Whether you are planning for family read aloud time at home, or for time in the classroom, the start of the school year is a great time to choose a few read aloud books for 4th grade. I think you'll enjoy this selection of books that will entertain your kids with gasps of surprise, giggles of laughter or white-knuckle gripping of the couch cushions. I have included chapter books that cover a variety of topics and which will encourage kids to learn about experiences different from their own.
Some of these 4th grade read alouds are funny, others are historical, some cover difficult topics, but they are all compelling and engaging. Although I'm calling this a book list for 4th graders, these books are appropriate for all kids over the age of 9, so share them with your 5th, 6th and 7th graders, too! The books will be equally loved by kids, parents and teachers alike. (P.S. More book lists at the end of this post.) (Note: covers and titles are affiliate links.)
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. I like to recommend this book as a 4th grade read aloud because let's be honest... not too many 10 year olds are going to get excited when you hand them a book and say, "Here's a great book about making pottery in 12th century Korea." But great, it is. Tree-Ear, an orphan, lives under the bridge with the disabled Crane-man. The two survive from day to day but Tree-Ear is fascinated by the local revered potter, Min. Circumstances collide and Tree-Ear becomes Min's apprentice. Tree-Ear must learn patience, an appreciation for hard work, as well as suffer Min's bad temper. When Min sets about creating pottery to impress an emissary, Tree-Ear is determined to help him succeed and undergoes an important, life-changing journey. An utterly fantastic book.
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate tackles childhood poverty and homelessness. It is an important book and will encourage well-off kids to have compassion for others, as well as allow underprivileged kids to be heard. Crenshaw is 10 year old Jackson's imaginary friend. Jackson's family has fallen on hard times and Jackson is frustrated with his parent's inability to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. Crenshaw offers Jackson a way to work through his emotions and helps him realize he doesn't have to feel responsible for everything. This book does not gloss over the difficulties that millions of children face everyday but Crenshaw adds in a bit of humor.
A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Mia has synesthesia, a condition in which the 5 senses overlap. It can manifest itself in different ways. For Mia, sounds, letter and numbers all have colors. No one believes her and her neurodiversity causes her difficulty at school. She finally gets a name for her experience and meets others like her, but struggles with the death of her beloved cat, Mango. This book is sure to start all sorts of conversations about what it's like to experience the world in a way outside the "normal."
The War that Saved My Life. Wow. This was a great book! Ada, born with a club foot, has never left the apartment that she shares with her younger brother and cruel mother. When her mother sends her brother out of London to the countryside at the start of WWII, Ada runs away with him. In the country they begin to make a new life with Susan, a woman who reluctantly takes them in. The three of them form a bond and Ada finally gets to truly live. This is one of the best books I have read in recent months, with interesting historical details and a compelling narrative voice.
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.
Firstborn is by Tor Seidler, the author of The Wainscott Weasel, one of our favorite read alouds of 2015. Initially my 11 year old read this book and after he pronounced it “awesome!”, his younger brother insisted I read it. We actually ended up listening to it on audiobook, and my 7 year old and I agreed with the “awesome” assessment. Maggie the Magpie narrates the story of how she leaves her home and meets a group of wolves. Maggie is impressed with the wolves and decides to cast her lot with them. Her description of the wolves’ behavior is fascinating, as well as her admiration for one the the firstborn wolves, Lamar, who exhibits non-wolf like interests. This is a truly wonderful book for kids who are interested in the natural world, but the story also abounds in examples of the harsh realities of the natural world. So if you don’t want to read about eating prey, premature death or the thrill of the hunt, this is not the book for you.
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher made me laugh out loud. A family of 2 dads and 4 adopted sons (all together they span several ethnicities and religions) lead a rather disordered and hilarious lifestyle. The boys all have different personalities, which could lend themselves to stereotypes, but thankfully do not. After finishing this book I wanted to move right in to the Fletcher household, if only to try out their DIY hockey rink. (You'll have to read it to find out.)
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt address the age-old wish for everlasting life. The Tuck family, having drunk from an enchanted water source have discovered that living forever is not as great as it sounds. Winnie, a 10 year old girl who decides to run away meets the Tuck family and discovers their secret. A mysterious Man in the Yellow Suit also discovers the secret and pursues the magical water in search of profit. Winnie must help the Tuck family stay hidden and decide for herself if she wants everlasting life. A beautifully written classic story.
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis is the funny and poignant story of Deza Malone and her family as they struggle during the Great Depression. I listened to this on audiobook and it was quite wonderful. Deza is a likable, smart protagonist who observes the ironies, joys and hardships around her. Her scamp of a brother, Jimmie has a gorgeous singing voice and could become a star if he could just stay out of trouble. Her father survives a boating accident, not fully intact, and when he moves away to find employment the rest of the family must go in search of him. Curtis paints a vivid portrait of the 1930s filled with interesting characters.
The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long. Mysteries make fantastic read alouds as they keep kids on the edge of their seats. And when the mysteries are full of colorful characters, dastardly villians, intrepid maybe-maybe-not princesses and pickpocketing squirrels so much the better. Maggie, an orphan with a crooked leg, is horrified when her adopted guardian decides to marry her off to a wretched older man with terrible breath and so she decides to pursue a vision she saw in a magic mirror. Several journeys are woven together in the tale, with everyone converging at the end. Fortunately there is a fun map so that readers can follow each party as the travel towards their destination.
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. Annabelle lives comfortably on the family farm in a small Pennsylvanian town. She has befriended an unusual but kind man, Toby, a WWI veteran who lives in an abandoned smokehouse behind their property. Annabelle's life is thrown into confusion when the mean-spirited Betty moves to the town and begins to bully Annabelle and then Toby. This is a powerful, moving, memorable and complex book about truth, lies, kindness, and community. I read it straight through without putting it down, something that rarely happens these days!
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I hate to be so predictable and put this book on the list, but it is truly a wonderful read aloud. 11 year old August is nervous about starting a school and making friends but he has the incredible support of his parents and his sister, and Palacio also explores the experience of growing up as the sibling of a special needs child . August’s captivating journey, which is both funny and moving, is the journey of his entire family.
More lists for your 9-12 year old:
- Chapter books that teach empathy
- 100 funny chapter books
- Chapter books about diverse families
- 9 Books for 9 year olds
- 10 books for 10 year olds
- 4th grade summer reading list
- View the index of our book lists for kids