AudioFile Magazine’s Annual Best Listening for Kids and Families
Wanting to find the best children’s audiobooks is a goal many libraries and families share. Excellent audiobooks for kids can open new storybook awareness, of course. They can also introduce young listeners to the sounds of voices beyond the ones they find familiar, pronouncing words that rarely enter everyday conversations, and providing diversions while stuck in the back seat of a car or alone in bed after lights out.
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Each year a new crop of potentially great kids’ audiobooks appears from publishers. Knowing which ones among these hundreds of possibilities is most likely to deliver everything children and families hope to hear — or delighted to discover — takes some expertise from people who listen to a lot of kids’ audiobooks all year long, year after year, and can point out which new ones are, indeed, the best this year. AudioFile Magazine publishes a Best Audiobooks list each December with about half a dozen new that year kids’ titles.. Families, as well as libraries, can find each year’s list quickly online, along with descriptions of what each audiobook is about, how it is performed, and why it is excellent. Just choose “Children and Family Listening” on the Best Audiobooks page.
This year’s kids’ audiobooks considered the best among hundreds include a new and full cast production of E. B. White’s classic, CHARLOTTE’S WEB. Families new to audiobooks might want to start here to experience how professional narrators can enhance the experience of a book. To discover something very different, and hear how important authentic pronunciation can be, try the picture book audiobook WE ARE GRATEFUL, a presentation of how many reasons author Traci Sorell and her Cherokee family and friends have to express “otsaliheliga.” Older children can discover the novel OTHER WORDS FOR HOME, written in verse by Jasmine Warga and performed by a single narrator, Vaneh Assadourian, who knows how to pronounce Arabic terms and demonstrates the power of understanding different languages can bring to experiencing a book. Audiobooks like this, and another novel for kids among the best this year, SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE, by Carlos Hernandez and performed by Anthony Rey Perez, demonstrate the validating experience of hearing accents and intonations from a range of people. This experience can broaden some families’ worlds and reflect other kids’ own experiences with the daily voices around them.
Sometimes a collection of recorded short stories can be the best introduction to family audiobook listening. Among the year’s best, a new collection from contemporary kids’ author Jason Reynolds, LOOK BOTH WAYS, offers the opportunity to hear ten interconnected stories through the voice artwork of ten different narrators. Besides the well-told tales, this audiobook can also give families the listening experience helpful to choosing more audiobooks from the narrators they enjoy hearing most here. Among those narrators, Bahni Turpin is also the single narrator of ADA TWIST AND THE PERILOUS PANTS, a picture book for younger listening readers in a science-friendly series from Andrea Beaty.
The best kids’ audiobooks bring us all closer together as we can share stories many of us read in our own childhood, discover other families’ traditions, and hear authentic rhythms and pronunciations that help us to realize again how rich language can be when shared by excellent writers and speakers. This half dozen of the year’s best give us all starting places for discovering great books and great listening.