Read Aloud Chapter Books for 4 and 5 (and 6) Year Olds

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.

List of 10 great chapter books to read aloud to 4, 5 and 6 (and up!) year olds

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.

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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:

What chapter books are your reading aloud to your kids?

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Comments

  1. We’ve been reading lots of chapter books lately to Sprout (age 4 1/2). His recent faves are Socks by Cleary, the Mouse and the Motorcycle series by Cleary, Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Atwater. We just started A Bear Called Paddington last night and so far, he’s hooked! Oh, and the Toys Go Out series is one we read based on your recommendation and it’s one of our top picks, hands-down (I think we’ll be reading it again!).

  2. A lot of these sound perfect for my action- and laughter-loving 6-year-old. I always start off chapter book reading with Ramona and All-of-a-Kind Family, which both my girls loved. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was a hit with both of them too. My older daughter had a lot of patience for “quieter” books but my younger one doesn’t. Tumtum and Nutmeg has proven to be a success with her.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      Oh yes, they loved Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. We read that two years ago, maybe it is time for a repeat — or we could read an additional book from that series.

  3. Oh, and in my search of the NYPL for these, I discovered there is an adult ROMANCE called The Chocolate Touch!!

  4. Thank you so much for this book list I”m constantly on the lookout for interesting chapter books to read to my 5 year old. He’s been ready for longer, more interesting story lines for quite a while but many of the books he finds intersting (written for middle graders) have subject matter that’s scary or causes him to worry. I’m excited to have more options. I’d also like to recommend The Imaginary Veterinary books books by Suzanne Selfors. They’re written for middle graders but are great for a younger crowd, too. Nothing too scary or adult. They are filled with all sorts of fun, imaginary creaters like Sasquatch, Dragons, Leprechans, etc. There are currenly 3 books in the series (book 4 due out in July). My son loves them. We’ve read them mulitple times and are anxiously awaiting the 4th book.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      I’m familiar with Suzanne Selfors but I haven’t read any of those books. Thank you so much for the recommendations. Take a look at some of the other lists at the bottom of the post, you should find more appropriate books on those lists, too!

  5. Thanks for putting together this list :)
    We also like Anna Hibiscus. Well illustrated first chapter books that we like are Dixie O’Day: Life in the Fast Lane by Clara Vulliamy and we’ve just started reading the Claude books by Alex T. Smith. Going back to my childhood books we are also enjoying Teddy Robinson and the My Naughty Little Sister stories.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      I do love Anna Hibiscus! I’ve not heard of the others you mention, thanks for the recommendations.

  6. Oooh! Can’t wait to read your list. We love My Father’s Dragon but most are new to us! Thanks Erica!

  7. There are some new ones for me on here, and I can’t wait to check them out! We just finished an Emil book by Astrid Lindgren and both my preschooler and toddler loved it. Thanks for the suggestions!

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      Yes, Emil is great! That’s on our chapter books for preschoolers list. The Lotta series by Astrid Lindgren is great, too.

  8. Summer of the monkeys….best book we ever read out loud….but movie is awful :(

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      I’ve never heard of the book or the movie! Thanks for the recommendation, Bridget — and the warning :)

  9. Links to these books would be awesome! My boys are 3 and 4 1/2. Looking to start doing this. Thanks!

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      I’m not sure what you mean, Ginny. There are links in the post to each of the books on Amazon. If you are reading the post on a mobile device maybe they are not showing up.

  10. Thanks so much! Was looking for one to get us started. I’ve tried a few and he has not remained interested so am going to try out “My Father’s Dragon” and hope we’ll start a trend! :)

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      It is such a great choice. If you’ve only just started chapter books, I think the list chapter books for preschoolers (suitable for 3-6 year olds on up) will also be really useful for you. There is a link to that list at the bottom of the post.

  11. I love My Father’s Dragon! We’ll have to check out some of these others. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Jennifer @ Generation iKid

  12. Librarian Lauren says:

    I read Ragweed as an adult. Then tried to read Poppy. Wasn’t expecting Ragweed’s demise so quickly and with so little ado. Couldn’t finish it. One example of where kids are perhaps more resilient than adults.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      I was quite surprised by Ragweed’s sudden demise, too. I would love to have heard the conversation between Avi and his editor! I do love Poppy, too, though and we ended up reading the rest of the series — except for one of them which we still need to get from the library.

  13. I remember reading The Chocolate Touch when I was a kid and loving it. Last year, I went looking for it for my 6 year old son. I couldn’t remember the name, I thought it was Chocolate Midas, until a librarian recognized the storyline for me. My son found it a bit intimidating at first, since it looked text heavy. But my kids enjoyed my reading it out loud. Later, I found him thumbing thru it and rereading the parts that’s he found the most riveting. :D

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      I love it when my kids flip through the books after we have finished reading them aloud. Then I know I was successful in picking a good book!

  14. The teachers and kindergarten class at my school love Catherine Cooper’s “Golden Acorn” series. It’s like Harry Potter, but not as scary. My daughters ages 5 and 10 love them, too!

  15. I love this list! Thanks so much for sharing. There are a lot of new ones here for me. A few favorites of our family that immediately come to mind are Lois Lowry’s Gooney Bird Greene series and Half Magic by Edward(?) Eager. I’d love to have you join our book-loving community any Thursday you wish at Booknificent Thursdays on Mommynificent.com. Please come and link up this post and others like it!
    Tina

  16. Samantha says:

    I went to our public library this morning to check out The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. All that they had were adapted versions. They said they were glad that I pointed out that they didn’t have the original and they are going to order it. Your blog post has made this book available to many more kids now :)

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      Thank you SO MUCH for telling me that! And hooray for libraries who listen to their patrons!

  17. This is such a great list! Most of which I haven’t heard of. I’m “newish” to children’s chapter books since my oldest is only 4. Recently we started peeling through the Magic Tree House series and he really loves them. I notice he kinda stares into space as I read and then perks up when there’s a page with a picture…. I’m sure this is normal, and I know he’s listening and retaining because I ask him questions. But, it seems like he’s still being anchored by the pictures… so my question is whether or not the above mentioned books have the occasional page with a picture? Thanks again!

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      Nicole, My son also perks up when there are pictures! All of these books do have pictures, but probably the best for you are My Father’s Dragon and Wizard of Oz. Most of these books are a higher level than MTH, so you might find better selections on my chapter books for preschoolers list (there’s a link in the post above). But definitely read My Father’s Dragon, next!!!

  18. Here’s another one for you to consider, It falls within your guidelines of being a ‘middle reader level’ chapter book for reading aloud to age 8 and under. It’s not too scary and has active and independent boy and girl characters. And who doesn’t enjoy talking to their child like a pirate?
    “Pirates’ Gold” by D. Goodknight Hanley

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CMI0TKE

  19. Thanks for this awesome list. I just read The Chocolate Touch to my class of 7/8 year olds in Auckland, New Zealand. We really enjoyed it and it wasn’t too hard to get through with only time for one chapter a day. Next we’ll try My Father’s Dragon.

    • Erica MomandKiddo says:

      That’s great to hear! I’m glad the book is popular on the other side of the world, too. :)

  20. Somehow I missed this list when you originally posted it. I’m so glad you put it up on Facebook. There are several books on this list I haven’t heard of, and I’m excited to explore them with my kids!

  21. Love your list of best read aloud books. My two boys are aged 4 and 6 and haven’t read a lot of these. I put together a similar list at my website, http://www.excitedkids.com and I will add a link to this page as I am sure my readers will enjoy your site. Thanks

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