The Best Read-Aloud Books for Elementary Students

Best Read-Aloud Books for Elementary Students
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Reading aloud to children increases their vocabulary, receptive language skills, and attention spans. Even when children can read independently, they benefit from read-aloud time because they are often capable of understanding more complex plots and language than their reading fluency allows.

Try some of these fantastic read-aloud books with your elementary-aged children!


Five-year-olds still love picture books. Kindergarten students enjoy repetitive stories with colorful illustrations and books featuring stories that they can relate to their day-to-day lives.

  • "Corduroy" by Don Freeman is the classic tale of a teddy bear (named Corduroy) who lives in a department store. When he discovers that he’s missing a button, he embarks on an adventure to find it. He doesn't find his button, but he does find a friend. Written in 1968, this timeless teddy bear story is as popular with today’s young readers as it was decades ago.
  • "You Choose" by Nick Sharratt offers young children something that they love: choices. Delightfully illustrated, these books let the reader choose from a variety of different scenarios that result in a new story every time.
  • "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury features five children and their dog who bravely decide they’re going to find a bear. They face many obstacles, each prefaced by the same refrain that will encourage children to chime in and interact with the story.
  • "Bread and Jam for Frances" by Russell Hoban stars the loveable badger, Frances, in a situation with which many children can relate. She only wants to eat bread and jam! Picky eaters will identify with Frances and may even be encouraged to try new things through her experience.

First Grade

Six-year-olds love stories that make them laugh and they often have a silly (and gross!) sense of humor. Stories that tell one tale with words and a different one with pictures are often popular with first-grade students. First graders are also developing longer attention spans, so engaging chapter books are a popular option.

  • "Parts" by Tedd Arnold highlights a problem common among six-year-olds and reassures them that it’s perfectly normal. After discovering fuzz in his belly button and something falling out of his nose (yuck!), a young boy fears that he’s falling apart. His suspicions are confirmed when one of his teeth falls out! Children will love this delightfully silly, but comfortingly reassuring tale.
  • "The Magic Tree House" by Mary Pope Osborne is an engaging and educational series about siblings Jack and Annie who find themselves transported through time in their magic tree house. The series covers both history and science topics woven into exciting adventures that captivate readers and listeners.
  • "Officer Buckle and Gloria" by Peggy Rathmann is the endearing tale of serious safety advocate, Officer Buckle, and his not-so-serious sidekick, Gloria, a police dog. Kids will giggle over Gloria’s antics that go unnoticed by Officer Buckle, and they’ll learn how much we need our friends, even when they approach situations differently than we do.
  • "The Wolf Who Cried Boy" by Bob Hartman puts a hilarious twist on the timeless boy who cried wolf tale. Kids will get a kick out of seeing the trouble Little Wolf’s lies get him into, and they’ll learn the importance of honesty.

Second Grade

Seven-year-olds, with their increasing attention spans, are ready for more complex chapter books, but they still enjoy shorter stories and funny picture books. See what your second-graders think of these tried-and-true read-aloud books.

  • "Chicken Cheeks" by Michael Ian Black is a short, silly tale about a bear who is determined to reach some honey with the help of some of his animal friends. With minimal text, this book is a short, quick read-aloud that appeals to the potty-humor of seven-year-olds.
  • "Frog and Toad" by Arnold Lobel follows the adventures of a pair of amphibian best friends, Frog and Toad. The stories are silly, heartwarming, relatable, and always a treasure to share with children.
  • "Charlotte’s Web" by E.B. White, published in 1952, captivates readers of all ages with its timeless tale of friendship, love, and sacrifice. The story introduces children to the richness of language and reminds them of the influence we can have on the lives of others even if we feel small and insignificant.
  • "The Boxcar Children" by Gertrude Chandler Warner, a series originally published in 1924, tells the story of four orphaned siblings who work together to make their home in an abandoned boxcar. The story imparts lessons such as hard work, resilience, and teamwork all woven into a story that will hook young readers and inspire them to investigate the rest of the series.

Third Grade

Third-grade students are transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn. They're at the perfect age for read-aloud books that are a bit more complex than they could tackle on their own. Because third-graders are also beginning to write essays, this is the perfect time to read great literature that models quality writing techniques. 

  • "The Hundred Dresses" by Eleanor Estes is a fantastic book to read in third grade when peer bullying starts to rear its ugly head. It’s the story of a young Polish girl who is teased by her classmates. She claims to have a hundred dresses at home, but she always wears the same worn-out dress to school. After she moves away, some of the girls in her class discover, too late, that there was more to their classmate than they realized.
  • "Because of Winn-Dixie" by Kate DiCamillo introduces readers to 10-year-old Opal Buloni who has moved to a new town with her father. It's just been the two of them since Opal’s mother years ago. Opal soon meets a scraggly stray dog that she names Winn Dixie. Through the pooch, Opal discovers an unlikely group of people who teach her – and the book’s readers – a valuable lesson about friendship.
  • "How to Eat Fried Worms" by Thomas Rockwell will appeal to many kids based on the gross factor alone. Billy is dared by his friend Alan to eat 15 worms in 15 days. If he succeeds, Billy wins $50. Alan does his best to ensure that Billy fails, starting with selecting the biggest, juiciest worms he can find.
  • "Mr. Popper’s Penguins" by Richard Atwater has delighted readers of all ages since its first publication in 1938. The book introduces poor house painter, Mr. Popper, who dreams of adventure and loves penguins. He soon finds himself in possession of a house full of penguins. Needing a means of supporting the birds, Mr. Popper trains the penguins and takes the act on the road.

Fourth Grade

Fourth-grade students love adventure and captivating tales. Because they are starting to develop a stronger sense of empathy, they may be deeply moved by the feelings of the characters in the stories they are reading.

  • "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder is the first in the semi-autobiographical series of "Little House" books by Mrs. Wilder. It introduces readers to 4-year-old Laura and her family and details their lives in a log cabin in the big woods of Wisconsin. The book is an excellent resource for demonstrating the realities of daily life for pioneer families in an engrossing, captivating way.
  • "Shiloh" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor is about Marty, a young boy who discovers a pup named Shiloh in the woods near his home. Unfortunately, the dog belongs to a neighbor who is known to drink too much and abuse his animals. Marty tries to protect Shiloh, but his actions put his entire family in the angry neighbor’s crosshairs.
  • "The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster follows a bored little boy, Milo, through a mysterious and magical tollbooth that transports him to a new world. Filled with amusing puns and wordplay, the tale leads Milo to discover that his world is anything but boring.
  • "Tuck Everlasting" by Natalie Babbitt addresses the idea of living forever. Who wouldn’t want to never face death? When 10-year-old Winnie meets the Tuck family, she discovers that living forever may not be as great as it sounds. Then, someone uncovers the Tuck family’s secret and tries to capitalize on it for profit. Winnie must help the family stay hidden and decide if she wants to join them or someday face mortality.

Fifth Grade

Like fourth-graders, fifth-grade students like adventure and can empathize with the characters in the stories they read. Series books and graphic novels are wildly popular for this age. Often reading the first book aloud will spur students to dive into the rest of the series on their own.

  • "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio is a must-read for every student entering the middle school years. The story is about Auggie Pullman, a 10-year-old boy with a severe cranial-facial anomaly. He has been homeschooled up until fifth grade when he enters Beecher Prep Middle School. Auggie encounters ridicule, friendship, betrayal, and compassion. Readers will learn about empathy, compassion, and friendship in this story told through the eyes of Auggie and those around him, such as his sister, her boyfriend, and Auggie’s classmates.
  • "Smile" by Raina Telgemeier is a memoir of the author’s adolescent years. Written in graphic novel format, "Smile" tells the story of a girl who just wants to be an average sixth-grader. That hope is squashed when she trips and knocks out her two front teeth. If braces and embarrassing headgear aren’t enough, Raina still has to deal with ups and downs, friendships and betrayals that go along with the middle school years.
  • "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" by J.K. Rowling has become an iconic read for teens and pre-teens. Harry Potter may be a wizard (a fact hidden from him until his 11th birthday) and something of a celebrity in the world that he has just discovered, but he still has to deal with bullies and middle school troubles. That and battling evil while trying to uncover the truth behind the mysterious lightning bolt scar on his forehead.
  • "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan introduces readers to Percy Jackson, a 12-year-old who discovers that he is the half-human, half-god son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. He sets off for Camp Half-Blood, a place for kids who share his unique genetic make-up. Adventure ensues as Percy uncovers a plot to wage war on the Olympians. The series can be a fantastic jumping-off point to get kids excited about Greek mythology.
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Bales, Kris. "The Best Read-Aloud Books for Elementary Students." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Bales, Kris. (2020, August 27). The Best Read-Aloud Books for Elementary Students. Retrieved from Bales, Kris. "The Best Read-Aloud Books for Elementary Students." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).