Tablets are an easy way to keep the family entertained while traveling, but they also have their shortcomings. It can be hard for kids who experience motion sickness to look down at the screen (this coming from a person who used to turn green every time I was in a moving vehicle); plus, if you’ve ever traveled solo with a child who dropped their iPad then you don’t need me to explain the tablet's potential for utter chaos. Fortunately, there are so many audiobooks for the whole family (even mom or dad) that are also great for keeping everyone entertained on-the-go, and all they require from your and your kiddo is that you sit back, press play, and relax.
Beyond the car, listening to audio books is a great way to spend time together as a family, plus they're full of funny voices, commanding plots, and great music. And while some people may feel that listening to an audiobook instead of reading isn't as challenging (something The Cut largely disproved, it's worth noting), audiobooks have distinct benefits of their own: they can improve fluency and pronunciation, build listening skills, and bolster attention span, focus, and memory, per Glad Readers. Whether you have a preschooler or a middle school-aged kid, these 14 audiobooks will appeal to the whole family (even your youngest who closes their ears during scary commercials and your oldest who deems everything "too babyish").
1. "The Flying Flamingo Sisters" by Carrie Seim
The Flying Flamingo Sisters follows three sisters, Flo, Faye and Franny, as they escape from their mean uncle (who doesn't believe girls can fly planes) in order to join a flying circus and search for their missing parents. The story is performed as a radio drama from the 1930s (it's not a hardback book at all, and was written specifically to be performed) which will likely be a new and exciting genre for kiddos. It's full of fun twists and turns like a mysterious map, clue solving, and an spooky (but not too scary) jungle.
2. "Hello, Universe" by Erin Entrada Kelly
Four unlikely kids comes together to rescue a guinea pig and a missing boy from the bottom of the well. It's a moving story about befriending people who are different than you are. Hello, Universe won a Newbery Medal and the plot is complex enough even for adult attention spans.
3. "Three Tales Of My Father's Dragon" by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Perfect for children around ages 5 through 7, the classic My Father's Dragon trilogy is back to commemorate its 50th anniversary. The full length of the trio is just under two and a half hours, and you'll get a dose of humor, fantasy, and plenty of great storytelling.
4. "From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" by E. L. Konigsburg
This was the first book that ever got me truly excited about reading, and it's become a classic (and a Newbery Medal winner) for a reason. Originally published in 1967, From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler follows a brother and sister who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The pair finds themselves on a journey to uncover the history of a specific Renaissance statue, but they discover more than they expect.
5. "The Gruffalo" by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler
Audiobooks don't have to be long chapter books, and The Gruffalo is a great example of this. The book rhymes, which makes it fun to read aloud and even more fun to listen to. It's a bestselling tale of a mouse who invents a monster to protect herself in the forest.
6. "You Go First" by Erin Entrada Kelly
Any adult who's ever stayed up too late playing "Words With Friends" will relate to this book about two middle school students in different states who form a bond over a shared love of Scrabble. You Go First is best for the middle school crowd, but anyone can enjoy this story about carving out a place for yourself in the world.
7. "Matilda" by Roald Dahl
Matilda is an unforgettable story and it only comes more alive in audiobook form thanks to Kate Winslet's exceptional narration. It follow the story of a young girl who is misunderstood and mistreated by her parents and her school's headmaster, Miss Trunchbull. She then discovers she has magical powers, which is basically every kids' dream come true.
8. "Where The Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls
Where The Red Fern Grows is a beautiful and classic story about the love between a boy and his two dogs, Old Dan and Little Annie. I will warn you, bring tissues, because this moving book will likely have the whole family in tears.
9. "The Wild Robot" by Peter Brown
This story centers upon a robot named Roz who wakes up confused and on a deserted island. It's intended for middle grade kids (so ages 8-10) but most kids will be interested in the questions The Wild Robot brings up about technology, the environment, and the future.
10. "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid" by Jeff Kinney
This book is hilarious (like laugh-out-loud level) for all generations. Diary Of A Wimpy Kid follows a sixth grader, Greg Heffley, who has an annoying younger brother, a rude older one, and parents who just don't understand though they try. The whole book feels like reading (or listening to) Greg's journal (not diary, obvi).
11. "The Ramona Quimby Audio Collection" by Beverly Cleary
Ramona Quimby is one of the funniest and most candid characters in all of literature, and I love her for this. The audio collection is almost 19 hours long and includes eight different books, so you and your kids can slowly move your way through the whole collection. Fun fact: Ramona lives with her mother, father, and sister Beezus on Klickitat Street, which is a real street in Portland, Or, where Cleary grew up.
12. "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio
Wonder is a moving story about a boy named Auggie with a facial abnormality who returns to public school in fifth grade after being homeschooled for years. It is a tender story about stopping bullying when you see it, and learning to treat all people with respect and care.
13. "Front Desk" by Kelly Yang
Front Desk is the amazing story of Mia Tang who has three big secrets: she lives in a motel, her parents hide immigrants in the empty motel rooms, and she wants to be a writer. There's only one way to find out how it ends, and that's by listening to this eye-opening story.
14. "The Season of Styx Malone" by Kekla Magoon
The Season of Styx Malone is an amazing story that follows two adventurous brothers who meet their new and very cool neighbor, Styx Malone. The three form a far-fetched plan that starts off innocently enough, but leads to trouble. It's an ultimately uplifting story that touches on trust, betrayal, and growing up.