Audio Books ~ A Mother's Sanity Saver

Years ago as my children were transitioning out of daily afternoon naps I sought the advice of a mothering mentor about what I could do to get through those long afternoons. I wanted to know what she did when her kids woke up early from naps or when she needed them to be engaged in a quiet activity while working on her own projects.

She gave me one of the best hands-on parenting/homeschooling ideas I've come across yet. An idea that has saved my sanity many times.

Audio Books.

They used to be books on cassette tape but now you can find books on CD and MP3 files to download. 

We almost always have a story we are listening to. Not everyday mind you. Many days are full of other activities. But some days are quiet and relaxed, or it's been raining for a bit or is too hot to play outside (rare in Maine). Those are perfect days for listening to a story during the afternoon hours. 

We don't spend a lot of time in the car but now with summer trips to the beach, our csa farm and the u-pick farms we bring a story along to listen while we drive. 

My children are fairly close in age - 11, 9 & 7 and I usually look for books that are targeted to the middle of that range to best keep everyone's attention.

In our family audio books don't replace reading aloud, they are a supplement to our reading. I don't recommend electronic listening over the habit of cuddling together a little each day to share in the written word. 

Places to find Audio Books

Post Update: Just today, on the day I posted this, inspired by my own writing (tee-hee) I dug out a bookmark I picked up from the library with instructions for using our library card to download audiobooks. I did a bit of searching and found hundreds of titles, some new and many of them classics, that we can download for free from the Maine library system. Yee-haw.

Added Winter 2012:

  • Audio Book Cloud - a resource I'm just discovering. An amazing number of free audio books. All you need is an internet connection.
  • Books Should Be Free - free audio books from the public domain (ie: golden oldies and classics).
  • - Since moving to a French speaking province with no English audio books available we have purchased an Audible subscription. Click that link to download a free audiobook.
  • Sparkle Stories - Around the time I first published this post a new subscription audio book service was born - Sparkle Stories. Click link to see my complete review.

Where do you find audio books for children? What books do you recommend? I would love to add more ideas to my list.

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  • debbie

    debbie on June 8, 2010, 11:54 a.m.

    We are on the same page (ah, no pun intended!) - I was just feeling deeply grateful for the Roald Dahl stories we picked up on tape for a recent car ride - feeling grateful for an excellent author who cared about writing stories for children, and grateful that we had the means to listen as we drove through otherwise not super interesting territory...we go through phases, but my eldest in particular listens to something everyday as her "downtime" while she draws. We mostly use the public library and the university library as our sources. I would love some specific recommendations if you ever feel like extending this post! Our recent loves are Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (be prepared, it's 10 discs long!!! it was a winter sanity saver), and some oldies like Pippi Longstocking, Charlotte's Web, James and the Giant Peach, as well as the Magic Treehouse series. (ps - love the math captcha!)


  • Adventure-Some Matthew

    Adventure-Some Matthew on June 8, 2010, 12:51 p.m.

    I get my audio books from the public library. However, my wife and I certainly enjoy them for long car rides, it's still just the two of us, so they're not just a sanity-saver for parents!

    Now that debbie's mentioned it, I certainly like the idea of re-hearing some of the older classics. Robin Hood has come to mind recently...


  • Emily Pitman

    Emily Pitman on June 8, 2010, 2:37 p.m.

    Hi Renee.

    Through our library you can also download from here:

    Do you guys have that through L/A?

    I'm amazed at the habit this has become especially for Caleb. They all have their own Ipods now, with as many hours of books as music usually. He is currently listening to Don't Know Much about Mythology (Ken Davis) and we are having some great faith conversations because of it.

    We also spend $15/month to earn credits at Everytime I consider cutting costs, I just can't get rid of this one...

    Happy gardening, hiking, and listening this summer! Emily


    • renee

      renee on June 8, 2010, 4:01 p.m.


      So funny you'd add this. Just this morning during school time, when I had our learning binder out, I found a bookmark from the library with instructions for accessing audiobooks. Ironic.  I checked it out a bit and will be doing this more often to be sure. Thanks for the reminder!

      Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts. I appreciate it. 


  • Kika

    Kika on June 8, 2010, 3:45 p.m.

    My son in particular loves audio Cd's/tapes (whatever); we use inter-library loan mostly but do encourage our local library to continue adding to their collection. We also have bought 2-3/yr for our own collection as they are used over and over again. We've liked Adventures in Odyssey, novels on cd like "Elijah of Buxton", "Cheaper by the Dozen", "Animal Farm" (way too many to name)... and history type stories from G.A.Henty and others. It is, like you say, a great way to supplement learning and have fun but ought never replace actual reading. If we schedule an audio cd as part of our learning I time it for the morning when I can bake/work in kitchen and the kids sit at the table drawing or doing other creative work. Lots of fun!


  • nicola@which name?

    nicola@which name? on June 8, 2010, 6:55 p.m.

    I love audio books for ME! Our library has contracted with some of the major audio book companies to allow us to download some for free. Super exciting. Have you guys checked our Boomerang and Audible? Neither are free, but worth a skim to know about. Nicola


  • Mary Elizabeth

    Mary Elizabeth on June 8, 2010, 8:09 p.m.

    I loved reading this post! I have always loved audiobooks and, as a teacher, used them in my classroom quite a bit. Right now, my children and I are listening to "The Cricket in Times Square" on CD. Found you on Steady Mom.


  • Francesca

    Francesca on June 9, 2010, 11:26 a.m.

    I never had much luck with audio books, but our choice at the time was fairly limited. However, as I'm now dreading the time when my youngest will give up her afternoon nap, I'll stock up and give them a go again.


  • Beth

    Beth on June 16, 2010, 4:20 a.m.

    My kids (3 and 5) love Audio books. We started with the "Curious George" collection. Then we moved to the Bible. They were enthralled with the Bible on CD. Every time we got in the car, they begged, "Can we listen to the Bible!" until we finished it. We're about to go on Vacation, so I'm hitting up the library for new books on CD.


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