Audiobooks can be a fantastic way to introduce little kids to independent reading. They can get used to holding a book, following along to the visual cues of pictures, and learning how to follow words from left to the right—even if they can't read them yet. But possibly the best part of audiobooks is that they bring a book to life in a way that captures the heart and imagination of little kids and helps them to develop a love of reading. 

Though audiobooks aren’t a substitute for reading aloud, they’ve got great benefits for kids (and, let’s be honest, sometimes you need a break). Even tykes as young as 2 or 3 can appreciate and enjoy audiobooks at a reading level above their age and development. By listening, kids learn to be patient and follow a narrative. And they are also being exposed to a more extensive vocabulary and big ideas than they might have encountered so far. In short, audiobooks can help kids stretch their minds and prepare them for a life of loving to read.  

To get your toddler or preschooler started on audiobooks, we recommend checking out these 12 titles. (Just make sure your tot is listening at a safe volume so you don't hurt their hearing—keep the sound below 85 dB and limit listening sessions to 60 minutes or less.)

The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson, read by Imelda Staunton

 Cover of The Gruffalo

This modern classic story told in poetic form tells the story of a clever little mouse who dupes his predators out of wanting to gobble him up by convincing them that a Gruffalo monster wants to eat them. This beloved story will quickly become a bedtime favorite.

Where the Wild Things Are written by Maurice Sendak, read by Peter Schickele 

Cover of Where the Wild Things Are 

Follow Max in his wolf suit as he crosses an epic sea and lands on an island filled with giant Wild Things that he must tame before he sails back home…just in time for his supper. Kids will eat up this classic story of monsters and big feelings. 

The Napping House, written by Audrey Wood and read by Melissa Leebaert

 Cover of The Napping House

This book is a classic bedtime story of a family and pets piled high on a bed, taking a nap. But a hullabaloo breaks out when one tiny flea takes a bite. Kids have been giggling at this wholesome story for generations.

Dragons Love Tacos written and read by Adam Rubin

Cover of Dragons Love Tacos 

This New York Times bestselling book will have your kids in stitches at the hilarious story of a dragon who loves tacos. But salsa? Better watch out! Salsa spells the funniest of disasters.  

The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites, written by Dr. Seuss and read by an all-star cast

Cover of The Cat in the Hat

Dr. Seuss books are ideal for beginner readers thanks to the simple, rhyming words and the world of silly stories. Your kids will love following along with the classic illustrations as the Cat in the Hat gets into a world of fun trouble. 

Bedtime Stories for Kids, written by Simply Insight Team and read by Erika Merriweather

 Cover of Bedtime Stories for Kids

Bedtime stories are such a lovely way to spark a love of reading in kids. And this book offers up some whimsical tales to help your little ones settle in for a restful night of big dreams and deep slumber. This collection features more than 30 stories that highlight mindfulness and relaxation. 

The Good Egg, written by Jory John and read by Dan Bittner

 Cover of The Good Egg

From the author of the hugely popular The Bad Seed comes The Good Egg. The follow-up tale details the adventures of one charming little egg who is so well-behaved, he's perfect. But when he starts to crack under the pressure of being good all the time, he must learn the lesson of self-care and acceptance. 

The Day You Begin, written and read by Jacqueline Woodson

 Cover of The Day You Begin

This book tells the story of a little girl who finds the courage to fit in despite feeling different. Woodson uses beautiful prose set against charming illustrations that show that every kid is special, unique, and has a story worth telling and sharing. 

We Are Water Protectors, written and read by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade

 Cover of We Are Water Protectors

We Are Water Protectors hit the New York Times bestselling list and won the Caldecott Medal for 2021. This courageous book is inspired by the Indigenous-led protest movements across the US and Canada that seek to highlight our fragile water systems under threat by pollution, corruption, and climate change. 

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

 Cover of The Curious Garden

This sweet book follows a boy named Liam who lives in a grey, dirty city. One day, he notices a small plant, and he sets out to help that plant grow bigger, but he accidentally creates a runaway garden that takes over the town. Soon friends and neighbors get involved, and before he knows it, Liam helps turn his city into a garden wonderland.  

The Snail and the Whale, written by Julia Donaldson, read by Imelda Staunton 

Cover of The Snail and the Whale

From the author of The Gruffalo comes this charming tale of a snail who wants nothing more than to see the world. So, he does the only logical thing; he catches a ride on a whale's tail. 

The Pout-Pout Fish, written by Deborah Diesen, read by Alexander Gould

Cover of The Pout-Pout Fish 

Mr. Pouty Fish is suffering from the "dreary wearies" but not for long in this stunningly colorful ocean adventure that will coax out even the most stubborn smiles. Kids will love the fun story and the engaging rhymes as they learn how to flip a grumpy mood into a happy one. 

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