Yesterday afternoon, I went into my daughter’s first-grade class to read out loud to the class, and February 5, 2020 is World Read Aloud Day! And, those two events got me thinking that I should share some of our favorite titles to read aloud, books that my husband and I enjoy reading, that lend themselves to being read naturally, that children love hearing, and that have illustrations conducive to a larger group… So, today, I’ve got a list of more than 20 of our favorite books to read aloud to groups of children!
So, what makes a great group read-aloud book? First of all, it needs to be fun to read aloud. Funny accents or overly dramatic narrators always get laughs from both adults and children. Of course, as the reader, you have to be ready to get into full character in both of those cases… Humor and/or surprise also go a long way in keeping a group engaged! Books that are written in very well-done rhyme also make wonderful group read alouds, but they have to be done well, or else you’ll trip up over extra syllables or words that don’t quite really rhyme. Predictable books or books with repeated refrains can be fun for groups of children, as they start to chime in together to finish pages. While interactive books are tons of fun for one-on-one read alouds, remember that in a group, only one child at a time can do the interacting, so choose those carefully…
Terrific Books to Read Aloud to Groups of Children
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Any Elephant & Piggie book by Mo Willems — These books are pure brilliance packaged in two of the silliest, kindest friends. They’re written completely in dialogue, which makes them fun to read out loud (though you might want to practice your best Gerald and Piggie voices ahead of time), and they make kids crack up! Our preschool used to read Can I Play, Too? as one of their repeated readings at the beginning of each school year, and the whole room of 3-5-year-olds would be laughing every single day. My favorites to read out loud (because they’re really dramatic and fun!) are I Am Invited to a Party!, Can I Play Too?, Let’s Go for a Drive, A Big Guy Took My Ball!, and I Really Like Slop!.
Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems — Another Mo Willems gem, this one tells the story of Leonardo (a terrible monster), Sam (a very easy-to-scare little boy), and their unexpected friendship. Sam has an amazing monologue in the middle of it that is tons of fun to read aloud if you embrace your inner child!
Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon — In my third grade teaching days, our media specialist came in one DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Day and read this, as well as Rosenthal’s books immediately below, to my class… And those third graders ate them up! I was pregnant with our older daughter at the time, and the first thing I did when I got home that night was order these books for our home library. Though the humor is somewhat more abstract (perfect for that room of 8- and 9-year-olds!), our girls have been loving this since they were toddlers!
Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink, all by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace — This series is so much fun! In each book, the main character really, really wants to live in a manner unexpected for his/her species (for example, all the pig wants to do all day is clean, and the pea LOVES to eat his vegetables instead of dine on candy like the rest of the peas). Our four-year-old proudly announced a few weeks ago that she could read Little Pea, which she can… Because we have read these books that many times to her!
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld — So, apparently I have a thing for Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and apparently she had a thing for writing hilarious books that children love (along with some delightfully touching books, too, like Plant a Kiss and Dear, Girl). This one is bound to engage children in heated debate over whether the animal pictured is indeed a duck or a rabbit.
The Questioneers series by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts — I have to admit I don’t love reading the newest one (Sofia Valdez, Future Prez) quite as much as the first three, which makes me sad, because I love the storyline… But I struggle more with the rhythm of it than I did in the first. That said, give me Rosie Revere, Iggy Peck, or Ada Twist and I’ll read it whenever you ask! They have important takeaways, terrific role models, and easy-to-read rhyme and rhythm, so they’re a hit every single time in our house! You may be hard-pressed to find elementary classrooms that haven’t yet experienced the amazingness of this series, but preschoolers may be ripe for listening!
Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi — A book that makes children laugh AND teaches them an important lesson with an easy-to-remember mantra? And, one with overly dramatic characters, interesting illustrations, AND terrific vocabulary like “calamity” and “catastrophe” to book? Yes, please! You can read my Instagram review here.
It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard — What happens when you go for a walk in the woods, admiring the snakes all around you, only to find that one of those snakes is, in fact, the striped tale of a hungry tiger? And then, when you run away, he follows you everywhere! The seek-and-find nature of this book, as well as the unexpected ending, will have children engaged from the very first page.
The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee — Another book written in such wonderful rhyme that it just lends itself to being read out loud, this one is also bound to crack children up. The story is silly and the illustrations full of hilarious details… Just make sure you slow yourself down so that the children can take those details in before you move on! You can read my full review here.
The Great Fuzz Frenzy by Janet Stevens, illustrated by Susan Stevens Crummel — I first discovered this book when I was working as an assistant in a second-grade classroom, and my lead teacher read this as a way to introduce dialogue in a Writing Workshop lesson. Not much could be funnier than a group of prairie dogs stumbling upon a tennis ball and fighting over the fuzz! Be sure to practice your deepest, scariest prairie dog voice before reading this one out loud.
There’s a Dinosaur on the 13th Floor by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes — Y’all, my girls ADORE this book. By now, they’ve basically got it memorized, so none of the twists and turns take them by surprise any more, yet they still beg and beg for us to read this one. The characters are diverse and silly, giving you as the reader ample opportunity to put on a terrific show for your audience!
That’s Not a Hippopotamus! by Juliette Maclver, illustrated by Sarah Davis — Okay, admittedly, there is one rhyme in here that drives me a bit bonkers, but the rest of the book is written impeccably, just asking to be read aloud. Maclver has also included a really fun repeated refrain that groups of children pick up on quickly to help you read throughout the book. In fact, this one is such a big hit for both individuals and groups that our preschooler asked me to read this to her class back in November, and our first grader chose this one for my read aloud this week! You can read my full review here.
Escargot by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Sydney Hanson — If you can rock a dramatic French accent, then start here for a group read-aloud book! This book is interactive, but only asks the reader to physically engage with the book once… The rest of the interactions involve saying something, making faces, blowing hard, or other things that whole groups of children can do at once. If my husband can ever make it to read aloud time with our first grader, he’ll likely read this one (his French accent is significantly better than mine!). You can read my full review here.
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers — Another group read aloud that we discovered through our preschool’s repeated readings, this book is just pure silly. There’s no deep message or takeaway, but children will absolutely laugh. They may even start to talk to (okay, maybe yell at…) Floyd, because his ideas just get more and more ridiculous! You can read my full review here.
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis — This one has actually won the E. B. White Read Aloud Award, so you know it’s a good choice! Be sure to read it ahead of time, as it’s written in a completely made-up language, so you’re going to want to practice some of these words before performing in front of a rapt audience. You can read my full review here.
Giraffe Problems by Jory John, illustrated by Lane Smith — A giraffe who thinks his neck is too long meets a turtle whose neck isn’t long enough to achieve his one and only life goal… To taste a banana fresh from a tree. John includes a full-page, fully dramatic monologue from the turtle, which I love reading out loud! Similar to Elephant and Piggie, John wrote this completely in dialogue, so get your giraffe and turtle voices ready! You can read my full review here.
After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat — This one stands out from the others on the list because it’s neither written in rhyme, nor is it silly, nor is it interactive… But it’s terrifically written, beautifully illustrated, and has an important message. Plus, I guess it could be considered silly when you think about the fact that it’s the sequel to the story all children know about Humpty Dumpty falling off of a wall. Regardless, it’s always a hit with kids!
The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen (and really any other Chris Van Dusen book, too) — Chris Van Dusen is a master of writing rhyming books that are just begging to be read aloud! This story has a beyond-ridiculous character that is fun to act out, as well as an intricately illustrated seek-and-find page that you don’t want to miss. If you can’t get your hands on this, you might try reading any of his “If I Built…” or “Mr. Magee” stories, also written in amazing rhyme, or even Hattie and Hudson, which doesn’t rhyme but still reads-aloud wonderfully. You can read my Instagram review of The Circus Ship here.
All of the above books are perfect for groups of preschool and elementary-aged children. For slightly older children (upper elementary), I love reading Chris Van Allsburg’s lesser-known books (they all know The Polar Express and Jumanji already, so choose just about anything else from him). They’ve got incredible twists of fate, usually taking the audience completely by surprise. You can read about a few of my favorite Chris Van Allsburg books here, here, here, and here.
What did I miss? What books do you absolutely love to read out loud to a group of children?