In the eight years I’ve been a librarian (where has the time gone?!), I’ve read A LOT of chapter books out loud. Some have been fun but forgettable. Others have been painful to get through. And then there are the ones I actually look forward to reading over and over again. Books like these are as rare as a Yangtze finless porpoise (click the link — I’d never heard of the Yangtze finless porpoise either until I looked up critically endangered animals on WWF’s website 🙂 ). I treasure these book and want everyone to read them to the kiddos in their lives. Or I recommend reading them for your own enjoyment. You won’t regret it!
I’ve summarized each book and why my students have enjoyed them so much, as well as which grades I usually read them to. These books can be read to many other ages, but these are the grade-levels that seem to enjoy them the most.
Amazing Chapter Books To Read with the Kids in Your Life:
The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
Ivan is a silverback gorilla on display at a New Jersey shopping mall. He hasn’t set foot in his native jungle for 27 years, and his former home doesn’t really cross his mind until he meets Ruby. Ruby is a baby elephant and she makes Ivan realize how wrong it is for animals like them to be cooped up in cages. With the help of his friends, the power of art, and his own determination, Ivan tries to right this wrong.
Why Kids Love It: Ivan narrates the story and kids fall completely in love with him and his animal buddies. Bob, the smart-talking “dog of uncertain heritage” is a hoot, and the adorable Ruby captures everyone’s heart. The illustrations are beautifully done and connect readers with the characters even further.
Grade I Read It To: 4th Grade
In The Penderwicks, sisters Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, along with their dog, Hound, and their botanist father are summering on the grounds of the Arundel estate in Massachusetts. From bunnies to train to gardens to explore (some with bulls in them!), the girls have lots of adventures lined up, but it’s meeting the son of Arundel’s owner, that makes their summer special. Jeffrey is the perfect companion for all their fun, but his snooty mom doesn’t think the Penderwick girls are suitable company. Will this ruin their holiday? Not if they can help it!
Why Kids Love It: What’s particularly nice about The Penderwicks as a read aloud is that there’s a little something for everyone. The girls are all different ages and they are wonderfully unique character with different interests (one’s a writer, another loves soccer, etc.). Each is very fleshed out and tons of fun to get to know. Their individual scrapes fit their personalities and cause lots of laughs.
Grade I Read It To: 3rd
Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery, by James Howe
When Toby and Pete Monroe bring home the bunny they found at the movie theater, something strange starts to happen. The vegetables in the house all turn white and seem to be sucked completely dry. The Monroe’s cat Chester is sure the bunny is actually a vampire and will do anything can to get rid of him. Harold, the Monroe’s dog, is not so sure, and he’s here to tell the tale.
Why Kids Love It: Kids get a major kick out of the idea that a bunny could be a vampire with vegetables as victims. And Chester’s misled attempts at eliminating this poor cute bunny always have them in stitches.
Grade I Read It To: 2nd/3rd
Alvin Ho: Allergic To Girls, Schools, and Other Scary Things, by Lenore Look
Second grader Alvin Ho is afraid of EVERYTHING. School is especially terrifying. As soon as Alvin enters the school doors, he can’t speak anymore. But with the help of his PDK (Personal Disaster Kit), unlikely friends, and his amazing family (especially his dad), he’s able to face the super scary world.
Why Kids Love It: Alvin’s fears are extreme, but kids relate to at least one or two of the things he finds scary. Plus, Alvin gets himself into some pretty hilarious and entertaining situations.
Grades I Read It To: 2nd
Clementine, by Sarah Pennypacker
No matter what she does, Clementine always seems to get into trouble. She cut her classmate Margaret’s hair and drew on curls because she asked her to! How is that Clementine’s fault? Can she ever prove that not being the “easy” sibling is a good thing?
Why Kids Love It: Clementine is a free spirit with lots of creative ideas, but many of them get her into trouble. Kids love hearing about other kids getting in trouble, especially when the situation is a funny one. Clementine offers these funny situations in spades. She may not be the “easy” kid of her family, but she’s the one my students want to read about.
Grades I Read It To: 1st/2nd
Nuts To You, by Lynne Rae Perkins
Being a squirrel is no easy task. Danger lurks around every corner. When Jed is swooped up by a dreaded Hawk, his friends Tsts and Chai embark on the journey of a lifetime to find and save him. All three squirrels have experiences they never expected: meeting new squirrel communities, encountering humans, and more! Will they ever get home?
Why Kids Love It: Lynne Rae Perkins incorporates a lot of squirrel sounds in the book which has always cracked up my students. The adventure itself is compelling, especially because the squirrels’ encounters with humans show how what we do affects the natural world. It doesn’t hurt that Chai wears an acorn as a beret. Kids always love animals with style 🙂
Grades I Read It To: 1st/2nd
I’ll have Part 2 of the list ready in a few weeks. What books do you enjoy reading aloud to the kids in your life? Please share in the comments below!