You know it’s summer when you find yourself packing up the car or minivan so full of stuff you can barely see out the back window and heading off with your family on a road trip. The destination is often worth the hours cooped up together, but memories of the car ride become a part of family lore, too—for better or worse!
Being able to watch movies and play video games in the car has certainly changed the face of family travel, but if you’re looking for an entertaining alternative for the whole family that doesn’t involve a blue screen, consider these audio books, CDs, and podcasts.
All the suggestions listed below have been tried, tested, and enjoyed by Lowell families!
Bluetooth technology makes it easy to download audio books and podcasts and play them through your car’s stereo system, but our families report that they didn’t even need to hook their devices into the stereo system, they just hit play on their smartphones and tablets.
You can still buy audiobooks on CD, and libraries have good collections of them as well. When the stories are geared to younger children, the CDs often come with copies of the books so children can follow along with the recording—look for these sets in your local library. One more bonus tip: the DC public library system has a nice collection of children's books in Spanish, including audio books.
We hope you and your family will enjoy these books!
- A Bad Case of Stripes, by David Shannon, narrations available in English and Spanish (for younger children)
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst (for younger children)
- Bomb, by Steve Sheinkin
- Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis, read by James Avery
- Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr., and John Archambault (for younger children)
- The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, read by Kenneth Branagh
- The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz (younger children)
- The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander (more for tweens/teens)
- The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt (younger children)
- Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
- Dragon Rider, by Cornelia Funke, read by Brendan Fraser
- Free to Be You and Me, by Marlo Thomas
- Free to Be a Family, by Christopher Cerf and Sarah Durkee
- Frindle, by Andrew Clements
- The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
- The Golden Compass (part of His Dark Materials Trilogy), by Phillip Pullman (for older children)
- Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson (for younger children)
- Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling, read by Jim Dale (English); many libraries have Spanish-language versions of the audio books, as well
- James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl, read by Jeremy Irons
- A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck
- Magic Treehouse (series), Mary Pope Osborne (for younger children)
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary, read by B.D. Wong
- Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, by Christopher Paul Curtis
- The Napping House, by Audrey Wood (for younger children)
- The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall
- Peter and the Starcatchers, by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, read by Jim Dale
- Port Chicago 50, by Steve Sheinkin
- Ramona Collection, by Beverly Cleary (individual books available on audio CDs)
- The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin
- Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (for younger children)
- Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, narrated by Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Jane Horrocks, and Michael Williams
- Wonder, R.J. Palacio
- A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck
“Our absolute favorite, completely hilarious, so funny you might have to pull over, is Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money by Christopher Paul Curtis.”—Elizabeth Steinglass
Check out the American Library Association’s Alex Award winners. This award is given to books written for adults that have “special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”
Podcasts are another option for families. The “Desert Island Discs” (BBC Radio Podcasts) series features interviews of famous people from scientists to rock stars. The show’s host invites guests to choose eight songs they would take with them to a desert island, and the songs are interspersed in the interview. The show has been in existence since 1942, and you can listen to shows from the archives, as well as more recent interviews with the likes of Marin Alsop, Joan Armatrading, Louis Armstrong, Conrad Anker, Boy George, Russell Brand, Malcolm Gladwell, Goldie Hawn, Dustin Hoffman, Hugh Laurie, Steve McQueen, Alison Moyet, Martina Navratilova, Harry Rabinowitz, Cliff Richard, Sir Ken Robinson, Mary Robinson, Zadie Smith, and Alice Walker.
Check out Common Sense Media's list of family-friendly audio books, too!