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How My Children Listen to Audiobooks

When I launched my free Raising Readers course in 2017, the number one question I got was “What devices do your children listen to audiobooks on?”

I am a massive fan of audiobooks for children and I want to make it as easy as possible for my girls to listen on a daily basis.

Here are the different ways my girls listen to audiobooks:

How My Children Listen to Audiobooks

  1. Old School CD Players. All of my girls have cheap CD players that we picked up at Target or Walmart – this one has medium reviews, but it’s been going strong for years at our house, despite lots of not-so-careful handling. Around the time my girls turned three (and were transitioning from naps to quiet time), I showed the girls how they worked a few times and then they were able to use them on their own. Our library has a decent book on CD collection so every time we visit the library we pick up a stack of new ones that they can listen to in their rooms during quiet time or as they’re going to bed. This is exclusively what Tally (my 4 year old) uses in her room.
  2. Echo Dots. My older girls have Echo Dots in their rooms so they can listen, screen-free, during quiet time or as they go to bed. The Echo Dots can be used as a Bluetooth speaker, so theoretically, I could play any audiobook off my phone into their room, but it’s a hassle for my phone to be connected to their rooms, so they listen to books from Audible Plus, our Audible library, or Hoopla, since those all can be voice-controlled directly by the Echo Dot, no phone required. We’ll sit down together every few months and add new books to the Audible Plus library so they can listen, and every month they max out our Hoopla checkouts so they can listen to those all month.
  3. Echo. We have an Echo in our living room, so if the girls want to listen to something while they color at the table or snuggle up on the couch, I can either play directly from Audible or Hoopla or stream from my phone.
  4. Yoto Player. This is such a clever screen-free audio device and it’s super easy for young kids to use. I was dubious about it, but I have to say – I LOVE it. And all four of my girls are hooked on it too. (I have a whole review of our Yoto Player here).
  5. Tablets. We own a variety of tablets and they have Libby, Scribd, Hoopla, Pinna and Audible on them. They aren’t allowed to take the tablets in their room, but if they want to listen to them in one of the common areas of our home, they’re more than welcome. I like the tablets because it’s easy to move them around – Ani will often bring one of them upstairs and sit on the couch listening while I make dinner or fold laundry, or Ella will set up a tablet on the table while she works on a puzzle.

How my children listen to audiobooks

The girls each have a set of headphones (these ones which have a volume limit so they don’t hurt their ears) but truthfully, they probably only listen via headphones about 10% of the time. Most of the time, they just let the tablet or CD player run while they listen nearby.

We also usually have a book on CD in the car that we listen to while we run errands or do the school drop-off and pick-up. I like this to be a book that they’ve listened to before since one or more of them isn’t always in the car and that way if they miss something, they still know the basic plot and can follow along.

best way to listen to audiobooks

Or we pick a book that’s reasonably episodic (like Beverly Cleary’s books) so that if you miss a chapter, it doesn’t matter too much.

I’ll also download an audiobook to the Libby app on my phone and I can connect that to the car stereo, so we have a few other options.

Bart and I are both huge audiobook fans (we share an Audible membership), so it’s been fun for us to see the girls love audiobooks as much as we do, plus it’s been delightful to listen along with them around the house or as we drive.

Do you have other questions about audiobooks for children? I’m happy to try to answer!

 

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30 Comments

  1. I feel like when we read books out loud to Jay there is a 50/50 chance that he’s actually paying attention and we have to talk through the book as we’re reading to keep him on track with the storyline. Do you feel like you had that problem with your girls at the beginning? I feel with audiobooks he would get so caught up in whatever else he was going and would zone out of the book entirely. Or is this something that’s addressed in raising readers?

  2. What’s the difference between Libby and Overdrive? They look nearly identical to me…. but maybe I’m just missing something.

    1. Libby is made by Overdrive and I’m not really sure why they’ve created a separate app instead of just updating the Overdrive app, but I think the Libby app is MUCH better than Overdrive. I can check things out on all my cards without having to constantly log in or log out and it adds checked out items to my shelf without me having to go in and add them to my bookshelf. And I can easily make wishlists and see how long until my holds come up. Basically, I think it’s significantly better in almost every way.

  3. Our local library is now using Hoopla Digital for their digital content. I am really enjoying the app. My 5 year old is a big fan of Fancy Nancy, and they have a great selection of her books.

    The upside, there are no waiting times for audiobooks. The downside, there is a set about of books for the month. If your library allows for 5 loans, it’s 5 for the calendar month, and that’s it. Thank you for the great post!

  4. My girl is 2.5 and she’s never listened to an audio-book, but she definitely LOVES to be read to and often follows along with the story (reciting words on the page out of memory). Do you have any recommendation on how to introduce her? We spend 30min each way to/from daycare so we have PLENTY of car time where I could play them!

  5. Thanks for explaining Libby and Overdrive. I have loved Overdrive but caution people I think can be hard to work sometimes. I’ll have to try Libby! At what age would you recommend kids starting to listen to audiobooks? Or maybe – what are the youngest reading level audiobooks? at this point my 5 month old isn’t listening to my books haha!

    1. I agree about Overdrive – super useful, but not the most intuitive. Libby has made my life a thousand times easier. My girls have all started listening to picture books on audio or short story collections around 2 and then graduated to chapter books around 4.

  6. I just started using libby but was surprised they didn’t have a very big selection of children’s audiobooks, mainly just tweens and up. Am I missing something?

    1. It depends on your library system – Libby and Overdrive are just the platforms, but your library has to buy the actual digital books for the collection. But most library systems will let you recommend books to add!

  7. My son loves audiobooks and devours them. He does great with cds/cd player & headphones. But, our library offers more through overdrive/Libby than on cds. We have a kids fire tablet, but I can’t stand it. He’s more inclined to click around and explore the device than to listen to audio. I’ve tried to eliminate all the other stuff on the tablet so that’s not an option, but I have to do that often and have run into problems where the software doesn’t work. Any other device ideas for digital audiobooks? The simpler the better.

      1. How would the children pick out the books from a Bluetooth speaker? Would they have to have a phone or tablet to access the app? We have 2 children who share a room and listen to different audio books every night with their headphones. We have been checking out the playaways from the library. We are looking for a device they can control that has music and audiobooks (checked out from Libby or overdrive) on it? What would you suggest for this? Thanks so much!

        1. Anything from Libby or Overdrive is going to require a tablet or phone to control it, unfortunately. We use an Echo Dot in our girls’ room and they can listen to music or Audible Plus without a device.

  8. Any tips for keeping the kids from scratching up CDs? The kids aren’t particularly rough with CDs, and they do *try* to be careful, but those things just scratch so easily. My husband is ready to ditch all CDs because he’s tired of the kids rendering them un-play-able, but I really love the low-tech option best!

  9. At what age did you start? My daughter is 3. She will listen to tapes of short books that she already has and knows well and has in front of her to flip through as she follows along but only as long as Im around. Otherwise, she loses interest quickly. Im wondering if she is too young are am I doing this wrong.

  10. Hi Janssen and community,
    Since this post was initially written, there have been a couple of exciting developments in the audiobook market for public libraries. I am a children’s librarian at a public library in Ohio and in addition to our traditional CD audiobooks, we offer Playaways and Wonderbooks. If you are old-school enough to remember Walkman, this is what the Playaways resemble. It is a small cassette-sized digital book that can easily be carried in a pocket. You need one AAA battery and a pair of earbuds (standard jack, not for Apple lightning port). Super easy to use, and portable. For the youngest readers, Wonderbooks are hardcover picture books with the digital audiobook built into the cover; they have rechargable batteries which we do when the books are returned, but each has several hours’ worth of charge when they are checked out. Wonderbooks can be used with or without headphones. The Wonderbooks are brand new in our system and we cannot keep them on the shelves. The Playaways have been available for a few years now. These formats will eventually entirely replace our aging CD books collection, since most families no longer use CD players. The advantage to Wonderbooks and Playaways is that they are self-running with no other devices or Internet service required, and they are as simple for even toddlers to use as a CD player. If families want to go completely screen/device free, for vacation, road trips or any other time, I can highly recommend these formats.

  11. How young can I start playing audiobooks to my kiddo? (He’s 15 months now). He doesn’t stay still (ever). Can I play it while he is playing and doing his own thing? Would that still be helpful??

    1. It just depends on what you want! I love Pinna, but I also love that the Yoto is screen free and my child doesn’t need a tablet or my phone to listen. It also has a nightlight, a clock, an OKAY to wake feature, and I can make audio of virtually anything into a card. So for me, yes.

  12. How do you and your husband share an Audible account? Just share the login and password for one account? What about your kids? Do they have their own Audible account? Currently my son listens through my account on his Echo.

    We love the Yoto!!! We have 2 minis shared between 4 children.

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