Today is a double celebration at our house --
first, it's my daughter's birthday so we're doing all the things she loves :)
and second, it's World Read Aloud Day!
Which is very coincidental since my little girl is the BIGGEST read-aloud fan ever!
She's always been one of those kids who would grab a book and hand it to the closest adult --
and then she would go about her business while listening to the story. She might play or color, draw or build something. Sometimes she would sit and look at the book but most often, she had other things to attend to :)
So in honor of our double celebration, I thought I would share some of our bestest, most favorite read aloud stories!
50 Favorite Read-Alouds for Kids
There are so many books that we could include on this list that it was hard to choose which ones to highlight.
So, I thought
and asked the kids (of course)
and decided to go with titles that had something in the story that "stuck with us".
These are the books that weeks, months, even years later, the kids recall and say things like "Do you remember in that story .... this is just like that!"
Many of these stories and authors are also referenced in newer books too so some of the titles may be familiar to your kids.
You'll find a mix of both vintage recommendations along with newer reads -- and books that will appeal to a wide age range. I've included affiliate links for each of our selections so you can easily check out the details and hopefully learn about a few books that are new to you.
I hope the list inspires you to curl up with a book this week!
Picture Books by Bill Peet
If you've ever read a book by Bill Peet, you know his stories 'stick out in a crowd'. His books have some wonderful elements - most have a moral and make you think or reflect on society. And we love his illustrations!
Bill Peet worked with Walt Disney Studios for many years as a storyboard artist. The boards done for the movie The Sword in the Stone were drawn by Peet (I really do think you can see his work when you watch the movie - something about the Merlin reminds me of his books).
These books make great read-alouds because they are longer picture books that can be read in one or two sittings. And they always lead to many questions and great discussions.
Our favorites are Kermit the Hermit (a funny book about a crab who doesn't like others), Farewell to Shady Glade (great environmental messages!) and The Caboose Who Got Loose (the perfect story about what happens who you veer off your regular course).
Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant
A very good friend of mine recommended Gooseberry Park years ago when I was looking for a read-aloud for my 3-year-old and 9-year-old. My kids have a six year split so sometimes it's hard to find a book that appeals to both, but this story worked beautifully!
The book focuses on the unexpected friendship between a dog, a squirrel and a bat that comes about due to a big snow storm. I really enjoyed reading it because there are quite a few humorous passages (really, the bat is just a hoot!) too.
Toys Go Out (Series) by Emily Jenkins
A unique series of books, Toys Go Out is a series of books that follows the daily adventures of a buffalo, a stingray and a plastic ball. Sometimes they have very normal days and others turn out to be wildly exciting!
Younger children will really enjoy these books and the idea of toys coming to life (so many kids do believe that there is some living element in their favorite toys). The chapters are of medium length but can be read with ease, and there's always something happening that leaves the kids asking "But what will happen next?".
You can never go wrong with a classic and I'm sure you are familiar with many of the titles above from your childhood. One of the best thing about reading a classic book is that the reader is usually familiar with the story.
You might add in your own part - thoughts on what the characters might have felt, some clever voices or just your memories of when you first heard the story. Kids really enjoy knowing that the books meant a lot to you when you were a child.
Both The Velveteen Rabbit and My Father's Dragon are shorter chapter books that kids as young as preschool age will really enjoy. They are full of magic and dreams and the idea of friendship -- perfect if you're just starting read-aloud sessions!
And My Father's Dragon is the first in a trilogy so there's more to read if you enjoy it!
There's classic books -- and then there's MUST READ classics :)
I'm sure you're familiar with Charlotte's Web (also made into a movie, both animated and a newer real-life adventure). The book is about the friendship of a pig and a spider and kids will love all the antics of various animal characters.
A lesser known but outstanding adventures is The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.
If there's one book on this list that you may not know about, I'm betting it's this one. Three children travel with Professor Savant to Whangdoodleland in order to help people understand how important imagination is in the world. Lots of logic puzzles and adventure. The book is authored by Julie Andrews (yes, the one who played Mary Poppins)!
And of couse, we can't forget The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - one of the original tales of magical lands!
Pippi is a fun story about a girl who lives on her own in a house with a horse. She introduces her neighbors, Tommy & Annika, to her crazy life and days filled with adventure!
Little House is the famous series about growing up during Westward expansion in the 1800's. Kids will enjoy this peek into history with many child characters and a series of stories that follow the Ingall's family as they grow.
Excellent Sci-Fi Stories
I usually view sci-fi read-alouds as books for older kids. Many times they include some edge-of-your seat passages or things that may be scary for younger listeners. But as a read-aloud, you can also soften some of these by limiting the description as you read.
I will say that older kids really do enjoy these types of books as they introduce concepts of other worlds, different technologies and creative imagination. Here's a few of our favorites from over the years:
Both A Wrinkle in Time and The Phantom Tollbooth are more classic reads and have been around for quite a while. I would definately recommend them for older elementary and middle school kids -- even high schoolers will enjoy the grown-up details in these books.
Gregor The Overlander and The City of Ember are both the first in their series so if the kids enjoy this book, continue on! They introduce different worlds - places that exisit outside of what kids would see on a daily basis - and are highly creative with tons of adventure.
Our 3 'E's -- Eleanor Estes, Edward Eager and Edith Nesbit
Three of my favorite classic authors just happen to have names that begin with E. I always thought that was a little odd since E is really not such a common letter. Nonetheless, these are 3 amazing writers who have authored many well-loved and well known children's books.
Eleanor Estes is best known for a few of her series --The Moffats tells the stories of four siblings Sylvie, Janey, Joey and Rufus as they explore their town, get into trouble and grow up. It's set back when kids were asked to walk to the store to get the groceries on their own, and when kids were given the freedom to create their own museum. Wonderful opportunities for discussions about how kids lived then and now!
The Hundred Dresses is a classic read if you have daughters. A Newbery Honor book, the reader learns the value of true friendship, truth and why not to follow a crowd.
The Saturdays (Melendy Quartet) is another wonderful series of stories that follows four siblings as they move from New York city out to a house in the country. Again, this is set back when kids were given more responsibilities around the house and more freedom to explore. My favorite book in the series is The Four Story Mistake.
I really enjoy Estes' books as they appeal to kids of all ages.
Edward Eager is most famous for his magical tales - 7 stories where children happen to come upon magic and then need to learn how to use it properly. Sometimes it's a magic talisman or a turtle, and the magic always takes them to wonderous places -- back in time or into famous book passages.
Mr. Eager was one of the first and (in my opinion) one of the best authors of magical tales because the reader is drawn into a world that could easily happen to them. Kids begin to wonder if the everyday objects around them do indeed have hidden powers.
These books can be read individually but if read in order, there are some clever connections to one another. Our two favorites include Half Magic (which is the first in the series) and Magic by the Lake (perfect for summer storytime sessions!).
Edith Nesbit is most known for her story Five Children and It (Puffin Classics) which has also been made into a movie. In this magical tale, five children find a psammead near their new home and learn he can grant them wishes.
But it seems all of the wishes have unforseen consequences (sometimes very comical in nature) and the children must learn how to get out of each predicament. The old adage "be careful what you wish for" is experienced time and again in this story.
Another enjoyable read by Nesbit is The Railway Children is more of an adventure tale. Three children, whose father is falsely imprisoned, find ways to both help others and help their father in order to reunite their family.
The Penderwicks (series) by Jeanne Birdsall
Another series we adore, The Penderwicks is the story of four sisters, adventures, friends, growing up and daily life. The books are set in modern time (the kids play soccer and take algebra) so kids will recognize many of the events that take place in their own life.
Although mostly enjoyed by girls - as there are four sisters who grow up during the series -- there are also some great male characters (Jeffery, Tommy and Mr. Penderwick).
There are currently four books in the series:
A Few More Honorable Mentions
I wanted to mention a few others that we've really enjoyed as read-alouds! These are great for kids of varying ages and both boys & girls.
Nim's Island is pretty different from the movie - the main concept is the same but the book is really fun to read. It has very short chapters and is one of those "Wow! This could happen to us!" kind of story since it's set in modern time. Kids also love the idea of having a best friend who's a seal :)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret may seem overwhelming (I'm sure there's more than 500+ pages) but many of them are sketches and drawings that add to the story. It's a wonderful family book but kids might not get through it on their own.
The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is a classic story an animal doctor who can talk to his patients. Animal stories are usually enjoyed by kids and this one has some great characters! There is more than one book about Dr. Doolittle but our favorite are the Voyages.
And one of our surprise books was The Twenty-One Balloons - I had heard good things but when my son and I read it, we were blown away with the story. It's more of an adventure story and really keeps you wanting to read more.
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