Reading aloud to second graders, whether it's in a classroom setting or at home before bedtime is so much fun. It's a great age for listening because 2nd graders have longer attention spans, an increased understanding of rich vocabulary, not to mention how they love to voice their thoughtful insights!
This list includes popular 2nd grade read aloud books as well as a few new-to-you books that are worth checking out.
Many of the books on this list are animal stories, but I've included some realistic fiction (of the human-protagonist sort) chapter books. Reading these books aloud (especially if you use expressive and silly voices) can get 2nd graders excited about picking up the next books in the series to read on their own.
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1. Bless this Mouse by Lois Lowry
A group of mice lives in Saint Bartholemew's church. Mouse Mistress Hildegarde looks after her community of furry friends, making sure they stay out of sight. When one of the mice is spotted by humans, the mice must come up with a clever plan to thwart an extermination on the eve of the Feast of Saint Francis. Lowry's clever storytelling has just the right amount of suspense and action for a 2nd grade audience.
2. The Remarkable Rescue at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos
Generation of bunnies have handed down stories and teachings about survival and now it's time for Butternut and her nine siblings to live by those life lessons. Butternut befriends Piper, an robin with a penchant for alliteration, and starts to question her family's stories. The two meet an injured fawn, a pushy blue jay and set out to cooperate on a rescue. I love the details about the natural world and the charming personalities of the anthropomorphized animals.
3. The Very, Very Far North (series) by Dan Bar-El
It seems I just can't stop putting this book on read aloud book lists! Duane the polar bear has a curiosity and sense of adventure that leads him first to a shipwreck where he meets C.C. the owl. He then encounters even more new friends like Handsome the musk ox, Magic the arctic fox, and Major Puffin. Together, they explore the wonders of the northern landscape. The cast of animals is as diverse in their personalities as they are in species, and the thread of the story focuses on learning to appreciate one's friends.
4. Pugs of the Frozen North (A Not-So-Impossible Tale series) by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
Here's a great choice for kids who love quirky humor. A shipping accident leaves a gaggle of pugs stranded in the snowy, frozen north. They are saved and adopted by a pair of kids, Sika and Shen. Sika and Shen harness the pugs in attempt to win the Great Northern Race, which ends at the home of a mythical man called Snowfather. There are many shenanigans along the race, including a bizarre encounter with noodle-loving creatures!
5. Little Dog Lost by Marion Dane Bauer
If you are looking for a way to show kids the power of storytelling in verse, look no further. Little Dog, Lost is an utterly charming story. Three plot points: a boy who needs a dog, a dog who needs an owner and a neighbor who needs friends come together in an extremely satisfying story. For me, the cadence of the free verse made this book even easier to read aloud than prose. The story is heartfelt and engaging while still providing kids (and parents!) the opportunity to contemplate and discuss ideas like the importance of community and companionship. I read it aloud to my 6 and 10 year olds and we all throughly enjoyed it. Also Read the companion novel: Little Cat's Luck
6. Wedgie and Gizmo (series) by Suzanne Selfors, illustrated by Barbara Fisinger
I had great fun drawing upon my silly voices superpower when reading this hilarious book aloud to my son. Narration alternates between Gizmo, the self-proclaimed evil genius guinea pig, and Wedgie the rather dim-witted corgi who become part of the same household when their families merge. Selfors absolutely nails the personalities of the two creatures and your children will be rolling on the floor in tears of laughter. You'll never be able to say the phrase, "furry potato," with a straight face again.
7. Invisible Inkling (series) by Emily Jenkins
Somehow, an invisible (not imaginary) bandapat from the Peruvian Woods of Mystery has made it to Brooklyn, where he is now dragging Hank in all sorts of adventures. This series is very funny and my kids have enjoyed it both as a read aloud and as an independent read. Emily Jenkins is one of my favorite authors (her Toys Go Out series is also an excellent choice for 2nd grade).
8. Freddy the Detective (series) by Walter R. Brooks
Find it: Your Library | Amazon
This is a wonderful and funny classic book from 1932. I wish Freddy the Pig got more attention that he does because my sons loved this book. After reading Sherlock Holmes, Freddy decides to try his hand at barnyard sleuthing. After a bit of success (some of it hilariously accidental), some of the other animals realize that the jail is actually more cushy than the outdoors. While reading it, I couldn't help but compare it to my kids' other favorite pig, Nanny Piggins. The humor in Freddy, while charmingly silly is much less over-the-top ridiculous than Nanny Piggins, but both are wonderful read aloud books!
9. The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton
Folktales are universally loved and a collection of short stories is a nice way to switch up read aloud time. Celebrated children’s author, Virginia Hamilton, wrote this wonderful collection of Black American folktales. There are several categories of tales ranging from animal trickster legends, stories of the supernatural and tales of freedom. At the end of each short story, Hamilton includes her notes on the origin of the tale and its dialect.
10. The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Find it Your Library | Amazon
In Holland, Lina and her friends wonder why there are no longer any storks in their village. They work together to build a nest for the birds on the school, and in doing so discover their individual and collective strengths. I remember loving this book as a kid. When I picked it up as a read aloud, I expected my kids to find it boring. Au contraire! 1955 Newbery Award Winner.
11. The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepúlveda
I read this book to both my boys (then aged 7 and 11) at dinner and the story charmed us. A injured bird wants to save her progeny so she lands on a balcony and extracts a promise from Zorba, the resident cat, to look after her egg. The cat, unsure how to care for the egg, consults the several of his neighborhood cat friends to help him. The menagerie of colorful characters take their research and duties seriously and together they keep the egg safe, raise the tiny hatchling and somehow manage to teach it how to fly. Wonderful.
12. The Little Witch by Ofried Preußler
First published in 1957, a number of Preußler's children's novels have been released in translation by the New York Review Children's Collections. I recommend them all! After sneaking away from Walpurgis Night, the other witches take away Little Witch's broomstick as punishment. In order to get it back, she must exhibit witch-worthy behavior for a year. But the little witch finds out that she likes being a good witch much better! The way she manages to be a good witch in every sense made for a very satisfying ending.
13. Dragons in a Bag (series) by Zetta Elliott
One day, Jaxon's mom leaves him in the care of Ma, a woman who he thinks is his grandmother, but who is actually a witch on a baby dragon delivery mission. Ma takes Jaxon on as her apprentice and they travel to a magical world. When they are set to return to Brooklyn, Ma is accidentally left behind and Jaxon enlists the help of his friends to take care of the baby dragons and rescue Ma.
14. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
I suspect I don't need to give you a synopsis of this well-known story of a boy who goes for the ride of his life inside a giant peach. My son's teachers read this to the class in both 1st and 2nd grades. Every day when I picked him up from school he eagerly told me what happened in the chapter of the day.
15. Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Julianna Swaney
The Book Uncle is a friendly gentlemen who helps children in India find just the right book at the street corner lending library he runs. This is a terrific chapter book about one girl's determination to stand up and protest against the corrupt politicians who threaten to put Book Uncle out of business. Yasmin's story will start an important conversation about the value of community involvement and inspire your kids to work towards a goal.
16. Og the Frog (series) by Betty G. Birney
My son has long loved the Humphrey Hamster series and we were so excited to discover that Birney has a companion series about Og the Frog, Humphrey's fellow classroom pet. Og dreams of returning to his native habitat but when the class decides to research whether or not they should keep him or return him to the wild, Og has second thoughts. After all, he's come to think of the children as his friends. This is a wonderful, gentle and funny read aloud that is suitable as a read aloud for younger kids, too.
17. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards
I recall my own classroom teachers reading this aloud to the students! Three siblings travel to a magical land with the help of their "scrappy caps" and a wise Professor. Along the way they meet some fantastical creatures, some of whom do not want them to arrive at their destination, but the supposed villain turns out not to be so menacing after all.
18. Appleblossom the Possum by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This clever and charming tale of young possum siblings making their way in the world is a joy to read aloud. The story turned out to be surprisingly funny, too! Mama Possum teaches her children about how performance is an integral part of life as a possum and they all practice their acting skills, which come in handy on many occasions. When Appleblossom falls down a chimney and is adopted by a girl with a longing for an attentive pet, her brothers enlist the help of their wayward dad and dance-floor loving mom to rescue her. I adored all the theater references and loved how much my boys laughed throughout the story.
19. The Sheep, the Rooster and the Duck by Matt Phelan
Young children will love this quirky historical fantasy that includes anthropomorphized animals alongside recognizable figures like Benjamin Franklin and Marie Antoinette. The action is set in 1783 after the launching of the first hot air balloon and the three animals who flew in the balloon continue their careers as spies. The story is great fun, with lots of adventure and humor. Some of the action is conveyed through Phelan's trademark graphite cartoon panels and the novel is short enough to please everyone.
20. A Dragon Used to Live Here by Annette LeBlanc Cate
This is a great book for kids who love fairy tales, knights and dragons and for grown-ups who enjoy witty writing and metafictional banter. One day, while at archery practice, Thomas and Emily wander into a castle basement, where they meet a cranky scribe named Meg. Meg is supervising the production of party invitations and quickly puts the two noble siblings to work. While Thomas and Emily write, Meg regales them with maybe-true stories of their mother and her encounters with dragons and other creatures. Lots of clever fun.
21. 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos (series) by Vivian Vande Velde, illustrated by Steve Björkman
After ten years, this remains one of the funniest books we've ever read aloud. 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. Reading the pets' different perspectives on the ruckus is extremely entertaining! Don't forget to use your silly voices!
22. The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
Once upon a time 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 him off 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. As it turns out, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, even chocolate.
23. Badir and the Beaver by Shannon Stewart, illustrated by Christian Down
One day Badir, a recent Tunisian immigrant to Canada, spots a beaver. He is entranced by the animal, which he thinks is a large swimming rat. Badir soon learns that the beaver is the national animal of Canada and that some residents want the "pest" removed from the park because of damage to trees. Badir and his friends rally to learn all they can about beavers and help the animal. Stewart deftly weaves themes of belonging and cultural diversity into this marvelous early chapter book.
24. Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary
If you've read all the Ramona books, head back to the library shelves and pick up a copy of Ellen Tebbits. We recently re-listened to the audiobook and it struck me that while Ellen may not get into as much trouble as Ramona, it is somewhat easier to relate to Ellen than Ramona. Her struggles are more everyday than Ramona's, and include a desire to please her teacher, her heartbreak over a quarrel with her best friend, and trying to avoid embarrassment during ballet class.
25. Firefly Hollow by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Christopher Denise
Our family enjoyed this book about a quartet of characters who are all searching to become something more than what they are right now. Firefly wants to fly to the moon, Cricket wants to learn to catch. The boy Peter needs to overcome his sadness and Vole wants to be brave enough to sail away on his boat. It is their dreams that bring them together. There are also lovely, colorful illustrations that make you feel as though you are in Firefly Hollow, yourself.
26. The Adventures of Miss Petitfour (series) by Anne Michaels
Here's a delightful collection of stories about the winsome Miss Petifour and her sixteen cats, "Minky, Misty, Taffy, Purrsia, Pirate, Mustard, Moutarde, Hemdela, Earring, Grigorovitch, Clasby, Captain Captain, Captain Catkin, Captain Clothespin, Your Shyness and Sizzles." (My son loved reciting the names during their frequent appearances.) Miss Petifour travels from place to place with the help of a large tablecloth and a burst of wind. Her cats go with her, hanging on in line formation. Each of the quirky stories, such as the search for a missing postage stamp, or a trip to the jumble sale, stands alone, for a satisfying read aloud session. The content is appropriate for all ages and lovely little drawings will charm everyone.
27. Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones
This was a favorite of mine when I was a girl. With a few found objects, Twig transforms her corner of Chicago into an imaginary, fairytale world. A little Elf who comes out of a book, shrinks her down to size so she can join the fairies... for a while. So sweet and charming it's hard not to love this book. A great read aloud for fairy-loving kids.
MORE: Gentle Read Aloud Books
28. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Red, the 200-plus year old tree, narrates this tale. From her perspective we learn about a celebration in May in which the town inhabitants come to tie their wishes to the tree. We learn about the animals who take shelter in Red, the past neighbors who have found solace in Red, and we see Samar, a lonely girl who comes to spend time at the tree. When a boy hangs messages of hate about Samar on the tree, Red begins to communicate with the animals to intervene and bring hope back to the community. Wonderful.
29. Saucy by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Marianna Raskin
Becca and her three brothers are quadruplets. One day, Becca finds a tiny, mangy little pig and convinces her parents to let her bring it home. Once the family learns from the vet that the pig will eventually be 600 pounds, they agree to allow the pig to stay until it reaches 100, or "maybe 50-60," as her mother warns. As Becca learns to take care of the pig, she also reflects upon some of the choices she has made in life, especially in regards to a friend she feels she has let down. One of the children has cerebral palsy, adding an additional human detail to the family. This is a great family story and Kadohata's narration is superb, as always.
30. Knight of the Cape (Definitely Dominguita series) by Terry Catasus Jennings, illustrated by Fátima Anaya
This is a great chapter book series with an indomitable, book-loving heroine. In the first book of the series, Dominguita's abuela has just moved away and Dom loves reading Don Quixote, abuela's favorite book. It makes her feel closer to abuela. Dom attempt to set out on some knightly adventures of her own and prove to the class bully that girls can be knights. Your 2nd graders will want to pick up the rest of the books in the series to read about Dominguita's further adventures