I am calling this a list of “chapter books to read aloud to 3rd graders”, because my older son is 9 years old and is in (you guessed it) third grade. However, the books on this list certainly can be enjoyed by 2nd, 4th and 5th graders, as well as kids older and younger.
I you have more than one child you may relate to how challenging it is to find read aloud chapter books appropriate for both my 5 year old and 9 year old at the same time. I try to find time to read solo with my older son, but it’s not always possible. While my younger son does listen in when I read these books, it is clear that he does not get as much out of them as his brother. He follows the plot, but the greater themes elude him. On the other hand, these selections do get my 9 year old looking “beyond the plot.”
These titles are all considered “middle grade,” suitable for children ages 8-12. Best of all, they are all books that (in my opinion) parents will also enjoy.
This list is a bit shorter than usual but more books to read aloud to your older children are coming soon! We have a big, big stack of books just waiting to be read. I have a few other lists that include books at this level and I’ve linked to them at the bottom of this post. (Book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Chapter Books to read aloud to 8 to 11 year olds
I still remember my 5th grade teacher reading The Westing Game to the class. I was completely riveted and it continues to be one of my favorite chapter books of all time. Mr. Westing, an eccentric millionaire writes his will as a game. The named beneficiaries must discover who murdered him in order to inherit his fortune. “Players” are separated into teams with clues. This unusual mystery kept my son on the edge of his seat, with its host of curious characters and surprising plot twists. I love how this book requires listeners to pay attention to details, thus exercising kids’ reading comprehension skills. Also available as an ebook.
Kiddo originally read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler independently, but he also wanted be to read it aloud. This used to happen all the time when he was younger but now it is a rare occurrence and I snatch it up when I can. What I wasn’t expecting was for his 5 year old brother to be equally taken by the book! In fact it was New Kid who was begging me to “keep reading!” Claudia and her brother Jamie run away to NYC where they hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and try to solve the mystery of a statue’s identity. Also available as a ebook.
I had thought that my younger son would take to Starry River of the Sky because he enjoyed the companion novel, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, but it turned out to appeal only to my older son. As with the earlier book, the main narrative is interspersed with fable-like stories told by the characters (my 5 year old always perked up at these stories, I think he mostly had a harder time following the main story thread for some reason). Runaway Rendi finds himself in the Village of Clear Sky where the moon is missing. Only Rendi can hear it moaning at night. When a mysterious woman comes to stay in the village, her storytelling may provide some answers. A fascinating and gorgeous book. Also available as a ebook.
I think The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 was successful as a read aloud in our house because of the dynamic and rather hilarious relationship between the two brothers. Well-behaved 9 year old Kenny and his not-so-well behaved 13 year old brother, Byron, navigate family (the “Weird Watsons” as Kenny refers to them) and school life in Michigan until their parents decide that Byron needs to spend the summer with Grandma down in Alabama. Together they set off on a road trip. Shortly after arriving in Birmingham that community is devastated by the infamous church bombing. If you are avoiding this book because you worry about your kids being distressed over the heinousness of that historical event I would urge you to reconsider. Curtis handles the theme of racial tension so well (and it’s not the main focus of the book, family life is the main theme), that I have no reservations recommending this book for kids ages 8 and up. This is the third time I have included this book on a list, which means you must put it in your to-read stack! Also available as an ebook.
A Long Way From Chicago is a modern classic. Siblings Joey and Mary Alice visit their Grandma Dowdel in downstate Illinois. Set during the Depression, with a quirky cast of characters (especially Grandma!), my kids liked this one a lot. They usually respond well to anything that is funny and even if some of the text and vocabulary goes over New Kid’s head, when he sees his older brother laugh, he laughs right along with him. He never wants to be left out!
Rufus M. is part of Eleanor Estes’ The Moffats series. The chapters are a series of loosely connected stories so it is easy to take a break between chapters. I like reading classic books like this aloud because I think it’s easier for the boys to be exposed to unfamiliar vocabulary and more complex sentence structures by listening. Kiddo is not as prone to pick up a book with tiny print and unfamiliar situations as he is to pick up a more modern novel. Yet, after having listened to the book, he enjoys re-reading it independently. That’s great for his brain. New Kid got a lot out of it, too. His favorite part was when Rufus was trying to discover how his neighbor’s piano played itself! Also available as an ebook.
Other book lists you may find useful:
- Chapter books with old fashioned flair
- Chapter books for independent reading (summer reading edition)
- Chapter books to read aloud for family summer reading
- Chapter books to read to 4-6 year olds (my older son also enjoyed these selections)
- Any of the lists from my classics by the decade series.
What books are you reading aloud to your upper elementary school aged children?
More middle grade reading on my Pinterest board!
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