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Audio Travel Guides and Books Entertain on Family Road Trips

Photo: Jason Devaun/Flickr


Some kids love to read in the car but end up getting carsick. Audio entertainment  gives them a chance to experience a story without a queasy stomach, look at their surroundings as the car rolls on down the road and  the grown-ups get to  enjoy the story or history lesson too. 

Of course, there are other benefits as well. Dan Coles, former literacy program manager for Seattle Public Schools, thinks audiobooks are great. He notes that Seattle schools have listening stations in many classrooms because hearing a story is an excellent way for kids to hear the fluency and richness of language and the intonations of a narrator. Listening to books can also help kids increase their vocabularies.


Audio travel guides are a unique and fun way to get the most out of time on the road. Washington Folk Arts, a project of Northwest Heritage Resources, offers narrated audio guides for 10 popular drives in Washington state. These audio tours were designed with whole families in mind, so they're as engaging for kids as they are for adults. 

There are 10 guides in all, including tours of Interstate 90 from Seattle to Spokane, Interstate 5 North from Seattle to Blaine, I-5 South from Seattle to Vancouver, Whidbey Island,  Cascade Loop North, Leavenworth to Maryhill, Richland to Clarkston, and the Olympic Peninsula. You can download the tours here; each tour CD runs around $10 for a CD or a digital download.

The tours include traditional music, information about ethnic communities, and stories from local residents of the places you drive through. The tours point out beautiful natural sites and historic places of interest along the way. You'll hear from farmers, mountaineers, and firefighters, and tap your toes to music from a local Scandinavian dance hall on Whidbey Island, or Mariachi music in Wenatchee. At the end of Cascade Loop North, you'll hear the Native American legend of Ribbon Cliff, which towers over the Columbia River in Chelan County.


If you prefer a story to a history lesson, it's easy to find  audiobooks at no charge. Seattle, Pierce County, King  County and Sno-Island libraries all have thousands of audiobooks available to check out or download. Seattle Public Libary's website, for example, has a comprehensive, user-friendly guide to downloading audiobooks from SPL. They also offer live chat and e-mail links so that their virtual services staff can help you out as well. 

Good places to purchase audiobooks include most local booksellers, Amazon, and Scholastic's website

Secret Garden Bookshop shared this list of favorite audio books including newer classics and old favorites.

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, by Jeanne Birdsall

Kane Chronicles 2, Throne of Fire, by Rick Riordan

The Luck of the Buttons, by Anne Ylvisaker

The Magician’s Elephant, by Kate DiCamillo

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin

The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

Laura Spruce Wight has survived many family car vacations by playing audiobooks. 


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