20 of the Best Read-Aloud Books for Kids
The best read-aloud books for kids are stories you can get lost in. They can be stories full of action, simple stories full of heart, and stories that feel like a warm blanket. Moreover, great read-aloud books help kids (and adults!) step into other worlds or to see themselves reflected. Everyone can benefit from participating in read-alouds.
As a former elementary school teacher, I remember my favorite part of every day was the time I spent reading aloud to my students. I loved gathering on the carpet and watching them lean in as if we were sharing a secret. I loved reading chapter books during stolen moments like the few minutes before lunch or those precious final moments of the school day. There was nothing quite like the moment when I’d stop and place a bookmark and all the students would protest and beg for one more page.
Whether you’re a teacher, a parent or caregiver, or another person fortunate enough to have kiddos they can read to, the books below are sure to delight.
The Best Read-Aloud Picture Books
For books you can read in one sitting, there’s no shortage of great picture books. Below are some of my personal favorites. If you want even more picture book ideas, check out these great read-aloud books for kindergarteners.
Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield and Jan Spivey Gilchrist
This is my number one favorite read-aloud book of all time. I loved reading it to children, and I still read it to my teacher education students every semester. The rhyming text makes it a rhythmic read and it’s full of loves we can all identify with — from country cousins to a water hose on a hot day.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz
Viorst’s classic tale of Alexander is one of the best read-aloud books for kids because it resonates with readers of all ages. Its honest depiction of “one of those days” allows us all to identify with the grumpy protagonist. Fortunately, things work out okay in the end, and we’re all reminded that everyone has bad days.
Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis
This is one of the most adorable fairytales I’ve ever read. It follows a prince in search of a bride, who ends up saving and being saved by a handsome knight. Of course, this cute rhyming tale ends with a happily ever after.
Clara Caterpillar by Pamela Duncan Edwards and Henry Cole
I love reading this book aloud because it gives me the opportunity to do all sorts of fun voices. Contented Clara, cute Cornelius, and catty Catisha can be easily brought to life by an enthusiastic reader. Additionally, the alliteration adds to the enjoyment of this tale with a valuable lesson at the end.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo
Rhyming books make great read-alouds. In this one, Byers reminds us that we are enough just as we are. Furthermore, the illustrations are absolutely fabulous and feature diverse children in everyday situations. It’s one of my favorite books to gift to my various niblings.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Who doesn’t love this classic tale of naughty Max, who gets in trouble for making mischief? Max’s mother sends him to his room without his supper as punishment. Nevertheless, he continues his wild behavior in an imaginary world of wild things. The simple text and amazing pictures make this a beloved must-read.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James
This is another story that is written as if it were meant to be read aloud. Barnes effortlessly captures the feeling of walking away from a haircut just knowing you look good. (Insert Beyoncé hair flip.) Additionally, this story captures an everyday (or every week) event for little Black boys and showcases its magic, reminding us of the importance of stories that center Black joy.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw
If you want to see me cry, ask me to read this book aloud. Love You Forever is a heartfelt love letter from mother to child. The story follows the child as he grows into a man, but his mother’s love never changes. Obviously, you’ll want to have tissues handy when reading this one.
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonal No Combina by Monica Brown and Sara Palacios
Marisol McDonald thinks peanut butter and jelly burritos are as normal as her Peruvian-Scottish-American family. Unfortunately, after repeatedly being told that aspects of her identity and interests don’t match, she tries to be “normal.” Luckily, Marisol has teachers and family members who encourage her to be herself and celebrate her uniqueness. This fun read-aloud book is written in both English and Spanish!
The Best Read-Aloud Chapter Books
Children of all ages can also enjoy the ongoing pleasure of longer read-alouds. Returning daily to a great chapter book can be a suspenseful treat; waiting to find out what happens next is exciting and fun. However, since it’s been about a century since I had children in my care long enough to read chapter books with, this list admittedly includes mostly older titles. For newer reads, check out this list of excellent chapter books.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Now a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, Wonder made quite the splash after its release in 2012. The story follows August, a boy with facial differences and medical issues that have kept him homeschooled for most of his life. Finally, August is headed to a mainstream school and it’s a challenge for him, his family, and his community. Ultimately, it’s a story about kindness and compassion.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Bear with me, because I know this is an oldie. I grew up reading these and I thought they were just hilarious. My second graders agreed. This book features silly stories about the kids of Wayside School — a school that was accidentally built sideways so that it’s 30 stories high with only one classroom per floor. The tales make for great quick and silly read-alouds.
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
Johnson packs mystery, relatable family drama, issues of race and sexuality, and puzzle-solving into this engaging story. Follow friends Candice and Brandon as they attempt to solve a decades-old mystery that will clear the name of Candice’s disgraced grandmother. Also, maybe they’ll find buried treasure? There’s something for everyone in this story that’ll keep readers hooked until the very end.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Inspired by a true story, The One and Only Ivan follows a gorilla who has spent 27 years of his life in a glass enclosure at a shopping mall. Told in the first-person by Ivan himself, this is one of the best read-aloud books for kids because of how easily Ivan and his friends endear themselves to readers. Furthermore, for fans of Ivan and friends, there’s a sequel, The One and Only Bob.
Melissa’s Story by Alex Gino
First, let me note that author Alex Gino has long regretted titling this book George and now refers to it as Melissa’s Story. The book follows Melissa as she tries to navigate a world where everyone sees her as a boy, but she knows that she is a girl. When her class prepares for a performance of Charlotte’s Web, Melissa knows that she would be the best Charlotte. With the help of her best friend Kelly, Melissa hatches a plan to show everyone the truth once and for all.
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhhá Lai
This touching novel in verse is inspired by the author’s own experiences growing up in America after fleeing Saigon and the Vietnam war. Since her father is missing in action, the family must make their way to safety without him. With her mother and three brothers, young Há migrates to Alabama. There she mourns her father, her home, and struggles to fit in with her classmates. Funny and touching, Há’s story is one of hope and resilience.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
If any book on this list needs no introduction, it’s Charlotte’s Web. This classic has been adapted into an animated feature and a live-action film, as well as a video game and a musical. Your young listeners will instantly fall in love with Wilbur, the runt of a pig who survives thanks to the love of one little girl and a clever spider. Keep the tissues handy, because this book is full of touching moments of friendship, love, life, and death.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
I remember reading this oldie-but-goodie with a group of second graders more than 75 years after its release and they were just as amused as readers must’ve been in 1938. When a poor house painter receives a surprise gift that turns out to be a penguin, hijinks ensue. This timeless silly story was adapted into a movie starring Jim Carrey in 2011.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Gifted kids and kind teachers everywhere consider this a favorite. Matilda is the story of a very smart girl with a not-so-ideal family. Nobody understands Matilda until she goes to school and meets Miss Honey. Just as Miss Honey helps Matilda to find herself, Matilda uses her unique powers to help Miss Honey stand up to the evil Principal Trunchbull. This hilarious and heartwarming story was made into an excellent movie in 1996 starring Danny DeVito, Rhea Pearlman, and Mara Wilson. (And that’s high praise because I’m a the-book-is-always-better person.)
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
This is a book I never got to read with children, but absolutely wish I had. Readers will fall in love with sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern. The girls have grown up in Brooklyn without their mother, who left them for a life in California. When they visit her they expect Hollywood and Disneyland, but instead end up at a summer camp run by the Black Panthers. This is undoubtedly one of the best read-aloud books for kids because it is funny, educational, and moving.