Any parent who’s suffered through Dr. Seuss knows that not every kids’ book is a joy to read aloud together. Sure, those easy picture books are fun the first time through, and there’s a ton of benefits to the crazy word repetition – but I swear last night I could actually feel my brains start to scramble when my 4-year-old made me crack open Green Eggs and Ham for the umpteenth time. Plus, my kid got bored halfway through. So, what are the best kinds of books to read out loud to your kids? When it comes time to move your early reader into that next phase of reading, you’ve got to find books that work just as well when read out loud as they do on the page, because your kid will be doing both: listening and reading along.
So what are the best chapter books to read aloud to a beginning reader? Ones with chapters short enough to hold their attention, a story that’s simple to follow, rich and complex language to stretch their vocabulary, and good illustrations on every few pages. But most of all, the best books to read out loud are books that interest you, the parent. Because if you’re excited about reading, your kid will be too. So fill up your shelves with these amazing chapter books, and then go hide the Dr. Seuss. Promise I won’t tell.
Poet, author, and activist, and new mom, Cleo Wade penned this beautiful and inspiring book on the power of personal choice and the unexpected paths our lives take. Sometimes the offbeat or the strange twists and turns land you exactly where you belong. The prose is a pleasure to read aloud.
This is a modern-day Toy Story-esque chapter book that is wonderfully weird in all the right ways. There’s a toy StingRay and stuffed buffalo, and somebody named Plastic, and they go on adventures and freak out over the washing machine together. Highly recommended by librarians and the winner of lots of awards, this is one you shouldn’t miss.
I liked the strong writing and emotional depth of this book, and my 4-year-old loved that the main character, a little girl named Ryan, wasn’t afraid to stand up to bullies. This is one of the best new chapter books from last year, and a great book for reading out loud.
The Chocolate Touch is a spin on the classic King Midas story that asks, what if everything you touched turned to chocolate?! It’s every kid’s dream come true. Whip this book out after you or your kid has had a bad day, and watch how it transforms your evening together.
“On a Saturday afternoon in Bloomville, Iris Espinosa put on her sister’s blue sweater and stepped out the front door. A familiar butter scent wafted through the air. Popcorn.” So starts Douglas, a short chapter book about a brave little movie theater mouse, and it only got better the further I read. Beautiful black and white illustrations and lyrical language make this an easy and beautiful book to read out loud. If you like it, make sure to check out Lucy by the same author.
I’ll admit, I rolled my eyes when a librarian suggested this as an excellent book to read out loud because it’s been around since 1938. But I tried reading it with my 4-year-old, and we both loved it! If you haven’t read it (or, like me, forgot that you once had), it’s about a house painter who winds up with twelve penguins and gets into all sorts of trouble. And if it’s your jam, queue up the movie version starring Jim Carrey for your next family movie night (just keep your expectations for the film lower than the book.)
Not too many authors can completely nail what it’s like to be a kid, but Pennypacker is one of them. The voice of the main character Clementine is so authentic, and the writing so witty, you can’t help but lose track of time as you and your kid read well past bedtime.
If there’s a better way to end your day than tucked in next to your kid reading to her about Dream Country then I don’t know it. The magical landscape and home of the Big Friendly Giant is the perfect backdrop to some big adventures that deliver humor, whimsy, and, yes, a little fear. It’s a good book to test the limits of your child’s emotional readiness for more, and a wonderful book to read out loud.
Here’s a series to read when your day needs to end with a guaranteed laugh. Instead of a regular school that’s laid out with a couple of floors and many classrooms on each floor, Wayside school is stacked tall with one classroom on each floor. It’s 30 floors high, and it gets a little crazy on the top floor.
Winnie the Pooh is the comfort-food equivalent of your great-grandmother's homemade lasagna recipe; it hasn't changed much over the past century, but that's why it's so good. You know what you're going to get when you crack open the spine– Pooh reinforces the wonderfully simple message that your kid is enough, just as she is. And that is a very good message to end any day with.
Is it ever too early to introduce your child to the magnificent masterpiece of The Phantom T? I don’t think so. The story is definitely more advanced than most on this list and the chapters are absolutely longer, but it’s a good book to keep trying and coming back to with your early reader. And if they're not ready for it yet, just keep it on your nightstand until they are.
We included this series last week in our list of Best Chapter Books for Early Readers, but it needs to be repeated here. Zoey and Sassafras is hilarious to read out loud and a magical series to get lost in. Do yourself a favor and just get all six books at once.
If there’s one new chapter book from this list to take a chance on, take a chance on this one. It’s fresh and funny, gorgeously illustrated, and entirely interesting.
Your young reader might not be quite ready for this book, but trust us when we say: buy it anyways. You can thank us later.
I think this is one of those chapter books that’s a requirement to read to your kid. Like, if there was a parenting handbook, reading this out loud with a mug of hot cocoa and a few stuffed animals lined up around you would be its own chapter. Charlotte's Web covers lots of emotions, deep friendships, and a strong dose of nostalgia that'll keep this story in your head and on your nightstand all week long. PS, love Charlotte’s Web? Add in Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan by the same author to this list.
James’ best friend is a beetle, which is already enough information for my kid to like it. What’ll make you stay for another chapter? The smart and sweet illustrations and silly beetle mishaps.
This story’s fantastic. In Planet Omar, Omar moves to a new school and worries about maybe having an alien for a teacher and definitely being picked on for being Muslim. The writing is incredibly funny and just as interesting for parents as it is for kids, and the illustrations are perfect for helping kids identify new words. This is a chapter book your shelf didn’t know it was missing.
This is a fantastic modern chapter book that stands up to all the classics. Author Bar-el uses compelling language to paint an arctic wonderland where Duane the polar bear finds adventure with the help of a curious cast of friends. Major Puff the Puffin, Boo the Caribou, and Handsome the musk Ox will transport you and your little reader to a magical realm of snow and friendship.