One of my favorite parts of the day is when my kids are in bed. You read that correct! You might even be thinking – yes! Me too! I need some peace and quiet around here. But I don’t mean what you are probably thinking! I mean the cuddle and reading time we get to spend as a family while they are in bed before they go to sleep. I love reading books to my kids!
I could spend an entire article talking about the benefits of reading to your child. How it builds their language skills… How researchers just came out with a study that shows how it affects the brain in a positive way…. How it sparks good discussions about topics with your kids… But I’m not going to do that here. Take it from a teacher (me!), reading aloud is important. I’ll leave it at that. So now what? What to read?
If you have kids who aren’t in school yet, you are probably still in “picture book land”. We are just starting to venture out of there with my son. Remember that kids can comprehend at a higher level when listening than they can when reading independently. So even though my 5-year-old can’t read on his own yet, he is ready for lengthier picture books and beginning chapter books. I’ll start with some picture book suggestions and then break up chapter books into a couple of categories.
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Picture Books to Read as a Family
- Mother Bruce – This book has the right amount of humor in it for Mom and Dad but is an adorable story of a culinary bear who has to take care of some geese. We adore this one.
- The Day the Crayons Quit – You will chuckle through the different things that each crayon in the crayon box has to say about why they are just fed up.
- Scaredy Squirrel – This is part of a series that follows a squirrel who is terrified to do anything because of what might in the dangerous unknown. It’s great for teaching little ones to overcome their fears
- I Need My Monster (click here to read it online on Storyline Online) – This book is full of colorful description about a little boy who needs his monster to go to sleep!
- My Rotten Red-Headed Older Brother (click here to read it online on Storyline Online) – Patricia Polacco is a wonderful author of upper-elementary kids’ picture books. This popular title of hers touches on her own childhood and embracing your siblings even if you don’t always get along!
Chapter Books that are Part of a Series
It’s always great to start a series with your kids. Maybe they’ll read the rest on their own, or you can continue as a family. Here are some great series to read with your kids.
- Magic Tree House – Go back in time with Jack and Annie to a variety of places. It’s a great way to weave information into a fantasy book.
- The Boxcar Children – This classic that you might have read as a child is still there! As is The Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, and more!
- Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing – This is one of my favorite books of all-time. That says a lot because I’ve read thousands of children’s books. Even though the books are now about 50 years old, the story remains just as funny about a boy named Peter and his little brother Fudge. The rest in the Fudge series by Judy Blume are funny too – but not as good as the first one.
- Hank Zipzer– This series was written by the Fonz, Henry Winkler. They feature the adventures of a boy who struggles in school even with trying to succeed. It’s great if your child struggles or to build empathy for those that do.
- Time Warp Trio – These are a little harder to find but worth the dig for them. They are similar to Magic Tree House in that you are going back in time to learn about a different place in history but written for slightly older kids. They had a lot of humor in them and are pretty short too!
Authors to Read in Chapter Books
- Roald Dahl – You can’t go wrong with reading aloud one of his books (or all of them). I recall my teacher reading James and the Giant Peach when I was in elementary school. Add to that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Matilda, and the list goes on and on!
- Kate DiCamillo – Another favorite book of all-time for me is Because of Winn-Dixie. It teaches so much about friendship and the important things in life. In addition, there’s The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and the newest one, Raymie Nightingale, and you have plenty to choose from.
- Gordan Korman – If you have older kids (4th/5th grade on up) you can still read aloud to them. Start one book in one of Gordan Korman’s many trilogies and see if you can predict what adventure is going to happen next!
- Dan Gutman – He has the humorous Weird School series, but also many for sports lovers. The Baseball Card Adventure series is great for teaching kids about the all-star old-time players. A boy travels back in time via his baseball cards to meet them. He also has the Million Dollar Goal, Shot, Strike, etc series for sports fans!
- Beverly Cleary – You will love to read her and your kids will enjoy her too! The Mouse and the Motorcycle or adventures with Ramona and Henry!
Andrew Clements, Gary Paulsen, Judy Blume, and Shel Silverstein are a few more to check out!
Stand-Alone Chapter Books to Read
Of course, there are many books that aren’t from a particular author or series that are great to read with your children. Many teach lessons and spark important discussions.
- Mick Harte Was Here – This is my #1, all-time, favorite book. I do crop out a few lines when I read it to my 3rd graders but I read it every spring. I shed tears while reading it every spring too. It tells of a boy named Mick who died while riding his bike because he thought he looked like a dork wearing his helmet so he didn’t. You will fall in love with Mick and wish he was a real kid who lived. It also helps teach an important life lesson.
- Charlotte’s Web – This classic is still a well-loved family favorite! There are life lessons to be learned, wonderful vocabulary words, and it’s just an adorable story!
- Pippi Longstocking – So silly and so fun! It’s a great summer read with an unforgettable character.
- The One and Only Ivan – This book will tug at your heartstrings and lead to great discussions in your home about animals in captivity. Told from the gorilla’s point of view, it is based on a true story of a gorilla who did live in a shopping mall for many, many years.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Ella Enchanted, The Lemonade War, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Penderwicks, Stone Fox, Nate the Great, Harriet the Spy and SO many more could make this list!
I hope I inspired you to read some new books as a family. And even if your child is able to read on their own, there is a lot to be said for a family read-aloud.