Perhaps what you need is something that is just a lot of fun. Here are some series that my kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed:
● Stuart Gibbs’ series: Fun Jungle books, Spy School books and Moon Base Alpha books
● Geoff Rodkey’s The Tapper Twins series
● Mac Barnett and Jory John’s The Terrible Two series
● Suzanne Selfors’ Wedgie and Gizmo books
● Julie Falatko’s Two Dogs in a Trenchcoat books
● Honest Lee’s Classroom 13 books
● Neil Patrick Harris’ The Magic Misfits series. The first one in audio is especially good because Neil Patrick Harris narrates.
● Spencer Quinn’s Birdie and Bowser books are mysteries with a lot of action and fun, told from a dog’s point of view.
FANTASY AND SCI-FI If you’re looking for something to get away from the real world for a while, here are some fantasy and sci-fi audiobooks:
● “Circus Mirandus” by Cassie Beasley
● "Inkling" by Kenneth Oppel
● "The Wild Robot" and “The Wild Robot Escapes” by Peter Brown
● "Sweep: The Story Of A Girl And Her Monster" by Jonathan Auxier. The last I checked, it was an Audible original but totally worth it. I sobbed for the last hour of it.
● All of the Harry Potter books with Jim Dale as the narrator are fabulous.
● "The Last Last-Day-of-Summer" by Lamar Giles is a lot of fun. After we listened to that, we listened to "The Phantom Tollbooth," by Norton Juster, which has a lot of similar plays on words.
● "The One And Only Ivan," and “Wishtree” by Katherine Applegate
● "We're Not From Here" by Geoff Rodkey
● “Bob” by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass
● “The Strangers” by Margaret Peterson Haddix
● “Lelani Of The Distant Sea” by Erin Entrada Kelly
● “Sal And Gabi Break The Universe” by Carlos Hernandez
● “Midsummer’s Mayhem” by Rajani LaRocca
● “The 12th Candle” by Kim Tomsic
FAIRY TALE Perhaps a fairy tale is more what you’d like. Here are some options:
● Liesl Shurtliff’s fairy tale backstory books “Rump,” “Jack,” “Red” and “Grump” are all wonderful. If you haven’t read them, definitely read “Rump” then “Jack” because there’s a great twist that you miss if you read them out of order.
● "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo
REALISTIC FICTION Some realistic fiction that we've enjoyed:
● “The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle” by Christina Uss
● "Front Desk" by Kelly Yang
● "Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus," “Momentous Events In The Life Of A Cactus” and “24 Hours in Nowhere” by Dusti Bowling
● "The Miscalculations Of Lightning Girl" and “The World Ends In April” by Stacy McAnulty
● "The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle" by Leslie Connor
● "Save Me A Seat" by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
● "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio
● "Song For A Whale" by Lynne Kelly
● "The Right Hook Of Devin Velma" and “Greetings From Witness Protection” by Jake Burt
● "Shouting At The Rain" by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
● "The Remarkable Journey Of Coyote Sunrise" by Dan Gemeinhart
● "New Kid" by Jerry Craft
● "Harbor Me" by Jacqueline Woodson
● "The Science Of Breakable Things" by Tae Keller
● "Amal Unbound" by Aisha Saeed
● “Operation Frog Effect” by Sarah Scheerger
● “Hoot,” “Squirm” and “Flush” by Carl Hiaasen
● “Strange Birds: A Field Guide To Ruffling Feathers” by Celia C. Perez
● “A Wolf Called Wander” by Rosanne Parry
● “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead
● Jason's Reynolds' Track series: “Ghost,” “Patina,” “Sunny” and “Lu”
I hope some of these recommendations will encourage you to give audiobooks a try. It might be a nice break from Netflix binge-watching, or it might be a nice thing to listen to while your family has dinner or does a puzzle. I know for our family, it has given us a nice break from the news and has been a way to stay connected to books.
|Guest Blogger Michelle Pendleton|
About Michelle: Michelle Pendleton is a former journalism teacher who still has a love for education. She stays connected by volunteering at her children's schools (when they aren't distance learning), and her favorite work is reading with students. She is a fan of middle grade literature, the Northwestern Wildcats, and most sports. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, 13-year-old son, and 9-year-old daughter. You can find Michelle on Twitter at @mpendleton.