listening

Summer is here -- and for many children that means oodles of free time.

Of course, this is the perfect time of year to have some serious fun outside! But let's face it, kids aren't always able (or willing) to play outside and us moms need a way to keep the kids entertained while we get chores done. But instead of turning on the tube, or allowing the kids to play on their favorite learning app or video game, why not try an audio book?

The great thing about audio books is that it lets kids use their imaginations in ways that visual media doesn't. Plus, it's easy to find content to match your child's interest level and audio can be taken anywhere. Whether you're looking for a fantasy novel for a teen, a classic chapter book for an older child or a simple story book for the tiny tot, you're sure to find something they'll love (and they'll likely be an app for it too).

So, without further ado, here are 9 audio book sources worth looking at. Please do be cautious, though, because some of these sites may show ads as a means to support themselves, or have adult book selections, so they may not be appropriate for children to browse on on their own.

Free Audio Books

Your Public Library's Website: Almost every public library now offers some form of digital services that are easy to access from home. Most libraries are synced with Overdrive, which has a huge selection of audio books. Check your local library's website to find out what services they offer and how to access books and audiobooks for free from home.

LibraVox: This is the queen of all audio book sites. Many other free audio book sites on the internet are simply reposting from Libravox -- so save yourself some time and go straight to the source. Nearly every classic take you can imagine has been beautifully read by a volunteer and is free to access here, plus the site is ad-free. Of course, you're not going to find a great many picture books here, but this site is perfect for older kids and teens. Plus, many classic books will also be appropriate at any age, as long as you choose carefully. The children's book selection is a great place to start but don't limit yourself to this area because many wonderful family-friendly tales are found in the other categories.

Storyline: This is an interesting project created by the Screen Actors Guild. On this site you'll find various actors and other personalities reading storybooks to children. Most of the stories are read very well and are appropriate for kids of any age -- plus the site is ad-free. Children can choose to watch the video and mildly animated illustrations, or simply listen instead.

StoryNory: This site exclusively offers short audio stories for kids, along with complete transcriptions of each story. We like that StoryNory does not offer animations along with the text, but instead focuses on the story itself, making it possible for children to listen without interacting with the site. They DO show ads on some pages though, so be aware of that before allowing kids to browse on their own. We do not usually recommend resources for kids that allow advertising, but since there are relatively few cost-free audio book sites for children, and a child can enjoy the site without seeing the ads, we are making an exception for this long running service.

Pay for Audio Book Services

Sparkle Stories: This is definitely one of our favorite services. The stories are sweet and imaginative and completely appropriate for even the younger audiences. They are ad-free and offer a wide variety of subscriptions based on interest and age. The only downside is that they do not offer an unlimited listening option, so you will need to pay for packages individually.

Skybrary: This is the new service from Reading Rainbow -- offering 500+ wonderful books that your child can listen to, interact with, or read alone. The subscription price is very reasonable and the app is great. Subscriptions include exciting video clips and other learning resources as well, for when screen time is appropriate. You can read all about it here.

MeeGenius: This subscription service claims to offer more than 800 books that allow a child to interact and read along. This may be a bonus for you, or a negative, depending on whether you are trying to avoid screen time or not. Because each page of a book must be flipped individually, this cannot be used as a traditional audio book service. They do offer a few free books so you can see how the service works first though, and reasonable subscriptions if you're interested in more.

Audible: This well-known service has audiobooks for all ages, including very small kids, but they're pricey. Because they charge per book (even with their subscription services) you're probably going to want to choose carefully and only buy books your kids will listen to more than once.

Scribd: This is a service we haven't tried yet, but they seem to offer an unlimited audio book option. Based on our research most of the books they offer would only be appropriate for older teens and adults however -- so this might be something to look into if you're trying to find ways to keep an older child entertained this summer.

Have another audio book service you love, please share it!

Image: Philippe Put