Is it fair to say I have a lot of book lists? I find it rather hard to believe that I’ve curated over 100 lists of totally awesome books. (By the way, you can find them my lists indexed in the books for kids master list.) So, I understand that it can seem overwhelming to sort through them to find a few read aloud chapter books that are perfect for just you.
Never fear! Whether you are new to this site or a long time reader (waves hello!) I’ve selected an essential read aloud for every type of parent. I’ve also included books for different aged children, so while some are appropriate for kids as young as 3 or 4, others are better for kids 8 and up.
While making this list I found it nearly IMPOSSIBLE to choose just one book for each category. I have included links to related book lists should you wish to explore further. If you don’t see your “parent type” on the list, let me know in the comments. I want to make another list like this!
(Note: Book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
PARENTS WHO NEED SHORT STORIES
Milly Molly Mandy. This is a cheerful, wholesome and charming collection of timeless stories about a young girl and how she goes through her first experiences like spending her pennies, sleeping away from home and looking after a hedgehog. Darling.
Shorter chapter books can be found on my very popular list of 50+ chapter books for preschoolers.
PARENTS WHO ADORE ANIMALS
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children. This is a collection of longer stories rather than a true chapter book, but lovely, comforting tales and beautiful illustrations will charm your young animal lover as well as parents.
You can find more titles on my list of early chapter books about animals.
PARENTS WHO ARE HISTORY BUFFS
Catherine, Called Birdy.In the 13th century, 14-year-old Catherine, the daughter of a landed knight, has a little more gumption than a girl in her times is supposed to have. Her father is trying to marry her off to enrich his coffers but she would rather run around with the peasants on the manor and thwart his efforts. This short novel is told in a diary format and does not sugar-coat life in Medieval England.
I’m working on a list of historical fiction but if you fancy classics, then take a peek at my list of 19th century classics.
PARENTS WHO ARE REALLY INTO SPORTS
The Crossover has received a lot of press lately because it won the 2015 Newberry. I admit it took me a long time to get around to reading it because, well… I didn’t think I would find the whole basketball thing interesting. Do not be as foolish as I was! Kwame Alexander’s wonderful tale about twin brothers is touching, relatable and extraordinarily engaging. Josh narrates his story of coming to terms with his brother’s new girlfriend, sibling rivalry, the pressure and joy of playing ball and his relationship with his father. This book does have a sad ending and I recommend it for kids ages 10 and up.
Also see this list: Sports themed novels for kids
PARENTS WHO RELISH BEING OVERLY DRAMATIC (that’s me!)
Zorgamazoo is hard to resist reading out loud with crazy, crazy voices! Weston’s novels are written in lively, creative verse. The fast-paced, clever, rhyming story follows Katrina Katrell, who runs away from her evil guardian, and alights on an adventure with a strange creature called a Zorgle from Zorgamazoo. A complicated mystery, with bizarre and hilarious characters follow. Winner of the 2009 E.B White Read Aloud Award.
PARENTS WHO EMBRACE SILLINESS (that’s me, too!)
The Adventures of Nanny Piggins is one of the funniest books I’ve read. This popular Australian import is a series about three siblings whose father is so frugal he hires a pig to take care of them. Nanny Piggins is no Mary Poppins, however. The enthusiastic circus pig thinks school is overrated, chocolate is a food group and takes the kids on “marvelous adventures.” This is a great book for kids (and adults) who enjoy Roald Dahl, and over-the-top, subversive humor and plain, good fun. If you prefer moral didacticism, move on.
Find more silliness on my list of 100 funny chapter books.
PARENTS WHO PREFER REALISM
Not into Harry Potter or Roald Dahl? I can’t really relate but I promise not to judge if you pick up this awesome book.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963. Well-behaved 9 year old Kenny and his not-so-well behaved 13 year old brother, Byron, navigate family (the “Weird Watsons” as Kenny refers to them) and school life in Michigan until their parents decide that Byron needs to spend the summer with Grandma down in Alabama. Together they set off on a road trip. Shortly after arriving in Birmingham that community is devastated by the infamous church bombing. If you are avoiding this book because you worry about your kids being distressed over the heinousness of that historical event I would urge you to reconsider. Curtis handles the theme of racial tension so well (and it’s not the main focus of the book, family life is the main theme), that I have no reservations recommending this book for kids ages 8 and up. This is the third time I have included this book on a list, which means you must put it in your to-read stack!
PARENTS WHO DREAM IN FAIRY TALES
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin flips the fairy tale “Rumplestiltskin” on its head. Instead of being the villain, Rump, as he is known has always felt like half a person because he doesn’t even know his full name! He and his grandma scrape by on the meager rations provided by the miller in exchange for the gold he finds in the mine. One day Rump discovers that he can spin straw into gold, but it turns out not to be the blessing that he thought it might be. He goes on a journey to find out who he is and how he can get control over his magic. I thought Rump was a wonderfully drawn character. He had many, many flaws and quite a bit of self-doubt but as a reader I found him relatable. The author does a great job of making a character whom we normal loathe into a sympathetic creature.
PARENTS WHO LOVE A GOOD CRY
Out of My Mind. Full disclosure: I cried a few buckets of tears while reading this book. That said, I read it from a mother’s point of view and I believe a child’s point of view will be totally different. (There’s a truism for you.) In fact, it is a very positive book. Melody is an 11 year old with cerebral palsy. She has never spoken and can perform almost no physical movement. The school and doctors claim she is also mentally disabled but her mother insists Melody is intelligent. Her mother is right. Melody has a photographic memory and is smarter than any of the other kids. Melody narrates her story, sharing her frustrations and triumphs, and when she gets a communication device and others can finally appreciate her for who she is, not for who she is not. This is another book I read straight through. I think it would be a great read aloud with your older kids, but have tissues ready, because even if your child is focused on Melody’s experiences, you will be bawling.
For more tears and tissues, check out the titles on my list of chapter books that teach empathy.
PARENTS WHO ENJOY RELIVING THEIR CHILDHOOD
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is the first in Blume’s Fudge series about Peter Hatcher and his 2 year old kid brother, “Fudge.” Older siblings everywhere will relate to Peter’s exasperation at his messy, loud, trouble making brother, especially since Peter seems to get the lion’s share of blame.
Note: I chose this book because it was written in the 70s so parents like me remember reading it our own childhood. I have a book list for every decade of the 20th century, so you can find your favorites so matter when you were born. Click here for more: Classics by the Decade
PARENTS WHO WANT TO RAISE GLOBALLY CONSCIOUS KIDS
Rickshaw Girl. This is another short book which I initially put on an early chapter book list. I think Kiddo will now understand more about the micro-finance aspect of the book and I’m hoping to use it to spark a conversation about the role of women in different cultures. In Bangladesh, Naimi feels frustrated that as a girl she is constantly told she cannot work to earn money for her family. When she accidentally ruins her father’s rickshaw she disguises herself as a boy and meets someone who will change her life.
For more like this check out all my lists of multicultural picture and chapter books
PARENTS WHO DESIRE MORAL STORIES
I honestly don’t think about the “morality” of stories when I choose books, and in truth, any book will spark a discussion about what is right and wrong. However, if you are looking for a book with a “lesson” here’s a good one to start with.
The Hundred Dresses. Eleanor Estes’ 1945 book deals with bullying, poverty and courage. A classic, moving story that should be on everyone’s shelves.
PARENTS WHO VALUE THE CLASSICS
All-of-a-Kind Family is a classic series about a Jewish family with five girls growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City in the early 20th century. This book is on every “must read books” list you can imagine and the old-school adventures of the family are heart-warming and entertaining. Not to be missed by any child.
PARENTS WHO CRAVE NOVELTY
Try a book in verse! You won’t regret it.
Gone Fishing: A novel. 9 year old Sam loves fishing with his dad, which is why he is horrified when his he learns his little sister is to tag along on this trip! (Never mind that later she commits the sin of catching more fish than he!) Wissinger composes the story with different types of poems. Odes, haiku, quatrains, tercet, and more all come together to tell the story in multiple voices. This book has loads of illustrations and is great fun. There is even a handy author’s note describing the different poetic forms she uses.
Find more chapter books written in verse here.
PARENTS WHO SEEK ADVENTURE
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. Don’t forget its companion book, Starry River of the Sky.
For younger children try these fun adventure early chapter books.
You can always find all our book lists on the master list.