Tuning In: The Best Audiobooks and Literary Podcasts for Practicing Gratitude

Discover new ways to practice gratitude while enjoying the learning benefits and listening pleasures of Podcasts and Audiobooks

When we are asked if audiobooks are a good choice for our young readers, our reply is a resounding, “Yes!” Listening to good books read aloud has established benefits – both cognitive and in terms of convenience. The variety, overall quality, and availability of children’s audiobooks have skyrocketed over the past several years. There are wonderful audiobooks for children of all ages, narrated by high-quality storytellers, including, occasionally, a book’s author.

Children’s first experiences with written text is in the form of narration – parents and teachers reading aloud to infants and toddlers. At some point in their progression, and even before formal introduction to phonics and decoding, children quite naturally begin to recognize certain words on the page. At all points in their “learning to read” journey, children benefit from listening to books that stretch their capacity to read, books that are at a higher level than what they can read on their own. Regular exposure to new vocabulary and more complex sentence structure is beneficial whether a child is reading from a page or listening to a narration. Audiobook narrators, who are often actors or other speaking professionals, model fluent reading, with pacing and emphases that enhance the story and impact readers’ own oral reading fluency, listening comprehension skills, and ability to visualize. Audiobooks can be a unique motivational tool for reluctant or struggling readers, especially if they can simultaneously read and listen to a book.

Finally, listening to an excellent book (or podcast) read by an expressive narrator is great fun! It is a wonderful family activity, and with earbuds and mobile devices readily available, it is a pleasurable personal activity and we hope, within the following, there’s something here for each and every one of you.

Little Stories for Tiny People Written and performed by Rhea Petcher
Bear’s Big Sleep: A Thanksgivingish Story for Kids is one of the many short tales on this ten season long podcast site for young children. Stories can be sorted by topic, such as: Friendship, Big Feelings, Growing Up, and Life Changes. Each story features characters like Sophie the Sloth and Strumbly Bear who learn life lessons as applicable to kids as they are to imaginary animals. Children love the recurring characters as well as Rhea’s soothing voice.

The Sesame Street Podcast with Foley and Friends by Sesame Workshop, narrated by a full cast
Foley, the soundmaker monster, is the host of this high-energy podcast that will captivate children. Foley, along with all of the regulars from Sesame Street talk about subjects such as the importance of family, making friends, feelings, and understanding what it means to share. Elmo and Foley chat in episode two about being sad, feeling scared, and how having friends that make you feel happy makes a difference. Songs about emotions, attitudes, and friendship are sprinkled throughout this incredibly meaningful children’s podcast.

Winnie The Pooh: The House at Pooh Corner written by A.A. Milne, narrated by Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, and others
This amazing collection of short stories which take place in the 100 acre woods are just about to become the same age as the forest in which they occur. The incredibly diverse group of characters take children through so many whimsical situations, all the while teaching them important lessons about childhood. Perhaps the finest in all is the lesson that little Piglet, Pooh’s constant friend, has in one of his many heartfelt thoughts, “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” You and your children will never want this treasure to end.

Grades One to Two
But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids Hosted by Jane Lindholm
This Vermont Public Radio podcast takes actual questions that kids have asked parents over and over and again, and uses the time to really answer them. Some of the questions may seem silly, such as, “Why are Cactuses Spiky?” or, “Why Can’t Kids Vote?” Yet to a child, these are very important. There are also entire episodes dedicated to emotional or ethical issues, such as, “Is It OK to Break a Rule?” and, “Why do Things Seem Scary in the Dark?” Each episode comes with resources and a learning guide to deepen a child’s understanding of the lesson.

Grades Three to Five
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, narrated by Kirby Heyborn
Newberry Medalist Katherine Applegate conveys a magical story about friendship, forgiveness, empathy, and resilience. As a family deals with a stressful circumstance, young Jackson copes by spending time with his friend Crenshaw, an imaginary cat. This audiobook has a serious tone and enlightens readers to the fact that some kids lead a not-so-perfect life. The narrator brings the imaginary Crenshaw to life in a way that is relatable to children and provokes thoughts of gratefulness.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum, narrated by Anne Hathaway
The story of Dorothy, her little dog Toto and the cyclone that took her from Kansas to the Land of Oz, has been declared by the Library of Congress as “America’s greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale.” The selflessness of the motley crew that helps Dorothy find her way back to the home that she loves resonates more than ever today. Anne Hathaway creates a distinct voice for each character, bringing the book to life, and making this audio book nearly impossible to stop listening to.

Middle School
The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel
This Peabody award-winning podcast that is performed by a cast of middle schoolers begins with an eleven-year-old Mars and his friends awaiting the end of 7th grade. They hope to gain their entrance to the exclusive Pruitt Prep High School, founded by tech guru genius Oliver Pruitt. Then one of them suddenly goes missing. Mars listens to Pruitt’s podcast daily, and finds clues and discovers that kids are disappearing all over the world. Mars and his friends are seemingly normal, but they all have certain abilities or talents that get amplified as the story goes on. Listeners gain a sense that anyone could be a sort of superhero, and that friends who help each other are priceless.

Audiobooks and podcasts help turn idle moments into learning experiences and listening to one can enliven even the most mundane of activities – from doing household chores or heading out on a long car ride. In fact, we decided to publish our list of favorite audiobooks in time for the winter holidays. With a second nod to the holiday season, these selections lean toward stories that honor kindness, generosity, and gratitude.

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