I'm frequently asked for children's chapter book recommendations (and boy do I love giving them!). Parents want both good books to read aloud and chapter books kids can read independently.
Last week I shared my favorite picture books to give as gifts but I don't want to neglect older kids! Giving your child the gift of a chapter book that you intend to read aloud is a wonderful gesture. These are some of my favorite selections with an old-fashioned flair. Whether they were published 50 years ago, or much more recently, I consider them to be classics. (Find more classic titles in the the index of all my book lists.)
All are great choices for read alouds, or independent reading for kids age 7 and up (depending on a child's reading level, of course). Think of a read aloud book as a family gift! Parents who are just getting started with reading aloud chapter books will benefit from reading Amy of Sunlit Pages' stellar tips on how help young kids love chapter books. (Note: I chose all these books because I love them. Titles and covers below are affiliate links. Happy reading!)
Modern and Classic Chapter Books for Kids:
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. This is possibly my favorite chapter book ever and I consider it a modern classic. Minli's family lives in poverty and Minli sets out on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon and change her family's destiny. Along the way she is accompanied by the Jade Dragon and her journey is filled with twist and turns of fate. Lin deftly weaves together Minli's quest, her father's stories and wonderful illustrations to create a memorable tale.
The Saturdays. This is the first book of Enright's Melendy Quartet. Four siblings living in pre-WWII New York City form the Saturday Club. They pool their allowances and each child takes a turn living out their dream adventure on successive Saturdays.
Three Tales of My Father's Dragon. Personally, I think My Father's Dragon is the absolute best book to make your first chapter read aloud. Since your child is going to demand to read the sequels, you might as well get all three in one go. It's also the easiest book on this list for independent readers.
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. My fifth grade teacher read this aloud to the class. I can still remember how eager I was for read aloud time every day around that worn out avocado green carpet. Three children set out on a journey through a magical land to find the shy and secretive Whangdoodle. If your child loves books about mythical places like Oz or Wonderland or even Hogwarts, this book will be a welcome gift.
The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread. DiCamillo's masterful tale weaves four stories about a mouse who falls in love with a princess, a rat who loves soup and a peasant girl who wants to become a princess. Sweet, touching, sophisticated and desperately wonderful, it is also a little bit dark.
Homer Price. Homer is a classic you can't resist. I'm mentioned him several times on the blog. Both my kids loved listening to this book as I read it to them. There was a lot for me to explain, like traveling salesman, and why horse and buggies, and cars would be on the same road, but the boys ate it all up.
The Enormous Egg. Both kids loved this book from the 1950s in which a chicken's egg hatches to reveal a baby triceratops. Nate Twitchell names his new pet Uncle Beazley. Caring for Uncle Beazley is not without it's ups and down. The dino can't help but get into trouble until one day its time to take him to the National Museum in Washington, D.C. If you have a child who you think is ready to listen to chapter book and he or she loves dinosaurs, try this charming, funny book on for size.
All-of-a-Kind Family. Sydney Taylor wrote a series of books about a Jewish family living in the Lower East Side of NYC around the turn of the (twentieth) century. The five girls have tech-free adventures such as going to Coney Island, looking for library books or visiting the market. One of the best things about these books is that life as a Jewish family is an integral part of the book but not the overriding concern.
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. It's hard to believe this book was written only a few years ago! It has all the charm of books like Betsy-Tacy or Anne of Green Gables. The Penderwicks rent a house for summer vacation and have such splendid adventures with the musically talented boy who lives in the "big house" you'd be hard pressed to remember they exist in the same world as cell phones and Wiis.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 . This book is surprisingly funny, something you might not expect with the phrase "Birmingham -- 1963" in the title. The Watsons live in Michigan but 9 year old Kenny's brother Byron can't seem to stay out of trouble so the family goes on a trip to Alabama where the grandmother lives. As you might imagine, the events of Birmingham and racism is present throughout the book but Curtis handles the difficult subject matter intelligently and the family members' love for each other is the true focus of the story.
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More reading lists with old-fashioned style books:
- If You Liked this Classic Book, You'll Love these Diverse Books
- Books for kids who like Anne of Green Gables
- Books for kids who like Beverly Cleary
- Books like Little House on the Prairie