Read-Alouds for the Whole Family

Shared family reading plays a vital role in growing lifelong readers, but finding the right book can be tricky. Here’s a mix of classics and 21st-century favorites for everyone.

Shared family reading plays a vital role in growing lifelong readers. Cozying up with a book allows parents and children to bond, introduces complex vocabulary and layered plots, and opens up new avenues of conversation. But finding a book to engage younger siblings, older siblings, and parents can be tricky. Here’s a mix of classics and 21st-century favorites for everyone.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (Walden, 2011)
Gr 4-6 Hazel is different from most girls in fifth grade. Adopted, she doesn’t look anything like her blond, white classmates. She prefers to play kickball with the boys at recess and spend her time with her best friend, Jack. But when an icy shard pierces Jack’s eye, he begins to change into a person Hazel doesn’t recognize. To win him back, Hazel uses knowledge of fairy tales to face off against evil woodcutters, bewitched flowers, and an icy snow queen. Great for fans of Frozen.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins, 1997)
Gr 4-6 In this funny, powerful retelling of Cinderella, the concept of the obedient daughter gets taken to an extreme. Lucinda the fairy “gifts” baby Ella with obedience, making it impossible for her to disobey a direct order, a trait her stepmother and stepsisters exploit. Staring down a future of drudgery and with the heart of a handsome prince on the line, it takes all of Ella’s will to defy the curse.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (Puffin, 2018)
Gr 5-7 Arturo’s life is turning upside down. A developer is threatening to pave over his vibrant neighborhood, home to his family’s restaurant and the apartment building he shares with new crush Carmen. With Carmen’s help, can Arturo save their town? A charming, contemporary read- aloud filled with lovable characters and a united, caring community.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (S. &S. /Atheneum, 1967)
Gr 4-6 Claudia Kincaid feels unappreciated by her suburban Connecticut parents, so she decides to run away to the most interesting and refined place she knows—the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With her younger brother Jamie (and his piggy bank), she embarks on an adventure in the famous art museum. Join the generations who have fallen in love with irrepressible Claudia and the Met.

The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi (Carolrhoda, 2016)
Gr 3-5 Fourth grade is off to a bad start for Mateo. His little sister Mila is annoying, his best friend ditched him, and talking skunks have invaded his neighborhood and stolen his sister’s bike. The new kid at school, Ashwin, shares Mateo’s love of silly animal jokes and the chivalric code of knights—to do good and fight for those in need. The boys and Mila devise a battle plan to defend their neighborhood, their bikes, and their school playground.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary (HarperCollins, 1965)
Gr 3-5 When Ralph S. Mouse, a resident of an old hotel with a yen for an escapade, meets Keith, a young visitor with a toy motorcycle, adventures ensue. Ralph begins tearing around the hotel at night, making daring escapes from villainous vacuum cleaners and perfidious bedding. But when Keith gets sick, Ralph must save the day. Action mixes with a heaping dose of heart in this kid-friendly classic.

Mr . and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath (Random/Schwartz & Wade, 2012)
Gr 3-5 Hornby Island is a peaceful hippie commune off the coast of Canada, until the day foxes with a nefarious purpose kidnap Madeline’s parents. When foxes steal your family, there’s only one place to turn: a husband-and-wife rabbit detective team who took up sleuthing when they found a Holmesian hat in a field. Humor and warmth radiate from this charming tale.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater (Little, Brown, 1938)
Gr 3-5 A huge fan of polar explorations, mild-mannered house painter Mr. Popper finds himself with a crate of penguins after writing a letter to Admiral Drake. Mr. Popper turns his basement into an icy wonderland and takes a penguin show on the road. Penguin antics, gentle humor, and charming illustrations abound.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (Knopf, 1967)
Gr 4-6 Milo is always bored, until the day a tollbooth and a boy-size car appear in his bedroom. His ennui evaporates when he finds himself on a strange road in the Lands Beyond. This epic adventure through a witty, wacky world will bring a smile to the prickliest
of listeners.

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia (Harper/Amistad, 2013)
Gr 5-7 Delphine’s mother signs all her letters the same way: “P.S.: Be eleven.” But Delphine is 12, and life in Brooklyn in the late 1960s is changing fast—shouldn’t she change too? With her mother in California and her father and grandmother minding Delphine and her sisters at home, growing up is all Delphine can look forward to. A classic story of family, friendship, and a changing world.

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng (HMH, 2012)
Gr 3-5 Sometimes it seems easier to find a best friend in a book, or so fourth-grader Anna Wang thinks. A book will never ditch you for new friends, or make your feel strange about taking Chinese lessons on the weekends. When her old friend Laura reappears in her life, Anna must decide if taking a risk is worth it for a friend IRL. A charming, meaningful story of friendship and family.

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