This is my list of favorite read-aloud chapter books, most of them books that we have read to our children, or recommended by Jim Trelease in his book The Read-aloud Handbook. (I do have several extra copies of his book if you are interested.) His book is really two books-in-one. The first section, Jim gives persuasive and thoroughly researched arguments for the importance of reading, especially reading aloud to your children. Incidentally, there is also strong evidence that strong readers come from homes where parents are themselves readers – so if you are ordering books for your kids, don’t forget to pick up a few good books for yourself. I do have a selection of books for young adults and adults, although as an adult, I have enjoyed also reading children’s books, especially those I missed as a child, growing up overseas. The second part of the book is a treasury of read-aloud books with descriptions of each book, divided by age and reading level. It’s a wonderful resource.
Transition to chapter book read-aloud books:
These books are short and are a great transition from picture books, with brief chapter, lots of action and some illustrations interspersed.
Ten in a Bed Allan Ahlberg & Andre Amstutz
If your preschooler loved Each Peach Pear Plum by this same author, they will love this parody of fairy tales. One night, Dinah finds three bears in her bed. They refuse to leave until she tells them a bedtime story. Her bed continues to be full of surprises each night and full of stories for her uninvited guests.
The Courage of Sarah Noble Alice Dalgliesh
The story of an eight-year old girl who accompanied her father into the wilderness of Connecticut in 1707. A book your child will cherish. Great for ages 5 to 9. Also by the author: The Bears of Hemlock Mountain
Fantastic Mr. Fox Roald Dahl
A fun and humorous tale of Mr. Fox and his family who love nothing more than out-witting Boggis, Bunce and Bean, three of the meanest farmers around.
My Father’s Dragon (series) Ruth Gannett
Written in 1948, this little novel has withstood the test of time. Some illustrations but a bit more text, this story will hold your child’s attention and draw the whole family in. This is one of those: “Can you read me one more chapter?” kind of book.
The Giraffe, and the Pelly and Me Roald Dahl
The Ladder-less Window-Cleaning Company is made up of a giraffe, a pelican, a monkey and Billy, the manager. There are adventures beyond their wildest dreams when they get the window-washing job of a lifetime: cleaning The Hampshire House, a mansion made up of 677 windows and owned by the richest man in England.
The enormous Crocodile Roald Dahl
The hilarious story of how a group of animals in the jungle outsmart a nasty crocodile intent on making a meal of the children who live in the town near his riverbank. With lots of colored illustrations, this book will make everyone laugh.
The Whipping Boy Sid Fleishmann
This is a humorous and easy to read chapter book about a prince and a peasant boy. The prince is too spoiled to be spanked and so they pluck a peasant boy off the streets to take his punishments. The two decide to switch roles, with surprising and hilarious results.
Stone Fox John Reynolds Gardiner
A little boy is determined to save his grandfather’s farm from the tax collectors, by entering the National Dogsled Race. The competition is fierce. Can Willy and his lead dog Searchlight beat the famous Stone Fox team?
Pippi Longstocking Astrid Lindgren
This book tells the adventures of an independent and eccentric little Swedish girl, living on her own with her pet monkey. Every little girl longs to live as Pippi does!
The Littles (series) John Peterson
Fast-paced, easy to read stories about six-inch people who live inside the walls of a family home and their adventures with mice, cats and the world of “giants”. Includes illustrations.
Chocolate Fever Robert Kimmel Smith
John Midas loves chocolate, but one day, after purchasing a piece of chocolate in a candy store, he finds out that there IS such a thing as too much chocolate!
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf Catherine Storr
Here is another mixed-up fairy tale, brimming with humor, with a strong female heroine, who is more than a match for any wolf. My son loved this story when he was around 4 or 5.
Great read-aloud books for preschool through 1st grade)
Mr. Popper’s Penguins Richard and Florence Atwater
This is a laugh-out loud classic, with short chapters about a family who adopts twelve penguins and faces impossible situations. This book is so much better than the movie version (isn’t that true of most movies based on books?)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum
This well-known story is great as a read-aloud. Don’t settle for the movie version. The book will keep the whole family skipping down the yellow brick road and asking for: “one more chapter, please!” Lots of illustrations make this a story even young children will enjoy. There are numerous other books from the land of Oz. The Oz book which has been often most highly rated is Ozma of Oz.
A bear called Paddington by Michael Bond
In this first book, Mr. and Mrs. Brown meet Paddington on a railway platform. Seated on an old leather suitcase, he is wearing a raincoat, an unusual hat and a label round his neck which reads `Please Look After This Bear. Thank You’. Life is never the same once Paddington enter their world and there is never a dull moment! There are many other Paddington Bear books by the same author. **travel note: There is a bronze statue of Paddington Bear at Paddington train station in London, if you are traveling to London and your child loves Paddington Bear books.
The Enormous Egg Oliver Buttersworth
This hilarious tale has delighted generations of readers. It has become one of the most popular children’s books of all time. A young boy named Nate takes care of an egg from one of the family hens, but is not prepared for what comes out when the egg finally does hatch.
Ramona the Pest (series) Beverly Cleary
This children’s book chronicles the adventures of Ramona’s first few months at kindergarten. Her hilarious adventures from a child’s perspective will keep your kids on the edge of their seats. Read all the Ramona books as well as the adventures of Henry, Ramona’s friend and neighbor.
James and the Giant Peach Roald Dahl
What could be a better read-aloud than the story of an orphan boy, an enormous, juicy peach, giant bugs and a grand adventure?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl
This story tells of the exciting adventures of a poor boy named Charlie who wins one of coveted golden tickets which allows him to enter the magical world of Willie Wonka and his chocolate factory. It’s an adventure you don’t want to miss. Also by the author: Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
Ginger Pye Eleanor Estes
A classic and the winner of the 1951 Newbery Award, this is the heart-warming story of the Pye family and their search for their stolen dog, Pye.
The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Graham
Incorrigable toad and his obsession with anything that moves fast will keep the whole family entertained for hours.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Betty MacDonald
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle knows children and she is the one who helps all those desperate parents come up with humorous solutions to their children’s behavior. If your kids fall in love with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, there are others in this series.
Winnie-The-Pooh A.A. Milne
Don’t limit this classic or settle for the Disney version. The actual full-version of the adventures of Christopher Robin and his friends is a real treat for the whole family. Christopher Robin’s adventures continue in The House at Pooh Corner.
The Borrowers Mary Norton
If your kids enjoyed The Littles, they will love The Borrowers. In this story, Arrietty, a teenage “borrower” who lives inside the walls of a “human bean” home, begins a relationship with a boy that has chaotic effects on the lives of herself and her family.
Also by the author: The Borrowers Afield, The Borrowers Afloat and The Borrowers Aloft. The Bedknob and the Broomstick by Mary Norton is also a great read.
Abel’s Island William Steig
A brave little mouse is shipwrecked on an island and must learn to survive until he is rescued. An action-packed survival story for the whole family.
Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
A heart-warming classic tale of a pig, named Wilbur and his devoted friend, Charlotte, continues to enthrall children of all ages (and adult, too).
Stuart Little E.B. White
E.B. White’s first novel, this is the tale of a young mouse adopted into a family of humans, and his struggles to find his place in the world. Great read-aloud.
Great read-aloud books for grades 2-4
The Indian in the Cupboard Lynne Reid Bank
The story is about a boy who receives a cupboard as a gift on his ninth birthday. What a strange gift, he thinks. However, he soon discovers that putting toy figures in the cupboard, after locking and unlocking it, brings the toys to life. But bringing a toy Indian to life ends up being more complicated than he thought! A fantasy adventure, this book is one of those: “One more chapter, pleaaassse!” There are 4 sequels including The Return of the Indian; The Secret of the Indian; The Mystery of the Cupboard; and The Key to the Indian.
The Secret Garden Frances Hodgson Burnett
This novel is considered a classic of English Children’s literature and has enthralled children since it’s publication in 1911. It tells the story of a young orphaned girl named Mary and her cousin, Colin, both in need of healing, who discover a hidden garden. With the help of a village boy who loves nature and animals, they bring the garden back to life and restore health and relationships in the process. Also by the author: The Little Princess.
Peter Pan J.M. Barrie
The Darling children, including Wendy, are visited one night by Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, who takes them to Never Never land where they meet Peter Pan’s boys as well as the evil Captain Hook and his crew. So join the Darlings and head to Never Never land where “dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.” **Travel note: There is a beautiful Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park, London.
Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
Charles Dodgson, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, wrote down the stories he used to tell Alice, the daughter of the dean of Christ Church, Oxford, England where he taught Math. It tells of a young girl Alice who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world filled with strange and wonderful creatures. As Alice says: “And what is the use of a book without pictures or conversation?” A wildly imaginative childhood read-aloud with both, and more! **travel note: If your family visits Oxford, England, be sure to stop by the Natural History museum to see Lewis Carroll’s Dodo bird and other creatures that inhabit Alice’s world.
The Wheel on the School Meindert DeJong
This 1955 Newbery award winner by an American born Dutsch author, takes us to another time and place, but the story will stay with you for years to come. The children in a small fishing village in Holland set out on a quest to find out why there are no storks in their village. This leads them to some interesting discoveries and they set out on an quest to provide a place for the stork to nest. With the help of their teacher and eventually the whole village, the children discover that dreams can come true if you work together at a common goal. The plot may sound simple, but this book is not to be missed!
The Tale of Despereaux Kate DiCamillo
Winner of the 2004 Newbery Medal, the story follows the adventures of a brave mouse named Despereaux Tilling, as he is determined to rescue a beautiful human princess against all odds. Easy read and great read-aloud book for all ages.
Journey to the River Sea Eva Ibbotson
If you have not yet encountered Eva Ibbotson’s children’s books, this is a great introduction. Winner of the Smarties Book Prize, this story takes us from London to the Amazon jungle, where Maia is sent to live with distant relatives. There is always a strong sense of justice from her novels, and this one is no exception. Brimming with humor, drama, suspense and love, the whole family will love this novel. If you like this novel, I recommend her other books including The Secret of Platform 13 and The star of Kazan.
The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and the Curdy
Both of these classic books are simply a must-read and the king (in my opinion) of great read-aloud books. These two books were my husband’s, Tim, favorite read-aloud books. I’m not sure who enjoyed them more, him or the kids, but they were pulled from the shelf time and time again.
They both follow the adventures of Princess Irene and Curdie. In Princess and the Goblin, Princess Irene and Curdie, a poor peasant boy, must foil an evil plot by the goblins. In Princess and the Curdy, they must overthrow a set of corrupt ministers who are poisoning Irene’s father, the king, with the help of a monster named Lina. These stories are brimming with courage, honesty, kindness as well as humor and adventure. I give these two books five stars! (Since it was published in 1883, it is available as an ebook for free, but if you enjoy the hard copies, I do have them in my librarything collection) Also by the author (and also highly recommended): The Light Princess.
Homer Price Robert McCloskey
The author of Make Way for Ducklings tells the tale of a young boy, Homer who lives in Centerburg, a small town in Ohio. Homer is an ordinary boy who somehow gets caught up in a series of ridiculous incidents, such as tending an unstoppable doughnut-making machine in his uncle’s diner, among other things. The beautiful black and white illustrations make Homer and his adventures come to life.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia) by C.S. Lewis
What can I say? It might be unnecessary for me to list this here as they are so popular and well-known, but I had to put them down as they are one of our families all-time favorite read-aloud series. Make sure you have a set in your home collection, ours are well-worn. I love the new editions with hand-colored illustrations by Pauline Baynes.
Pollyanna Eleanor Porter
Another great story for little girls, this book was one of my favorites as a little girl. In this story, Pollyanna, orphaned, is sent to live with her cold, OCD (modern word for aunt Polly) and strict aunt. But the faith and qualities that were taught to her by her loving parents allow her to not only thrive, but always find the best in others and in every situation. Every little girl needs a good dose of Pollyanna in their childhood.
The Cricket in Times Square George Selden
This is one of those books that my kids were reluctant to read: boring title, boring cover, but one that soon became a favorite. An engaging story, it tells about a young cricket, named Chester who is transported to Times Square, NY via a picnic basket. There he meets up with a little boy, named Mario, a mouse named Tucker and a cat named Harry. Together, they manage to save the little newspaper stand business owned by Mario’s parents. A fun and adventurous trip to the heart of New York City.
Heidi Johanna Spyri
This one is probably one of my girls favorite stories, one that was asked to be read more than once. Heidi is a brave, kind-hearted orphan who is sent up to the mountains in Switzerland to live with her grandfather, whom everyone fears. There she falls in love with the mountains and all those around her, bringing hope and healing.
Ballet Shoes Noel Streatfield
Set in London, the book tells the story of three adopted sisters, Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil. The girls are discovered as babies by an elderly, absentminded paleontologist and professor, during his world travels. He leaves them on the doorstep of his great-niece, Sylvia and her childhood nanny, Nana and promptly disappears. Each girl has various talents. Pauline loves acting, Posy is passionate about dancing, and Petrova loves motor cars. There is love as well as friction, as each sister longs to follow her dream. If your child loves Ballet Shoes, be sure to read Streatfield’s other “shoe” books, all exceptional, including Circus shoes which won the Carnegie Medal. My daughter, Lindsay’s, favorite books, she probably reread these 6 to 8 times! Great read-aloud for girls of all ages!
Mary Poppins P.L. Travers
Published in 1934, this classic story concerns the Banks family from Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane, London, and their 4 children, Jane, Micheal, the twins John and Barbara. After the current nanny leaves, Mary Poppins appears, blown in by a strong wind. She accepts the job, and so begins the wonderful, magical adventures with Mary Poppins. I remember my mom reading this to us at bedtime.
Boxcar Children (series) Gertrude Chandler Warner
This book, published in 1924, tells the story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. This resourceful, practical, and loving group of siblings set out in search of a home. They discover an abandoned boxcar in the forest and quickly make it into a home. This book was named “Top 100 Chapter Books” of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal. The series includes over 100 titles, but only the first 19 books were written by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Collect all 19!
Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder
There was something about this story of young Laura and her family that rang true of my own life as an MK. Life was filled with challenges and change, but courage, perseverance, faith and the bond of family are the anchors that help Laura and her family come through the storms, giving her and her family hope for the future and find joy in the day to day along the way. This seven books series is the perfect read-aloud. If you or your family can’t get enough of the Little House books, there are other authors who have expanded this series to include five generations of Little House pioneers girls including Martha Morse stories (Laura’s great-grandmother) written by Melissa Wiley, Charlotte Tucker stories (Laura’s grandmother) by Melissa Wiley, Caroline Quiner stories (Laura’s mother) written by Maria Wilkes and Celia Wilkins and Rose Wilder stories (Laura’s daughter) written by Roger Lea McBride. To get a complete list of all these books, go to littlehouse.com.
Great read-aloud books for grades 4-6 and up:
I remember hanging on for dear life to those read-aloud times before bedtime as my kids became independent readers, and other activities crowded in on family life, even hiding the book so they wouldn’t read ahead. Here are a few that might just keep those moments alive for just a while longer:
This story takes place in a 14th-century English village where he has lived a quiet childhood. But things suddenly change when his mother dies and he discovers he is not who he thought he was. He is soon fleeing for his life, and sets out on a quest to find out who he really is. Best-selling, award-winning Avi enthrall children and adults with this historical tale filled with mystery, action and adventure.
A String in the Harp Nancy Bond
As the family mourns the loss of their mother and adjusts to life in Wales where the father has a new teaching job, the three children discover an ancient harp key that they trace back to the time of the great bard from the sixth-century, Taliesin. An acclaimed book and winner of multiple awards, if you are a lover of Welsh mythology as I am, you will love this book.
Redwall (series) Brian Jacques
Get caught up in this epic series about a bumbling young mouse who stands up for what is right, and fights back against the infamous, evil rat, Cluny the Scrouge, and his followers, whose goal is to take over the peaceful abbey, Redwall. This is a thrilling tale of adventure that you won’t be able to put down. There are now 18 books in this series. My daughter, Laura, loved this series in her teen years and read all 18 of his books.
A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is more than a science fiction novel. It is a poignant tale of a family fighting to rescue their father, a scientist who disappears while working on a secret mission for the government. Meet Meg, an awkward teenager, her little brother, Charles Wallace, a precocious little boy and Calvin O’Keefe, an athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school. This book is hard to put down, but a great read-aloud, with suspense, and some scary scenes. A book like no other, don’t miss this one. Madeleine L’Engle wrote four other books about the Murray family, known as the Time Quintet, which include The Wind in the Door, Many Waters, A swiftly Tilting Planet and An Acceptable Time. Also highly recommended by this author: Meet the Austins, Twenty-four days before Christmas (also about the Austins)
Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
Who can resist the orphaned little girl waiting, with eager anticipation, at the train station for her new life with her adopted family to begin? She’s Anne with an “e” and she will take you on a journey you will never forget. Also in this series (in order): Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne’s House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside. Also highly recommended by this same author, but not as well known is the story of Emily, also an orphan story: Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, Emily’s Quest.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh Robert O’Brien
The winner of the 1972 Newbery Medal, this book tells the story of a band of highly intelligent mice who come to the aid of a young mother and her four children. The book starts off with a suspenseful scene and has you riding along until the very end.
A single shard Linda Sue Park
Also a winner of the Newbery Medal, this novel takes place in Korea during the 12th century. It is the moving tale of a young orphaned boy, Tree-Ear, who longs to learn the art of pottery making from the famous potter, Min. He will go to no ends to win his approval and be considered worthy of becoming his apprentice. Unfortunately, things do go as expected. Don’t miss this book!
Tom’s Midnight Garden Philippa Pearce
Now considered a classic and the winner of the Carnegie Medal, this enchanting tale will draw you in and leave it’s mark. This is, by far, my favorite children’s book and I can’t recommend it enough. In this story, Tom is a boy sent to live with his aunt and uncle in a 1950s city apartment building in London while his brother recovers from the measles. The apartment is converted from an old country house. Tom, bored and restless, slips out at night to the old garden where he magically encounters and befriends a little girl from the past.
Holes Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, is sentenced to spend time at Camp Green Lake, a camp like no other! Winner of numerous awards, including the Newbery Award, this book is sure to capture the attention of any reluctant reader and as a read-aloud, you may have to hide it or your child or they will whisk it away to read ahead.
The Bronze Bow Elizabeth Speare
Set during the time of the Roman Empire, young Daniel is full of hatred toward the oppressive Romans, who killed his father and uncle. He joins up with a rebel group, led by the zealot, Rosh, whose mission is to drive out the Romans by force. Then, he hears of another man named Jesus, whose message and mission, is not one of hatred, but of love, not revenge but forgiveness. This is a poignant historical novel that will bring the Roman world and the message of the Gospel alive for young adults.
The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit is the perfect read-aloud for older kids. Definitely start with The Hobbit before embarking on The Lord of the Rings. Hobbits, dwarves, wizards, trolls, and a grand adventure come together to make this a classic. It originated from a bedtime tale Tolkien shared with his own children. Be sure to perfect your best Golem voice!
The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien
I’m not sure what the exact age my son was but just a year after reading aloud to him this lengthy trilogy, he asked us to re-read it to him. My husband, Tim, ended up reading The Lord of the Rings to Brian 3 times through. As I said, it is lengthy and will be months long venture (depending on how long you read aloud to your children everyday) but worth every minute. Tolkien is a master storyteller.
NOTE: Ok, I know this is long, but I hope this will either get you started or help you discover new books you can read to your child. Of course, they are also great for independent readers. Although this is lengthy, I keep thinking of other great books I want to add, so there may be a part II!