Great Read-Aloud Books for Children

I consider reading aloud to my children one of the very best uses of my time. Not only does it immerse them in words, imagination, beauty, humor, and help them to love books, but it allows me to be a part of that discovery process. We share snuggles and inside jokes. Seeing the awe and delight on my kiddos’ faces makes me experience the stories like a child myself.

Since my oldest turned three, I’ve tried to read an ongoing story out loud at least a half hour each day. It’s amazing how much that little effort, over time, adds up! I generally choose a book quite a bit above their reading level to read daily over lunch, and then a lighter book for bedtime as a privilege.

I am a stickler for choosing high-quality literature though. I find that if we wander around the library and pick books willy-nilly, that the vast majority I consider to be “literary french fries”. They don’t stretch a child’s mind or imagination and they don’t develop a taste for great literature. The worst part is, they aren’t enjoyable for me to read aloud and my kids pick up on that. I think far too often we underestimate a child’s capacity to appreciate a rich storyline just as we underestimate their capacity to appreciate real food. No kid’s menu here!

That doesn’t mean we shy away from silly or whimsical books. Far from it. But I personally detest reading inane books, especially over and over again so that alone would cause us to gravitate to the truly great books.

There are lots of great lists online for likely books, including 1000 Good Books, Ambleside’s free reading lists, and Sonlight’s read-aloud lists (browse by grade level on the right).

Currently Reading

Caddie Woodlawn – A spunky based-on-a-true-story novel that is similar to The Little House on the Prairie books.

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood – This book uses archaic language (quoth, methinks, etc.) but the story line is so captivating. We were falling out of our chairs laughing together at lunch today.  It’s a favorite for sure. The Sterling Classics are beautiful and unabridged so I always snag that version when I can.

*The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles – Scott reads this with hilarious voices. We’re on our second time through now that Caitlyn is old enough to enjoy it.

Already read, since 1/1/11

Mary Poppins – This is quite different from the movie, but very enjoyable. We’re going to continue in the series.
Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers – Fantastic. This is a must-read as far as I’m concerned. I stopped reading aloud one chapter before the end because I had a younger audience who is pretty sensitive and I didn’t think they were ready for the ending quite yet. I’ve read the next two books in the series myself and I’ll definitely be reading them to my kids in a few years.
The Home Ranch – This is the third in the Little Britches series but it can be a stand-alone book. We listened to this on audiobook and the whole family loved it.
Betsy-Tacy – Sweet story about two little girls who are best friends. This is a series and we’ve read the first three.

A Christmas Carol – The illustrations by PJ Lynch are amazing and we read this every Christmastime.
The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Last Battle
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Black Stallion
Just David
The Railway Children – This took a while to get into and the writing style was a bit tricky but by the middle we were devouring it!
The Secret Garden
*Trumpet of the Swan – Loved this one!
*Charlotte’s Web
Peter Pan – Not my favorite for 4 year olds, because it can be graphic when describing battles and most of the humor was over my girl’s head
Stuart Little – Not my favorite
The Chocolate Touch – A fluffy, fast read but enjoyable
Pollyanna – A great book
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Ditto, loved this one.
The Minpins – Shorter, with beautiful illustrations.
*Mr. Popper’s Penguins – A fast, fun read.
Winnie-the-Pooh (x2) – So silly and fun, for the reader as well.
The House At Pooh Corner
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – What’s not to love? We waited until our oldest was 5 1/2 and read this after the littles were in bed.
Prince Caspian
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
The Silver Chair
Because of Winn-Dixie – Not my favorite
The Jungle Book – unabridged, most was over her head (and sometimes over mine) but she enjoyed listening to it all the same
The Just So Stories
The Borrowers
The Indian in the Cupboard – I wouldn’t read this to a 5 year old again, although she loved it. 8 is probably a better age just because there’s some amount of name-calling, sibling squabbles, and school-age drama.
Heidi – This one has lots of old school vocabulary. It’s a great story, but not a fast read.
The Boxcar Children Book 1
Pippi Longstocking – We’ve read all three Pippi books together twice now and they are so fun! They especially appealed to my second daughter who can relate to Pippi’s impetuous nature.
The Waterhorse – Short, fun read
Owls in the Family – Hilarious and well-written. You need to get through the first descriptive chapter and then it’s uproariously funny.
Black Beauty
*Ramona and Beezus
James and the Giant Peach – silly voices are a must
*Voyages of Dr. Dolittle – very fun and the suspense was great
The Little Princess – Fantastic. A must-read for every little (4-9 years old?) girl. It’s beautifully written, heart-warming and full of great character lessons.
Pinocchio – Funny, fairly easy read with moral lessons along the way.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – A pretty confusing read-aloud because there is a lot of word play, but my daughter enjoyed the silliness. I highly recommend a well-illustrated version.
Mathilda – I edited this a bit as I read, because Dahl’s writing can be a bit rough for a 4 year old’s ears. 🙂
The Little House on the Prairie Series: – I cannot say enough good things about these books. In addition to being highly readable, they introduce a lot of great topics of conversation particularly regarding character and hard work.

  • *Little House in the Big Woods – This is not my favorite in the series, but it’s a very gentle introduction to reading aloud.
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • Farmer Boy – LOVED this one! It can be read independently, and is not about Laura at all. It’s about her future husband, Almanzo.
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake – I felt like this book was a bit slower-paced and not as well suited to reading aloud
  • The Long Winter -This is my favorite Laura book
  • Little Town on the Prairie
  • These Happy Golden Years
  • The First Four Years – Because it was published posthumously, this book definitely has a different, less-polished feel to it but we had to read it to complete the series. 😉

The Wind in the Willows – We had a false start on this one. At 5, my daughter was just too young to keep up with the meandering descriptions. She actually started reading it herself and enjoyed it much more since she could pause and reread things she didn’t understand. (She’s a very advanced reader. I wouldn’t recommend this book for most 5 year olds.)  We revisited it when she was 8 and my other daughter was 5, and we listened to this free librivox recording by Mark Smith, which helped us all enjoy it. I linked to our favorite bookstore, Exodus Books, because their price was 1/4 of what Amazon listed for the beautiful Sterling Classics hardbound book.

By the Great Horn Spoon – Fun and light read with plenty of cliffhangers.


*Great starter books.

To Read

Where the Red Fern Grows
The Littles

Homer Price – My daughter has read this on her own already, but I’d still like to read it aloud.
The Story of Dr. Dolittle – We actually read the Voyages first, even though it’s the second in the series. My daughter has read this on her own already and I’ll probably ask her to read it to me.
Anne of Green Gables
The Swiss Family Robinson
Mouse and the Motorcycle
Danny the Champion of the world
The Wheel on the School
Song of the Swallows
Around the World in 80 Days –
Scott and I actually listened to a fantastic audiobook of this but Mackenzie couldn’t understand the British accent so we’ll come back to this when she’s older. Great read.


Bunnicula – My four year old doesn’t know who Dracula is and the whole story hinges on that! 🙂
Chocolate Fever – Poorly written
The Penderwicks – We got this as an audiobook from the library and it wasn’t a favorite.

The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen -This one gets a middling grade as a read-aloud but it’s a fun one to get for a 3rd-5th grade reader to do on their own.

Other Posts You May Be Interested In:

Our Favorite Picture Books for Young Children
Developing a Love for Reading Aloud in Your Family

This post contains Amazon affiliate links but I only recommend books I love!


5 Responses to Great Read-Aloud Books for Children

  1. Pingback: Developing a Love for Reading Aloud in Your Family | Adventures in Beanland

  2. Pingback: Our Homeschool Curriculum 2013 – 2014 | Adventures in Beanland

  3. Pingback: An Ordinary January Day | Adventures in Beanland

  4. This is a great list Anne!


  5. This is a great list, Anne!


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