Reading aloud to children enters into my Top Ten List of the favorite things I LOVE about reading. In the classroom , it definitely garners a position in the Top Five. Can’t be a teacher without it, even in the upper grades.
Regardless of the kind of day we were having, a Read-Aloud always seemed to be an antidote to one type of angst or another ~ as a class or as an individual.
Chapter Books are an especially wonderful way to engage interaction, whether silently or out loud. The anticipation of surprise, emotions, humor, and imagination are powerful elements when bonding with a listener.
When deciding which of the MANY wonderful Chapter Books I would recommend for a Read ~ Aloud to children between the ages of 5 & 8, it occurred to me that some of these books I read to Kindergartners became Independent reading books to my Third graders……
So, this is the TOP 20 Chapter Books List I Read ~ Aloud that stayed with my children as they got older. Many are classic stories that continue to engage children, even in this day & age. Some are hilarious. Some are funny & sad. Some are fantasy. Some are real-life fiction. Some are based on historical & scientific facts. All the books have memorable characters with lessons to be learned.
The First 10 are Chapter Books under 100 pages with short chapters. They can be lead-ins to Second & Third Graders Independent readers.
The Second 10 Chapter Books have between 150 & 200 pages. They are more appropriate as Third & Fourth Grade Independent readers dependent on interest & reading level.
These Chapter Books are listed in alphabetical order by author with specific page numbers and reading level. I’m, also, anecdoting my personal experiences reading these books to my children and how they reacted to the reads.
Top Ten Short Novels
Blume, Judy Freckle Juice
Second grader Andrew Marcus wants freckles like his friend. He thinks freckles will solve his problems. This short chapter book, illustrated with Sonia O. Lister’s black & white sketches is a funny tale about how he tries to get those freckles. Author Judy Blume has written many delightful, comical stories for children including the Fudge series: Tales of A Fourth Grade Nothing, Super Fudge, Fudge-A-Mania & Double Fudge, all of which are laugh-out-loud hilarious!
Personal Note: Along with the humorous text, which had my Kindergarten & First Graders chuckling, lessons about dealing with self-worth & identity, getting in & out of trouble as well as personal responsibility did not go unnoticed. It presented lots of opportunities for life-problem solving discussions & relevancy. Multiple copies were needed in my Second & Third Grade classroom libraries.
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 64 pages
Bulla, Clyde Robert The Chalk Box Kid
Gregory is a 9-year-old boy, who is unhappily uprooted to a new home, neighborhood & school. However, he is able to discover joy through his own artistry, creativity & imagination. Thomas Allen’s soft black &white, “chalky” illustration contribute to how Gregory’s feelings develop & change in the story.
Personal Note: Many of my Kindergartners & First Graders were able to identify with the sadness of moving to a new home, leaving what is familiar & comfortable. They were fascinated with Gregory’s “chalk world”, which lightened their mood considerably. Used as a class-read in Third Grade, it provided lots of discussions for appreciation and family-life as well as how to adapt to change.
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 60 pages
Cameron, Ann Julian, Gloria & Huey Stories
This Wonderful 10-book series about friends & family is filled with the humor and trials of growing pains. Offering plenty of character-building solutions to these everyday-life troubles, the stories, also, share how family & friends can help bring self-reliability into ones’ experiences. Dora Leder’s black & white illustrations provide additional clues to these delightful tales of real-life childhood, friendships & adventures.
Personal Note: My younger listeners were able to identify with many of the characters’ situations and reactions to these experiences. Discussions on how the characters COULD have avoided and/or solved their problems were relevant and, hopefully, productive. As a class-read in Third Grade, we were able to explore other subjects from the stories, such as bicycles (Julian’s Glorious Summer) and differences between “telling & believing tales ” (The Stories Julian Tells).
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 80 pages
Cohen, Barbara Molly’s Pilgrim
Although the setting is during Thanksgiving in the United States, this very short novel shares the timeless American elements of being an immigrant, overcoming challenges, and understanding others. Told from the main character, Molly’s point of view, this story is based on Ms. Cohen’s family experiences when they came to America from Russia. Daniel Duffy’s expressive, black & white illustrations accompany the text.
Personal Note: This autobiographical tale can be read at any time. However, it is especially relevant during the Thanksgiving holiday. My Kinders & First Graders were very interested in learning how Molly was able to solve her Pilgrim problem. As a class-read, my Third Graders were surprised to learn we are ALL Pilgrims here (except for the Natives). They became excited to explore their family’s roots and emigration history. We even drew pictures of our internationally-clothed dolls!
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 32 pages
Dalgliesh, Alice The Courage of Sarah Noble
Set in 1707 Colonial America, 8-year-old Sarah and her father go into the unknown wilderness to build a new home for their family. She is reasonably frightened about leaving the comfort of her mother & siblings, but wants to help her father and growing family. Leonard Weisgard’s sepia illustrations give a realistic, 18th century feel to Sarah Noble’s true tale of bravery and courage.
Personal Note: Most of my very young listeners could NOT imagine doing what Sarah Noble did for her family. The common response was “Too scared!” However, being with her father and having her family’s love seem to be an understandable inspiration for her courage. All grade levels of children were fascinated with the Then and Now comparisons & contrasts. It encouraged some lively discussions with a certain amount of appreciation. Of course, as a class-read, my Third Graders were ready for a Live Time Machine adventure!
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 60+ pages
Gannett, Ruth Stiles Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon
This 50th anniversary edition (though it has now been 70 years since the books were written) combines all 3 stories into one book. Illustrated in black & white by the author, the stories share the adventures of a young boy named Elmer Elevator & his rescued baby dragon companion as they travel to imaginary islands. These tales were, also, made into a Japanese anime film as well as an American children’s stage musical.
Personal Note: Dragon tales are usually a sure bet with young audiences ~ and me, too. Kindergartners thru Third Graders enjoyed Elmer’s cleverness and bravery. They delighted in the variety of imaginary islands the pair explored and were eager to invent some places of their own ~ complete, of course, with challenges, rescues & fun.
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 80 pages
Moore, Eva etal The Magic School Bus Chapter Books
Non-readers & emergent readers enjoy Bruce Degen’s fantastical animations with a lot of colorful details he brings to Joanna Cole’s original, 12-book, science series about Nature on Earth. As independent readers, these books needed to be replaced again & again in a children’s library. Eva Moore & other authors have written a series of 20 beginning reader chapter books featuring Mrs. Frizzle & her class of scientific explorers. A variety of illustrators are, also, part of this team. There is a TV series and plenty of DVDs to add to the fun! Overall, a delightful way to engage young readers into learning about the scientific discoveries on our planet.
Personal Note: Although some of the concepts may be difficult for Kinders & First Graders to comprehend, beginning slowly with several of Ms. Cole’s books and, then, “graduating” into the chapter books proved to be a wonderful way to introduce many of the science objectives taught at school. Of course, some minds are more interested in science than others, but, vivid, fun “cartoons” with an interactive, hands-on approach engages all learners. My Third graders were especially interested in learning more “in-depth” scientific ideas with the chapter books. A win-win all the way around!
Reading Level: 3rd & 4th grades / 80+ pages
Osborne, Mary Pope The Magic Tree House Series
Modern-day brother & sister, Jack & Annie, travel in time on many historical adventures with a magical tree-house. The original, 30-book series takes the children all over the world & during different, historical time periods ~ from prehistoric to the 20th century. A second series of 27 books, The Magic Tree House Merlin Mission ~ is written for more advanced readers.
Personal Note: After voting on which one of the adventures they wanted to hear about, my Kindergartners & First Graders were always ready for the next one. It is an exciting way to introduce & discuss different circumstances during important historical eras. “Yes, that really did happen!!! ” Independent Third Grader readers were usually very selective about historical events, but the time travel element always aroused their adventurous spirits and encouraged them to step into the unknown…..
Reading Level: 2nd & 3rd grades / 96 pages
Park, Barbara Junie B. Jones Series
In the first story of this 28-book series, Junie B. Jones is entering Kindergarten. This sassy, little character, who uses bad grammar, seems to always get herself into some sort of mess. Children think she is quite delightful & funny. Ms. Park’s whirlwind of trouble has been adapted for numerous plays.
Personal Note: Reading these short chapter books to young listeners ~who occasionally gasped, yet giggled ~ presents many opportunities for discussions in appropriate behaviors, choices & accountability. My Second & Third grade classroom libraries needed multiple copies of each, which was great for partner book talk, and a waiting list for the next new arrival.
Reading Level: 2nd & 3rd grades / 80 pages
Spinner, Stephanie & Jonathan Etra Aliens for Breakfast Series
One morning, Richard finds an alien, Aric, in his breakfast cereal~Alien Crisp. This first of a 3-part series, Aliens for Breakfast is followed by Aliens for Lunch and, then, Aliens for Dinner. Intergalactic travel spins the tales of their adventures to save Aric’s planet from an evil-doer. Steve Bjorkman’s animations add a comic-book appeal to these 3 short novels.
Personal Note: These quick-read novels were a comical, gentle way to introduce the sci-fi genre to young, literal minds. Of course, in today’s world with Marvel etal everywhere, this series will seem tame to most Kinders & First Graders. My Second & Third Graders enjoyed the first books as a class-read. Lots of alien creativity going on and “what ifs” during discussions. It was definitely a great blast-off event for the rest of the series and other sci-fi novels. Jules Verne, anyone ?!?
Reading Level: 2nd-3rd grades / 64 pages
Top Ten Much Longer Novels
Atwater, Richard &Florence Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Mr. & Mrs. Popper with their two children experience life sharing their home with 2 penguins that soon become a houseful of penguins. How will a houseful of penguins survive a summer?!? More refrigeration is definitely needed, ASAP ! Robert Lawson’s humorous, black & white illustrations help portray life in the Poppers’ household.
Personal Note: This amusing tale was viewed as realistic fiction by my Kindergartners & First Graders. “Just turn up the air conditioner!” they howled, wanting the Poppers to keep them forever. My Second & Third Graders viewed the tale with a bit more skepticism. We brainstormed lots of “logical” solutions so the penguins could continue living with the Poppers.
Reading Level: 4th grade / 139 pages
Carlson, Natalie The Family Under the Bridge
This heartwarming story takes place in the great city of Paris ~ under a bridge. Family life, homelessness, kindness & overcoming challenges are the major themes of this wonderful tale. Making the best of a bad situation is a big part of this novel. Garth Williams illustrates the adventures of Armand with three children and their working mother.
Personal Note: Homeless families were just beginning to become prevalent in our society when I discovered this novel. We had several on our campus. Feeling the experience too mature for Kinder & First Grade, it became a read-aloud for my Second & Third Graders. Their responses were empathetic and discussions were filled with a variety of potential solutions. Discovering that teamwork and understanding can bring positive results were very powerful lessons indeed.
Reading Level: 4th grade / 112 pages
Catling, Patricia The Chocolate Touch
Have you ever wished you could eat chocolate all day ~ every day ? Young John Midas gets his wish, but discovers Everything ( and I mean every Thing) Chocolate has consequences. Animated black & white illustrations by Margot Apple help young readers understand this dilemma.
Personal Note: My First & Second Graders identified and enjoyed this amusing tale, until……Lively discussions about young John’s options regarding how to solve his chocolate touch were creative and thoughtful. We even wrote a class book (loved doing those) about it: “How-To Undo A Chocolate Touch”. As a class-read in Third Grade, this favorite story provided opportunities to discover the history & nature of chocolate as well as concocting some chocolate recipes of our own. Class book here: “I’d Rather Have A ___________ Touch”.
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 128 pages
Cleary, Beverly The Ramona Quimby Series
The main character, Ramona Quimby, delights her family & friends with her humorous antics. written as realistic fiction, this 8-book series will have your young listeners eager to discover how she manages to get in & out of typical childhood struggles. The first book, Ramona The Pest, begins when she enters Kindergarten. Ms. Cleary has written numerous, award-winning chapter books for children.
Personal Note: Kindergartners as well as First & Second Graders alike enjoyed following this endearing character throughout her family life, with friends, and at school. Many discussions revolved around how similar her situations were to their own, especially during her school day. In Third Grade, this series became a partner & small group read to be shared with classmates. They became the “teachers” of these stories, defining story elements in class discussions. Humor & problem solving were consistent topics.
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 192 pages
MacDonald, Betty The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle Series
Five delightful, funny & meaningful books revolve around a small woman, living in an upside-down house, who uses a trunk full of magic cures for good children with bad habits. Think ~ tattle-tailing, not picking up toys, back-talk….To view more “bad habits” on a great chart, click on the link below:
Personal Note: Young children easily identified with many of these misbehaviors and parents wondered if Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s cures actually worked. Many of these cures require lots of patience seasoned with a generous sense of humor. One year, I had an exceptionally “wild” class of Third Graders. At the end of the year, having read most of the books, they decided to parade as some of the characters with cures during the Book Character Parade. They insisted on me being Mrs. Piggle Wiggle!
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 144 pages
Norton, Mary The Borrowers Series
This 5-book series centers around the tales of a tiny-people family, who secretly live in the walls of different “big” people’s houses. They “borrow” simple, small things from the “big” people to improve their environment, like a postage stamp as a picture & survive, like crumbs of food. Several films have been produced based on the stories in this series.
Personal Note: These books are quite lengthy for most 5, 6 & 7 year-olds, but the idea of little people & how they utilize objects captures their imagination. My Third Graders enjoyed inventive brainstorming uses for a variety of small, loose objects. For example, a pushpin as an end table, a toothpick as a curtain rod, a bottle cap as a bowl. We did compile our ideas into a class book entitled, “The Borrowers Handbook of Useful Things”.
Reading Level: 4th grade / 196 pages
Sachar, Louis The Wayside School Series
This 5-book series includes 2 books with a Mathematical, or Arithmetic theme. Comical language introduces a host of zany teachers teaching, or trying to teach, their equally zany students. Adam McCauley’s exaggerated black & white illustrations compliment Sachar’s hilarious tales. Actually, most of Louis Sachar’s books are well-loved by children.
Personal Note: Not a choice I would make as a read-aloud chapter book for K~2 because the humor is more suited, in my opinion, for 8 year-olds & older. And, boy, did they howl during the reading of this book, often begging for one more chapter. Very few other books stood a chance in the voting!
Reading Level: 4th grade / 128 pages
Sobol, Donald J. The Encyclopedia Brown Series
A boy detective, Leroy Brown, is the son of the Chief of Police in a small town. He helps his father solve mysteries, while Sobol invites readers to do the same. His special Edgar Award series of 29 novels inspired a daily newspaper comic strip, a TV series, and a feature film may be in the works.
Personal Note: Second & Third graders enjoyed becoming amateur sleuths while listening and, later reading the adventures of Encyclopedia Brown. Great for developing critical thinking skills as well as deductive reasoning, these books were constantly being checked out of the class room library.
Reading Level: 3rd & 4th grades / 96 pages
Warner, Gertrude Chandler The Boxcar Children Series
When the four Alden siblings become orphans, they decide to stay together by living in an abandoned boxcar from a train in a forest with a dog named Watch. Warner wrote 19 books about these children’s adventures. In 2014, an animated film, “The Boxcar Children” was released on DVD.
Personal Note: Although a bit lengthy for Kindergarten & First, my Second Graders were ready to hear how the Boxcar children help each other solve some of life’s challenges & mysteries. Although some of the Boxcar novels were more popular independent reads than others, several were always checked out of our Third Grade class room library.
Reading Level: 3rd grade / 160 pages
White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web
This well-loved, classical tale takes place on a farm. It is a story filled with many life lessons including unlikely friendships, loyalty, love, courage, and, even, death. The mysterious and insightful thread Mr. White weaves throughout the story is thoughtfully illustrated in black & white drawings by Garth Williams. Yes, there is an animated feature film on DVD.
Personal Note: The length of this book does not affect its readability to children of all ages. My Kindergartners through Third Grade absolutely LOVED this tale. One year as a Fourth Grade teacher, it was our elected class-read. It provided numerous learning opportunities from creating spider webs to writing letters to the different characters. It is QUITE the book!
Reading Level: 4th grade / 192 pages
Well, I didn’t expect this Resource to be this LENGTHY!! I hope you are able to use some ideas and recommendations from this list. The trip down Read-Aloud Chapter Books Memory Lane was a sweet one! Hope your reads are just as sweet!
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