Getting Started with Audiobooks: A 1-2-3 Step Guide

Another car ride begins, and the kids are huffy, puffy, and pouty. Mad at this person and irritated by that one, constant bickering and sarcastic remarks fill the stuffy minivan. You want to diffuse the tension, but have only 15-minutes until drop-off – not to mention you’re busy driving. How can you hit reset and send the kids off feeling connected with you and one another?

After three nights in a row of running around from activity to activity, you have a night home as a family. Dinner is over, and the kitchen is clean. There’s still about an hour or so until bedtime. You want to connect as a family, but don’t know how. Is there anything besides Netflix that will bring your family together?

If these scenarios regularly play out in your family, you’re not alone. Bickering kids in the car and fractured free time in the evenings are common frustrations for parents. But what if you had another tool in your parenting toolbelt to navigate these less-than-desired habits?

Enter audiobooks.

Audiobooks are more accessible than ever, bring literature to life, and provide an easy way to make the most of your family’s time in the car and at home. With this 1-2-3 step guide, you’ll be off on adventure after adventure as audiobooks foster literacy and bring your family closer with the simple touch of a button.

A Gentle Reminder

You hear it all the time from your child’s teacher, from ongoing studies in the news, and from us here at ClassTag — reading to your child is one of the best ways to encourage literacy, strengthen emotional bonds, and build family culture.

Studies continue to show reading with your child:

  • Supports basic speaking skills
  • Increases vocabulary
  • Models empathy
  • Introduces new types of literature
  • Encourages lifelong learning

If you know the importance of enjoying literature together as a family but are struggling to find pockets of time to read, audiobooks may be the answer.

1. What are Audiobooks?

As the name suggests, audiobooks are audio recordings of books. Before sold digitally, they were sold in stores on vinyl records, cassette tapes, or CDs. But with advances in technology and the ability to house books in a digital format, audiobooks are no longer confined to store shelves — you can carry an entire library in your backpack or pocket.

Not all audiobooks are alike, however. Some narrations are a word-for-word reading while others offer abridged versions of favorite books or novels. Dramatic effects also vary with some more accurately described as audio dramas complete with voice actors, thematic music, and sound effects.

Bonus tip: If you have an old CD player laying around, you’ll find books on CD at thrift stores, libraries, or bookstores. However, books on CD typically cost more than digital downloads, and you’ll have to keep the CDs in tip-top shape to prevent scratches that cause skipping when playing — making digital downloads a practical choice for families with children.

2. What Do I Need to Listen?

If you’ve decided to give audiobooks a try, you probably already have what you need to get started.

You can listen to audiobooks on many devices such as:

  • MP3 Player
  • iPod Touch
  • Android, iPhone, or Windows smartphone
  • Windows or Mac Computer
  • Amazon Kindle or Fire
  • GPS device
  • Android, iPad, or Windows tablet
  • Sonos speaker
  • Fire TV
  • Alexa-enabled devices

Bonus tip: If listening to audiobooks becomes a favorite pastime in your home, designate a single device for listening. This keeps your computer and smartphone free and lets your child listen whenever he or she wants.

3. Where Can I Find Audiobooks?

Now that you’ve got your device, it’s time to search for books to download.

Local Library: If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with an expansive library, you’ll find a ton of free audiobooks waiting for you to download. Many libraries provide detailed instructions for downloading books on their website, or you can read instructions from Overdrive.

LibriVox: With recordings read by volunteers, LibriVox offers free public domain audiobooks. You’ll find classics such as The Tale of Peter Cottontail, Alice in Wonderland, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

For young readers, The Adventures of series by Thorton Burgess are just the right length for wiggly listeners and your child will fall in love with Johnny Chuck, Buster Bear, and Reddy Fox.

Audible: Probably the best-known audiobook subscription service, Audible, offers a program designed especially for kids. FreeTime Unlimited includes 1,000+ kid-friendly titles and is compatible with Amazon’s kid-edition Echo Dot.

As far as price goes, here’s info from Audible:

For a $14.95 monthly subscription fee, members receive one credit, which is good for one audiobook no matter the original price. Members also receive 30% off list price on all titles, all the time. There are additional membership options too, including 2 credits per month for $22.95 or you can pay up front for 12 or 24 credits per year.

Other popular audiobook subscription services include Scribd, Kobo, and Downpour.

If you’d rather forego a subscription when you’re just getting started, you can purchase single audiobooks on Amazon.

Bonus tip: This Washington Post article by Karen MacPherson gives top audiobook recommendations by age – a few worth mentioning include Charlotte’s Web (sniff-sniff) and The Ramona Quimby Series (who doesn’t love Ramona?).

Go for It

If you’re ready to give audiobooks a try, go for it! Choose one or two and without any fanfare, hit play the next time you’re in the car or have some downtime at home.

You may even want to try this little trick — stop the book at a really exciting part and insist you’re done for now — no matter how much your child begs and pleads. Be assured the next time you hit play, no bickering, huffing, or puffing will be heard.

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