Kids love read-alouds, to which every parent who has read the same book aloud 896,452 times will attest. As kids get older, however, we may not be able to keep up with their appetite for longer books and more frequent reading.
Audiobooks are a great way to keep the tradition of family read alouds going. As contributor Jeanne Faulconer has previously written:
Sharing audiobooks is a great way for kids and parents to learn together. Hearing the same material at the same time means that moments for discussion are well-synchronized, and kids can ask questions or ponder meaning in real-time—leading to all kinds of opportunities for inquiry-based learning.
Parents who want to help their kids build fluency in reading and a relationship to literature can also invite their kids to listen to audiobooks above their reading level. This is one way homeschoolers continue to build content during skill lags—even if your child is not yet a strong reader, he or she can still enjoy interesting and challenging stories.
And that's not all. Read 21 Ways Your Homeschool Can Benefit from Audiobooks for even more benefits.
You have probably heard of getting audiobooks from Audible ( you can get two free Audible audiobooks with our affiliate link), but what about free audiobooks on an ongoing basis? The free audiobooks from the sources below make it possible to add the benefits of audiobooks to your homeschool without added expense.
Your local library
Libby. In addition to having audiobooks on CD, most public libraries offer streaming audiobooks using apps like Libby. The app has most of the same features available as the Audible app (such as filtered searching and sleep timers). If you have multiple library cards, you can enter them all under the same Libby account and switch between systems easily.
Audiobooks from the library have the same availability and time restrictions as physical books. Occasionally, relevant collections may be offered on an "always available" basis. When an audiobook is due, it will be removed from your collection the next time the device is connected to the internet.
Hoopla. Some libraries also offer content on Hoopla. Unlike Libby, Hoopla allows libraries to set a limit to the number of items checked out per month (licensing payments are based on the number of books checked out, so it is a cost-control measure for libraries). In addition to audiobooks, Hoopla offers eBooks, comics, movies, TV, magazines, and music. Hoopla only allows one library card per account, but you can create a second account for additional cards.
If your library has reciprocal agreements with libraries in neighboring locales, you might find joining those libraries beneficial. You can use both cards to access audiobook loans for additional availability. Some libraries even offer memberships for individuals living outside of their service area for a modest annual fee (my library charges $30/year for the whole family).
A helpful free tool for accessing which titles your library has available for loan is Library Extension. Install the add-on to your browser and when you are looking at an audiobook or book for sale it will give you library information for the title. It will tell you if it is held by the libraries you have added in the extension settings and how many copies are currently available. The extension even gives availability information about other formats of the title.
Audiofile Sync Audiobooks for Teens summer program
Every summer, Audiofile offers two free audiobooks for teens each week. Titles and topics vary and include both fiction and non-fiction. Files are only available to access during the week they are featured; once on your device, however, they are yours to keep and do not expire.
You can see all of the titles by week on the SYNC website at the beginning of the program launch each summer. To access the audiobooks, you will need to register at Audiofile SYNC with your email address. Once registered, you will get an email reminder each week with the current week's books.
The titles are available through the free Sora app, which you can download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store (or go to SoraApp.com). Download the app and open it. Below the button to find your school, you will see "Have a setup code? Continue →". Click the "Continue →" link. Enter the SYNC code: audiobooksync
You will then need to enter your SYNC account information to access the free titles.
Over 450 free audiobooks are available at Open Culture (which also has free movies, textbooks, ebooks, and MOOCs). You'll find classic literature like The Wizard of Oz, Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Aesop's Fables, and more. Since these are not streaming, once they are on your device you can use them without an internet connection.
As with its book section, Project Gutenberg's audiobooks are all public domain books, so expect to see classics. Project Gutenberg also has a collection of computer-generated audiobooks, but they sound like you would expect computer-generated audio to sound (in other words, they are painful to listen to). You can also find free ebooks of most of the same titles on the site. Students who want or need to read and listen at the same time (or like to switch off) may appreciate both ebooks and audiobooks.
Lit2Go offers an audio collection of fiction, memoirs and other non-fiction titles, poetry, Presidential messages, and speeches. The site has its collection sorted by genre, author, title, collection, and Flesch-Kincaid reading level.
LibriVox is a great online source for well-known classic fiction, nonfiction, and children's books. It supports both streaming and offline use, allowing use with or without an internet connection after files are on your device. LibriVox, like Project Gutenberg, is comprised of books in the public domain. Learn more about LibriVox in Jeanne's post "LibriVox Free Audiobooks for Homeschooling."
The Internet Archive features audiobooks and poetry "from the Naropa Poetics Audio Archive, LibriVox, Project Gutenberg, Maria Lectrix, and Internet Archive users."
Also a source for public domain titles, Loyal Books has thousands of free audiobooks from the LibriVox library that can be accessed as mp3 files, through iTunes podcasts, or as m4b files. They can also be streamed directly from the site.
Spotify offers a playlist of free audiobooks (some titles are from LibriVox but not all). Free registration is required. For premium members, Spotify membership includes a certain number of hours of audiobook listening to paid titles starting in late 2023. Additional hours can be purchased.
Audible Free Listens
Audible's Free Listens is a small selection of free audiobooks with a range of titles. For Audible paid members on all plans, the Audible Plus titles are free for as long as you are a member. The Plus catalog contains many popular titles and often includes selections from book series, presumably in an effort to get readers invested in the series.
Although not free, Learning Ally is an affordable option for families whose children have "a demonstrated learning disability, visual impairment, or physical disability" that makes traditional print books a difficult option. For an annual membership fee ($135 in 2020), members have access to unlimited audiobooks. Documentation from a qualified professional is required.