Brilliant Family Read-Aloud Books for Kids of Different Ages
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A reader recently wrote to me asking for brilliant family read aloud books for kids of different ages. So what are good read-aloud chapter books and middle grade book ideas that appeal to different ages of kids? Whether you’re taking a family road trip or at home reading with kids of different ages, you want books that ALL your kids, ages 5 and up, will enjoy.
But is it even possible to find a book that kids of different ages will enjoy together?
Yes. It is totally possible.
Because brilliant stories are magic.
Brilliant stories grab kids’ attention and keep them engaged, entertained, delighted, curious, and surprised. No matter what age they’re written for…
C.S. Lewis famously said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.“
Also, can I just say kudos to you for reading to your family! Go, you!
Here are a few helpful tips for your read aloud time. And here are creative ways to find time to read aloud to your kids.
Read Aloud Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Read Aloud Books for Age 4 & 5
Quick Tips for Reading to Kids of Different Ages
- Let your kids pick the book. (Take turns.) To make this process more successful, give your kids a selection of books from which to choose.
- If you’re at home, gather in an area that has comfortable places for kids to relax with rugs, pillows, and cozy seating.
- Let kids have the option to move, draw, make or build. Sometimes being active while listening helps cement the storyline as well as keep wiggly children more focused.
- Whether on the road or at home, keep technology turned off.
Family Read-Aloud Books (for Kids of Different Ages)
I’ve divided the book recommendations into these four sections:
Funny Read Aloud Books for the Whole Family
Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits by Julian Gough & Jim Field
This beginning chapter book is delightfully weird, hilarious, and tender-hearted! Neil Gaiman says this book is “a laugh-out-loud story” and I completely agree. There’s a lot to love about this book including the tidbits of science like gravity and a rabbit’s diet (they eat their poop– but only some of their poop!) In a lovely redemptive story arc, Rabbit starts out by stealing Bear’s food and is a rude, know-it-all but becomes self-reflective, repentant, and kind.
The Case of the Weird Blue Chicken by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Kids know it’s not the blue chicken (who is actually a bird, not a chicken!) who is weird but it’s the chicken squad who are downright wacky! In this adventure, these silly chickens are asked to investigate who has stolen the blue bird’s house. And despite the chickens’ inability to actually investigate anything, they do discover the culprit and a solution. It’s very funny.
Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers by John Dougherty
Hilarious and weird and very creative! Stinkbomb and his sister, Ketchup-Face think that the badgers (“BAD” is in their name!) stole Stinkbomb’s $20. They embark on the craziest of adventures to get back the $20 including meeting King Toothbrush Weasel who they’ll help to rid the island of the badgers. If you like silly stories, this book is for you!
Shivers! The Pirate Who’s Afraid of EVERYTHING by Annabeth Bondor-Stone & Connor White
Poor land-locked Shivers. He’s terrified of everything, especially snails. But when his sea-faring family of pirates is captured, Shivers is their only hope for rescue. Luckily he meets the daring and adventurous Margo who gets them off of dry land, teaches Shivers about sword fighting and helps him find and rescue his parents. This book is very comical and will keep your kids thoroughly entertained.
Dory and the Real True Friend by Abby Hanlon
Dory is one of my favorite book characters because her imagination is THE BEST! She has three imaginary friends: one monster friend, one fairy godmother that’s actually not a lady, and one bad lady nemesis. I love this story because she meets a real-life friend who understands all about imaginary friends and together, they’re the perfect match.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Old school humor at its best! This book series describe a wacky school with crazy teachers and even crazier students and events. BOX SET
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John, illustrated by Kevin Cornell
Don’t miss this hilarious adventure of two pranksters who (eventually) work together to pull off the biggest prank of all time — a prank that will ensure they get April Fool’s Day off from school.
Get to Work, Hercules! (Myth-O-Mania) by Kate McMullan
Hades narrates the TRUE stories of the Greek Myths with panache. (Hades must set the record straight since his younger brother Zeus is a big fat liar.) In this story, Hades tells us all about his young, not-too-smart nephew named Hercules whom Hera has it out for. We LOVE this series’ humor-infused myths!
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Quirky and delightful, this is the tale of a girl named Flora who rescues a squirrel and keeps it as a friend. Together they experience the world in a unique, funny, and wonderful way.
Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz
This genuinely sweet story about a girl who goes from a bully to a trying-to-do-better model citizen will make you laugh and warm your heart. When Bernice’s mom sends Bernice to live with her nun aunt, it’s a chance for this former bully without any friends except the town’s librarian, to reform her mean-spirited ways. Bernice makes a friend and finds an unexpected home with the nuns.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlie is one of the five winning children allowed to tour Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. But it’s a tour unlike any other and the other not-too-nice-kids kids strangely disappear throughout their tour. This book remains a classic for a good reason — brilliant, humorous storytelling.
Anyone But Ivy Pocket by Caleb Krisp
Ivy’s totally clueless, lovable, and so very quirky. Before we read this book together, I read many parts out loud to my kids while I was previewing this book because it was just so funny!! Now my kids are addicted, too. Ivy’s adventures involve a sinister ghost, a mystical jewel, and a surprising destiny.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
If your kids like quirky humor, then this is your perfect book. You will never believe what happens when the kids’ father goes out to get more milk. He doesn’t even get the milk, but he does run into pirates, aliens, and all sorts of incredible things! Totally hilarious and quite short–which is appealing to many readers.
Get more FUNNY book ideas here.
Heart-Warming Family Read Alouds
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams
This story is a beautiful tribute to friendship, particularly the friendship between a pig, a spider, and a girl. It’s one of the best-written children’s books in existence.
Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Raúf
Alexa and her friends learn that the new kid, Ahmed, was in a real war and has been separated from his family. So when Alexa and her friends hear that England is going to shut the borders, they decide they must go to the Queen to help Ahmed be reunited with his family. They go to the palace in person, tangling with the guards, and getting in big trouble but it eventually leads to media attention and a happy solution.
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
An absolutely wonderful, heartwarming historical fiction story with close-knit siblings who stick together and eventually find their forever home. Three siblings join the groups of children leaving London during WWII for safety. But in their case, their neglectful grandmother has recently died and they need to find a new home. Unfortunately, their placements are horrid. It’s only the library and the kind librarian who help them survive the bullying and hunger. What’s worse, the librarian is deemed “unsuitable” to be their foster mother since her missing husband is German. When things go from bad to worse in their latest home, can the children find a home with the librarian no matter what the town thinks about her?
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Roz is a robot alone on an island with only animals. To survive, she figures out how to live in the wild despite the animals seeing her as a monster. That changes when Roz adopts a gosling and makes a nest. It’s a meaningful story of family, love, and community that consistently garners love from readers.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Narrated by a gorilla named Ivan, this true story will immediately grab at your heartstrings. Ivan is kept in a cage in a run-down mall for 27 years without seeing another gorilla. When his maltreated elephant friend dies there, she asks Ivan to help the new, younger elephant find a better life. With the help of the janitor’s daughter, he does just that.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Forced to flee a dangerous situation in Mexico, Esperanza and her mother arrive in California and start working as migrant farm workers. The back-breaking work is only part of their new, challenging life. In this beautifully written, soulful novel, Esperanza learns to thrive no matter what her circumstances.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Opal’s preacher father is always busy and her mother has been gone since Opal was three, something Opal has always wondered about. But Opal finds someone to care about– a stray dog that she names Winn-Dixie. It’s the dog who brings hope and meaning into 10-year-old Opal’s life. A brilliant and thoughtful read-aloud book choice for the whole family.
Restart by Gordon Korman
After a bad fall, Chase has no memory of who he is or was. But he soon realizes that he was a cruel troublemaker. Now he must decide who he’ll be from now on. Because he’s enjoying his new life in the film club and the new (“nerdy”) friends he’s made. This thought-provoking novel shows kids that our choices and behavior make a difference.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Like The Penderwicks, you’ll fall in love with this quirky, wonderful family from the first page. The Vanderbeekers’ landlord wants them out by the end of December but the Vanderbeeker kids are determined to change his mind, even though he hates noise, kids, and their family. But it’s almost Christmas and their efforts are only making things worse. What will they do? Charming and heart-warming.
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Hands-down this is one of the best life-changing books you’ll ever read. Narrated by Melody, we learn what it’s like to be trapped in a body with cerebral palsy that doesn’t allow her to speak or take care of herself. No one except her parents thinks that she’s smart. Until one day. She gets a chance to prove it using new technology. But that doesn’t solve all her problems. Her story is heartbreaking, real, and inspiring.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
This book hooked me from the first page, taking me on a coming of age story that was both heartbreaking and filled with hope. Perry is well-loved by his mother and her friends. . . in prison. That’s where Perry has lived since he was born eleven years ago. But in an unexpected and unpleasant turn of events, his best friend’s stepfather, the new District Attorney, forces Perry to leave his prison home. Perry decides to research the inmates’ life stories, hoping that somehow they’ll be helpful in reuniting him with his mother.
Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire, illustrated by David Litchfield
With delicious figurative language and deliberate word choice, this is a stunningly beautiful story about family, community, grief, and stories which begs to be read aloud. Cress and her family leave their cozy burrow after the death of her father. They move to the Broken Arms oak tree ruled by a cranky Owl with a noisy neighbor squirrel family. Cress navigates her new environment, the natural world, and the stories around her, all of which help her understand her inner world, especially how grief waxes and wanes like the moon’s cycles. Filled with immensely lovable characters, a gentle storyline of adventure and discovery, and lavish illustrations, I adore everything about this book.
You Might Also Like: Realistic Chapter Book Stories for Ages 6 to 18
Magical Family Read Alouds
Zoey and Sassafras Dragons and Marshmallows #1 by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay
This is an entertaining and well-written story with the coolest mix of science and magic, a diverse main character, and fantastic illustrations. Zoey, like her mom, can see magical creatures and is tasked to care for any injured creatures that might need help. In this first story, she uses her science skills (including research and the scientific method) to figure out how to care for a sick baby dragon.
Dragon Slippers trilogy by Jessica Day George
We can’t recommend these books enough! Young and brave Creel wants nothing more than to own her own seamstress shop. In her pursuit of this dream, she befriends a special dragon who, along with magical dragon slippers, changes her life.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
This series is amazing! Greek gods still exist and so do their kids, half-bloods, who have incredible abilities. Unfortunately for these kids, monsters are out to kill them. Percy goes to Camp Half-Blood where he is trained to protect himself… that is until he’s sent on a dangerous quest. Betrayal, adventure, plot twists, and incredible mythological world-building make these books kids can’t put down. BOX SET HERE.
Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
Fairy tales become very real when Alex and Conner (a brother and sister) find themselves transported to the fairy tale world. To get home, they’ll need to find the ingredients for a Wishing Spell. Finding the items will be dangerous, mysterious, and life-changing. All the books in this series are compelling, magical adventures about characters you will ADORE. My kids couldn’t put these books down.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The best-selling children’s book of all time, this is a MUST READ for so many reasons: the brilliant storytelling, a complex and entertaining plot, relatable characters, rich language, essential life lessons about friendship and bravery, and more. (See all my reasons for reading Harry Potter.)
Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland
A group of dragonets who might be the long-awaited dragonets of the prophecy that will end the dragon wars for good leave their protectors safety only to be captured by a cruel dragon faction. One thing’s for sure: when the dragonets are captured, their safety and future look bleak.
Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
Snow and Rose are two sisters who moved with their mother from their fancy home to a cabin in the woods after their father disappeared. The girls befriend both a young boy from a mushrooming family as well a large bear. But danger comes from the lurking Huntsman and the sinister Little Man who seek to enchant or kill them. Surprisingly, this is a Grimm story with a happy ending . . . which I won’t spoil. Marvelous, heart-warming storytelling!
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
I think you already know about these books but if you don’t, they’re beautifully written fantasy adventures that will hook your kids with the magical world of Narnia.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time is a remarkable, well-written adventure in space that deals with the overarching theme of good vs. evil. Meg, her brother, Charles Wallace, and her friend, Calvin, set off to find her missing scientist father who disappeared while researching tesseracts. They are helped by three wise creatures, tempted by evil, and eventually, find that good does triumph over evil.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this middle grade fantasy. Amari is an exciting, action-packed, suspenseful story about a girl whose beloved older brother has mysteriously vanished. She gets a virtual message from him revealing that she, like him, is a magician and gets to attend a secret school. At school, she discovers she’s actually a DARK magic magician (which is outlawed). Of course, she’s not evil and she’s determined to prove she isn’t so she can stay in the school and investigate what happened to her brother.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Wonderfully crafted and imagined, this 2017 Newbery winner is a fairy tale of sorts about a good witch who rescues the town’s many abandoned (sacrificed) babies, one of whom she adopts and names Luna. It’s also the story of the baby’s magical, bereaved mother, a wicked witch who feeds off sorrow, a woodcarver who wants justice, and most of all, a girl named Luna who grows up to be amazing.
The Green Ember by S.D. Smith
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Legend of the Dream Giants by Dustin Hansen
Gorgeous, sensory writing fills the pages of this beautifully-crafted story about a young, naive giant named Berg who is searching for his place in the world. He doesn’t want to be like the monstrous Ünhold giant from the human stories and trades pretty rocks for the food he steals, thinking that it a fair trade which proves that he’s not a monster. In a new city, the mayor convinces Berg to become a prisoner with sly manipulations that Berg doesn’t understand. Berg’s friend Anya tries to help Berg see the truth, and Ünhold tries to help Berg, too, but Berg believes the mayor’s lies until the truth becomes tragically apparent. This is a story about trust, hope, belonging, friendship, and truth that you’ll want to discuss.
Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty
Hither and Nigh by Ellen Potter
Guaranteed to enthrall with masterful storytelling and wildly inventive world-building, Nell is forced to join the Last Chance Club or be expelled from school. The club focuses on magic and begins Nell’s search to find her missing brother. She leaves her world of Nither to the magical world of Nigh where she hopes to track the poachers who kidnapped her brother. This is one of my favorite books of 2022 — and ever.
Adventure and Mystery
Ninja Kid: From Nerd to Ninja by Anh Do
Nelson is a nerdy and likable main character who wakes up on his 10th birthday with perfect vision and… ninja moves! (How cool is that?) His mum and grandma explain that like his missing fisherman dad before him, Nelson is the LAST ninja in the world — and he’s actually destined to SAVE the world. Action-packed, funny, appealing illustrations, and likable characters, this book has it all. You won’t want to stop with book one either because there’s a bit of a cliffhanger…
Trapped in a Video Game by Dustin Brady, illustrated by Brady Jessee
Gamers and non-gamers alike who love exciting and dangerous stories won’t want to miss this excellent series. Jesse’s friend gets an early release of a video game — and it sucks in both he and his friend while they’re playing. They’re literally trapped in the video game! Inside the game, they meet a missing classmate who is a grown-up man in the game. Because there’s no way out. Or is there?
The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors
Ben doesn’t think his summer could be any more boring. Until he rescues a baby dragon. He and his new friend, Pearl Petal, learn that the town has a secret veterinarian for… imaginary creatures. That’s where they accidentally let a Sasquatch escape. Whoops. Now the pair must lure the big guy back to the veterinarian. (Which is easier said than done.) This series is a delightful page-turner.
Chupacarter by George Lopez and Ryan Calejo
Holes by Louis Sachar
Poor Stanley. He’s got the worst luck of anyone — and is now he’s been sent to a youth detention camp in the desert where he has to dig holes all day long. All because of his no-good, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather. Stanley and his new friend figure out what’s happening at this supposed detention camp then escape with only onions to eat. Surprisingly, it really does have to do with Stanley’s pig-stealing grandfather.
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Was the FunJungle’s hippo murdered? Teddy and Summer think so. Mystery, adventure, and humor will keep young readers on the edge of their seats in this unique story with lovable, quirky characters.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Kyle and a few classmates win a sleepover at the new town’s newly created library by game-creator Mr. Lemoncello. The silly Mr. Lemoncello devises a fun way to get OUT of the library — you can only get out if you solve the puzzles around the entire library. Will the kids work together or will it be every child for himself? Kids can’t put this literary adventure book down.
Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan
Get ready for action, intrigue, plot twists, and super-cool technology! Ana’s freshman class at her specialized marine and naval academy are the only survivors when the academy is blown up. As the class races to board their field trip ship, their chaperone reveals several essential secrets…Jule’s Verne’s novels based on Captain Nemo are true, Ana’s the only surviving relative of Captain Nemo, and they will be attacked by the land school if they don’t get to safety immediately. (They don’t get to safety immediately.) Despite the odds, Ana and her classmates thwart the first of many attacks — and suddenly because their lead professor is deathly ill, Ana is in charge. The first thing to do is to find the Nautilis and the school’s secret base, all the while trying to evade their enemies. You won’t be able to put this book down- it’s a page-turning adventure that will appeal to all boys and girls.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
This is a classic, excellent Newbery-winning book about highly intelligent lab rats and mice who escape from the lab and form their own community on a farm. When a field mouse named Mrs. Frisby encounters trouble with a sick son, she turns to the rats for help. That’s when she learns the truth about her husband’s previous life. In fact, this was always one of my fifth graders’ favorite read-aloud books.
Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson
Nooks and Crannies is an intriguing story about a young girl with horrible parents. Just before she’s about to be sent to an orphanage, she learns that she just might be a rich someone’s heir and have the chance to live happily ever after. Once at the Countess’ home, she must use her detective skills to figure out what is going on with the heir mystery, the disappearing kids, and the scary Countess. My daughter LOVED this book.
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
If your child hasn’t learned about Nordic mythology, this will be a great intro! To end the long winter, Odd must journey to find Asgard, a city under siege from the Frost Giants. It’s a wonderful, nail-biting adventure. More adventure books here.
Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
Read Aloud Books by Grade Level
Read Aloud Books for 1st Grade (age 6)
Read Aloud Books for 2nd Grade (age 7)
Read Aloud Books for 3rd Grade (age 8)
Read Aloud Books for 4th Grade (age 9)
Read Aloud Books for 5th Grade (age 10)
Read Aloud Books for 6th Grade (age 11)
Read Aloud Books for 7th and 8th Grade (Middle School ages 12 and 13)
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We just finished reading the Vanderbeeker’s book this week–that was a good pick; we really enjoyed it! Also, this past summer we read the Mabel Jones series as a family and my kids LOVED it and were begging me to read more chapters every night. (Kids ages–7, 8, 10, 13, and 16.) I know you have that one on some of your other lists, but just thought I’d mention. 🙂 Also The Beast and The Bethany was a big hit for us as well.
Thank you for suggesting the Mabel Jones series, Jennifer! I’m so glad to hear which books are your favorites, too. 🙂 You sound like big readers. (Wasn’t The Beast and Bethany hilarious? I’m hoping the sequel is just as good.)
So many good books here! My kiddos and I will have to work through this list!
Such a great list! Many of our favorites are on here and there are some that we need to check out! We would also add The Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger!
I love that series. I don’t have it on here because I thought there were more mature themes for younger ages. What do you think?
Thanks! My daughters birthday is right around the corner and there are some great ideas here!
Glad to hear it — I hope you find something she’ll love!
Great list! I’ll definitely be adding some of these to our list to read this summer! We’re finishing up the second Lulu book right now and we’re going to read one called The Giggler Treatment next, which looks the kind of funny that will be a hit with a few of my boys.
I just looked it up and agree — it does look funny! Adding it to my must-read-soon pile, thanks!!