Listening with Kids

If you had to make a list of your favorite books of childhood, what would that list entail? Were you A Wrinkle in Time fan? Perhaps you dabbled in the Redwall series, perusing your way through Mossflower and the like. Or perhaps you identified more with Beverly Cleary’s Ramona or Judy Blume’s iconic, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. Regardless of your origins, most everyone has those handful of stories from their childhood that conjure up nostalgic fondness for a simpler time.

For me personally, my literary loves hearken back to fourth grade read-alouds in Mr. Levin’s class, eagerly anticipating that twenty minute window after lunch, when a calm would settle over the classroom, and a paperback copy would appear, cast a brown paper cover. Titles I remember specifically include, The Phantom Tollbooth, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and lastly, Matilda by Roald Dahl. Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize just how much listening impacted my learning.

Revisiting once-beloved stories can be a treat in any scenario, but in 2019, the world truly is your oyster when it comes to listening to your those favorites. The act of hearing a familiar story read aloud, the rise and fall of a narrator’s voice, there’s something magic in the delivery. Suddenly, I’m transported back to that musty 4th grade classroom, cheeks flushed from the flurry of a just-ended recess, ears eager for the next chapter unfolding with the rise and fall of my teacher’s voice reading the next line.

I recently had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with Roald Dahl’s Matilda via audiobook. It was my daughter’s first time meeting these once-familiar characters, and I opted for an audiobook version of the text to engage her five-year-old sensibilities in a way that would prove to be initially captivating while sustaining her interest chapter to chapter. This also provided us the flexibility of being able to listen on the go, en route to errands, pre-school, and various activities. As it turns out, I’m not alone in this preference. According to the Audio Publishers Association, 74% of audiobook listeners stated they listened most frequently in their car (up from 69% last year). And while my daughter is on the younger end of listening age, studies indicate that at least 50% of children ages 12 and older have listened to an audiobook. Plant those seeds early on, I dare say!

Listening to Matilda was invariably a positive experience, for both of us. For myself, it was reacquainting with characters whose names resonated, but whose details had faded and softened over the years. I’d forgotten the loveliness and inherent goodness of Miss Honey; the inflated selfish nature of Matilda’s parents; the cruel, and malevolent wrath of the principal, Miss Trunchbull; and of course the innate brilliance of Matilda Wormwood, the narrator and namesake of the book. All of these familiar characters were brought to life exquisitely by narrator, Kate Winslet. I was awestruck within seconds at Kate Winslet’s delightful interpretation of the story. Truly, her delivery, intonation, and diction was superb. Frankly, I was quite astounded at her capability as a narrator to adapt to multiple character’s voices, delivered with such an engaging radiance, that my daughter and I found ourselves creating quiet opportunities to continue our listening.

It was even more rewarding to hear my daughter’s reactions to parts of the story. From her jaw literally falling open upon hearing tales of the Trunchbull’s viscious antics to eye-sparkling delight and surprise during the newt in the water glass scene. While I thoroughly enjoyed absorbing a favorite childhood book through this medium, it was even more rewarding to also see the power of story come to life through my child’s eyes.

If you’re on the fence about coming to the listening side of things, trends suggest this is quickly becoming the preferred method to consume new and familiar titles. Not to mention, kids can benefit in many ways by reading through audiobooks.

When you buy audiobooks through, your purchases support your local, independent bookstore, and now’s the time to get your kids started on audiobooks! Sign up to receive Kids Club and YA Club emails, and you can get select audiobooks for $10 or less each month.

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