My book lists are personal. I have two boys, ages 5 and 9 and I read to them. A lot. I choose their favorite books and I turn them into posts to share with you. I read these chapter books aloud over the past year when my youngest son was 4-turning-5 years old. My older son enjoyed listening in when he could tear himself away from whatever he was reading at the moment.
With the exception of My Father’s Dragon and possibly The Year of Billy Miller all of these books are considered “middle grade“, appropriate for independent reading for ages 8 and up. The themes and stories of these selections, however, are all appropriate for younger kids — nothing too scary, nothing too sophisticated, but the vocabulary and sentence structure will still increase their literacy. Remember, as I said in my list of 50 chapter books to read aloud to preschoolers, kids’ listening comprehension is higher than reading comprehension.
Sometimes I worry about repeating myself. Half of the books on this list can be found elsewhere on this site. You’d have to dig around to find them, so why not have them in one place? After all, many of them are titles we have read multiple times. I could certainly put more than 10 books on this list, but at one or two chapters a night, these should keep you going until the next one. If not, the end of this post has links to compatible lists to explore. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Chapter books to read aloud to young kids
Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat is a short chapter book about boys growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1950s. One of the boys adopts a pair of great horned owls. The owls, added to the family dogs, the pen of rabbits and gophers (in which the owls miraculously co-habit) bring hilarious chaos to the boys’ lives. We have read this book aloud 3 times now and I expect we will read it again.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. When I first started reading this to the boys I was a bit nervous. A few years ago I had attempted it but my older son was scared off by the cyclone. This time around, however, the boys gobbled it up. They simply refused to let me put it down. I even had to do recaps of the action while I brushed my younger son’s teeth! The movie (while wonderful in its own right) is not an acceptable substitute. Read this original “American Fairy Tale” with your kids. A word of advice: because this book is now in the public domain there are a lot of iffy versions out there. You need to make sure you get a copy with the original color illustrations. (This anniversary edition does, but many of the other ebook and paperback versions available at Amazon do not. Get it at the library or a bookstore if you want to be absolutely certain.)
Toys Go Out. This is the first book in a trilogy about a group of toys and their adventures in and out of a girl’s bedroom. The three main toys are Lumphy the buffalo, StingRay, and Plastic, a bouncy ball. Über-talented author Emily Jenkins has a particular knack for transferring the emotions, anxieties and joys of childhood experiences and discoveries onto the anthropomorphized toys. There is a lot of humor in the book, too, as the toys engage in gentle absurdities, such as when Lumphy intentionally dips himself in peanut butter so he can visit his friend the Washer in the basement, or when Plastic tries to discover just exactly what she is. Dramatic readers (such as myself) will especially enjoy Jenkins’ writing.
My Father’s Dragon. Yes, yes, this trilogy of books is mentioned on several of my book lists. I include it here again because, frankly, it always takes me by surprise that I still meet people who have never heard of My Father’s Dragon. That is a good reminder to me, too. Not everyone has had equal exposure to children’s books. Anyway… this is my number one recommendation for a very first chapter read aloud. I am not exaggerating when I say we have read all three books at least 5 times. The story follows Elmer, who runs aways with a knapsack full of assorted items like rubber bands and lollipops. He is on a mission to rescue a baby dragon, but he can only do so if he is clever enough to get past a bunch of rather self-absorbed wild animals. My son’s kindergarten teachers are currently reading this aloud and yet my son came home and insisted I read it again, too. It is that good.
8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos. My kids have rarely laughed so hard during a read aloud as they did with this book. The story begins when a dog chases a squirrel into a nearby elementary school. The squirrel runs from classroom to classroom leaving chaos in its wake. Each chapter is narrated in the first person by the various class pets that inhabit the classrooms. The pets range from hamsters to snakes to fish to birds and getting their different perspectives on the ruckus and life in a school is extremely entertaining to say the least.
Finn Family Moomintroll. We recently finished reading this installment in Finnish author Tove Jansson’s classic tales of his whimsical creatures the Moomins. This book follows their springtime adventures when they find the mysterious and magical Hobgoblin’s hat, which transforms whatever is placed inside. My 5 year old was enraptured and has requested further adventures from Moominland.
Prince Puggly of Spud and the Kingdom of Spiff is written entirely in verse. The premise is wonderfully silly: in the Kingdom of Spiff everyone is obsessed with fashion, and ridiculously elaborate fashion at that. Well, almost everyone — the Princess prefers pajamas… and books. In Spud, however, things are a bit different and when Puggly of Spud and Frannie of Spiff meet up they set out to teach the others a thing or two about what is really important. This is really fun to read aloud because of the fantastical vocabulary and the rhyming couplets. Even the font is “fancified.” I do, however, recommend it for more experienced listeners. I certainly think a 5 year old can listen to it, but it is not the usual fare and I found that mini recaps of the action before we began each reading session to be extra-helpful. Nevertheless, it was a hit.
The Chocolate Touch. Oh, how my son was obsessed with this book. He was so concerned about the reality of “the chocolate touch”. Would he get it too? After all, he loves chocolate as much as, if not more than, anyone. Truthfully, I would not have complained if this book had put off New Kid from chocolate for a bit, but it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the sweet stuff one iota. As you might guess from the title, this is a twist on the King Midas legend, only everything that touches John’s lips turns to chocolate. At first this is wonderful, but, of course, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Yes, even chocolate.
The Year of Billy Miller. I bet you didn’t know the author of Lily and the Purple Plastic Purse also wrote chapter books. The Year of Billy Miller is a pitch-perfect account of the year in the life of a second grader. Billy has a stay-at-home dad (not something you usually see in books, but it just so happens we recently read Bobby the Brave, also with a SAHD!), school projects that present problems, sibling rivalry — in short all the typical family and social situations that children must learn to navigate as they grow up. Henkes (and Billy) handle it all with aplomb and good humor. There’s something very gentle and “old-fashioned” but timeless about this book and I think your kids will enjoy it.
Ragweed is the first book in Avi’s Tales of Dimwood Forest series. It is often overlooked in favor of Poppy, the next book because Poppy is the heroine of the rest of the series. In the interest of full disclosure I should inform you that poor Ragweed gets eaten by an owl in the first pages of Poppy. I know that sounds rather horrible and I was worried about my then-four year old’s reaction but other that asking a ton of questions, he seemed to handle it rather well. In any case, I hope that doesn’t put you off because Ragweed is a highly charismatic little mouse who sets off from the forest to see more of the world. He hops off the train in a town where he meets some hip new mice friends, starts a music club and outwits the local cats.
Other lists you will find useful:
- Chapter books with old-fashioned flair
- Over 50 chapter books to read aloud to preschoolers
- Summer read alouds (chapter books)
- Chapter books for independent reading (ages 7-10)
- Classics by the decade series
What chapter books are your reading aloud to your kids?