One of the things I love most about summer is reading books together with my kids. When their brains are free of all of the requirements of school work and I don’t have to worry about helping with homework, it seems we have more space to soak up the words on a page. Or on a CD.

The boys read from actual books… with pages… nearly everyday. A1, who is going into third grade, is really into King Arthur right now. And M2, who is going into first grade, is reading some great first readers like Mouse Soup and Little Bear.

But we also borrow stacks of audio books from our local library. I love these unabridged books on CD for several reasons. We get the benefits of a read-aloud, but I don’t have to do the reading. It’s fun to just absorb the words along with the kids. Often the person who reads the book has a great voice that fits the style of the book.

When I need a break, I can ask the children to go in one of their rooms together and listen to a book. It’s better than watching TV!

But most of all, we can listen to books while we are in the van. It’s amazing how much reading we can do on a trip to the pool and back or on our way to the library.

Our minivan seems to have a sign on the door that says, “Begin arguing now.” When I open the electric door, the three kids jump in and immediately begin fighting over who will sit where. Or they get into an intense debate on which super hero is the most powerful. Or they start fighting over a red crayon or a blue marker.

I turn on the audio books and … they have to… shhhhh….

Oh, it’s beautiful.

I asked my 8-year-old to help me rank some of our favorite audio books we have listened to in the last year. It was not easy because even #10 is a big favorite. We have listened to many others that didn’t make the list.

Here’s our Top 10… or 11… or 12…

10. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. This is a thought-provoking story of what it would be like to have everlasting life in a world where everyone else grows old and dies. And maybe it seems like it would be cool to be 18 forever. But what if you were frozen at one age, never to grow a day older?

9. The Giants and the Joneses by Julia Donaldson. This is a really cute story about a brother and two sisters who are captured by a girl giant and taken to live as pets in giant land.

8. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. We just finished this one as part of our studies of medieval times we will be doing this year in third grade. A little boy shows courage, determination and true character despite his physical limitations. Plus, it’s a book about knights and castles. What boy or girl doesn’t love that?

7. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. A stuffed bunny rabbit gets lost from the little girl who loves him and begins an amazing journey from one owner to another. The stuffed animal learns a lot about love and appreciation through his travels. The ending had me crying with happy tears. We also listened to The Tale of Despereaux by the same author, which we loved, as well.

6. Shiloh by Phyliss Naylor. A boy, his dog, a mean neighbor and a lesson on doing the right thing. Great story.

5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. My kids had not seen the movie or heard this story before and they found it fascinating. I’m trying to mainly list books that aren’t classics, but how can I resist? I have to sneak in a few other classics favorites here: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

4. Drift House by Dale Peck. We were all captivated by this book about a mysterious house and its powers to travel to a world that is not encumbered by time. This is another thought-provoking story about what the world would be like if time did not exist.

3. The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden. This is such a sweet story about a cricket who helps his owner by playing concerts for people in New York.

2. Poppy by Avi, along with the all of the subsequent books, Ragweed, Poppy’s Return, Poppy and Ereth and Poppy and Rye. Poppy is a mouse who faces danger to stand up for the rights of her family against the bigger creatures in the woods.

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. We actually own the full seven-book series on CD, which isn’t just read, but performed with various characters. The kids have listened to all of the books dozens of times, but never get enough.

I also realized we forgot one of our favorites when we created the list, so I’ll just have to cheat and put it here: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.

I think I loved all of these books as much as my children. So, if you are looking for a good family-friendly read, check out the audio books in the kids’ section of the library.

Now, please tell me… What are your favorite books for children (either in print or on CD) and what is your favorite book that you are reading this summer? I have a few on hold at the library, but I’m always looking for suggestions.

For even more great Top Ten lists, click on over to Oh Amanda’s blog!

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