This is part of our Smarty reading series written by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.
Let’s be honest. Part of planning a summer vacation (especially one involving long travel times) is figuring out the best ways to avoid the inevitable “are we there yet?” questions.
Of course there are plenty of toys, movies, games and—dare we say it, conversations with each other—to keep the family occupied, but another way to keep your sanity is to get the family hooked on an audiobook.
More than just entertainment
While audiobooks can supply plenty of entertainment and curb boredom, they can also help your family continue learning while on vacation. Choose a book for the whole family to enjoy together through the car stereo and add a learning and bonding element to the experience by bringing a list of questions to help you engage in thoughtful conversation about the story (look for the link at the bottom for access to discussion questions for all of our suggested audiobooks!).
Here are just a few advantages to using audiobooks on your vacation:
– Audiobooks are great for those who struggle with car sickness and are unable to read in the car.
– Audiobooks are a great complement to reading for children developing reading skills.
– Listening to audiobooks while reading along can help increase reading comprehension.
– Audiobooks can serve as a different story format to reluctant readers; dramatic narrators can keep a listener engaged and properly convey the story as it was mean to be read (hopefully engaging reluctant readers and piquing their interest in reading more!).
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has many varieties of audiobooks available, from books on CD to digital content on Playaway devices to e-audiobooks you can download to or stream from your smart device. With such a variety of formats and genres, you should be able to find something that works for your family this summer.
Audiobook suggestions for the whole family
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Recommended: grades K-3 | Available: CD, Overdrive Length: 3.5 hours
This is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle and ultimately into each other’s lives.
Junie B. Jones Collection: Books 1-4 by Barbara Park
Recommended: grades K-3 | Available: CD, Overdrive| Length: 3 hours
In each book, Junie B., a funny, strong-willed handful of a girl, survives minor mishaps and navigates social and personal challenges. This collection includes: Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth and Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying.
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Recommended: grades 3-6 | Available: CD, Overdrive | Length: 7 hours
The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to flicker. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever!
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Recommended: grades 3-6 | Available: CD, Playaway, Overdrive | Length: 13-15 hours
Meggie lives a quiet life along with her father, a bookbinder. But her father has a deep secret – he possesses an extraordinary magical power. One day a mysterious stranger arrives who seems linked to her father’s past. Who is this sinister character and what does he want? Suddenly Meggie is involved in a breathless game of escape and intrigue as her father’s life is put in danger. Will she be able to save him in time?
Kenny & the Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi
Recommended: grades 3-6 | Available: CD, Hoopla | Length: 2 hours
What do you do when your best buddy has been designated a scourge by the community and marked for imminent extermination? Just ask Kenny Rabbit. When the simple folks in the sleepy little village of Roundbrook catch wind that there’s a dragon running loose in the countryside, they get the wrong idea and the stage is set for a fight to the death. So it’s up to Kenny to give his neighbors front-row seats to one of the best-known battles in history – the legendary showdown between St. George and the dragon – without losing a friend in the fray.
Big Hero 6 by Irene Trimble
Recommended: grades 4-7 | Available: Hoopla| Length: 2.5 hours
Big Hero 6 features brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion – a robot named Baymax – Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city. Big Hero 6 retells the whole exciting story of the world’s most awesome new team of Super Heroes!
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (and the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia series) by C.S. Lewis
Recommended: grades 7-12 | Available: CD, Overdrive | Length: 4-6 hours per story
Narnia, the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter, a magical country waiting to be set free. Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the Professor’s mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they’ve been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch’s sinister spell.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (and the rest of the Harry Potter series) by J.K. Rowling
Recommended: grades 7-12 | Available: CD, Overdrive | Length: 8-25 hours per story
Harry Potter has no idea how famous he is. That’s because he’s being raised by his miserable muggle aunt and uncle who are terrified Harry will learn that he’s a wizard, just as his parents were. But everything changes when Harry is summoned to attend an infamous school for wizards and he begins to discover some clues about his illustrious birthright. From the surprising way he is greeted by a lovable giant, to the unique curriculum and colorful faculty at his unusual school, Harry finds himself drawn deep inside a mystical world he never knew existed and closer to his own noble destiny.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle
Recommended: grades 7-12 | Available: CD, Playaway, Overdrive | Length: 5 hours
Meg Murray, her little brother Charles Wallace and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. He claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a “tesseract,” which, if you didn’t know, is a wrinkle in time. Meg’s father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father?
Librarian tip: Check out the Library’s Tumblr blog for a list of discussion questions for each of the above book suggestions.
All you need is your Library card
If you figure that your family can’t decide on one book (or you have had a lot of family time and need some quiet time in the car), choose several audiobooks and pack the headphones so everyone can enjoy their own story. You can borrow these titles from any of the Library’s twenty branches or online. All you need is your Library card. Happy and safe summer travels to all!