If you’re a 2nd-grade teacher, librarian, or parent, this list of read aloud books will give you teacher and kid recommended titles plus a printable list. (For non-U.S. readers, second graders are 7-year-olds here.)
As you consider which books to read, you also must consider the instructional purpose and potential curriculum tie-in. That’s why I’m including themes, topics, and skills for each book. You can model and practice reading strategies, look at specific text features, use the writing as a mentor text model, or other instructional purposes.
Remember that most read alouds should be AT or ABOVE your students independent reading levels. However, sometimes it’s helpful to introduce a series that kids might want to read independently. These are a great option for First Chapter Fridays. This is where you only read one chapter to spark interest. (I’ve done this many times with my own kids, not just in the classroom.) It works, too.
Read Aloud Books for Second Grade
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
THEMES/TOPICS: poverty, friendship, kindness, bullying
SKILLS: character traits, make predictions, connect to background knowledge, draw conclusions, cause and effect, sequence
SYNOPSIS: Classmates including Maddie tease a girl in their class, Wanda, who says she has 100 dresses at home. When Maddie visits Wanda’s house, she discovers the bittersweet truth — she might not have real dresses but she has drawings of 100 dresses. This book teaches kindness and empathy.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
THEMES/TOPICS: loneliness, hope, love, superheroes, poetry, relationships
SKILLS: vocabulary, character growth/comparison, poetry, prediction, conflict, setting, fact and opinion, persuasion
SYNOPSIS: 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, and straighten it out, too.
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
THEMES/TOPICS: storytelling, hero, dads, perseverance, imagination
SKILLS: figurative language (hyperbole, onomatopoeia,) ask questions, inference, make mental images, sequence, prediction, setting, action, plot, irony, voice, imagery, description, dialogue, characterization, retelling vs. summary, vocabulary
SYNOPSIS: If you like quirky humor, then this is your perfect book. Because you will never believe, except you totally will, 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.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
THEMES/TOPICS: loss, identity, belonging, friendship, acceptance, rescue animals, pets
SKILLS: character, setting, plot, connect to background knowledge, inference, prediction
SYNOPSIS: Opal’s preacher father is always too busy and her mother has been gone since Opal was three, something Opal has always wondered about. But Opal finds someone to care, a stray dog that she names Winn-Dixie, and that dog brings hope and meaning into 10-year old Opal’s life. A brilliant and thoughtful read aloud choice for second grade.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
THEMES/TOPICS: change, migrant work, immigration, child labor, farming, facing challenges, hope, family
SKILLS: character, proverbs, point-of-view, plot, connections, questions, inference, visualizing, determine importance
SYNOPSIS: 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.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
THEMES/TOPICS: bullying, kindness, friendship, immigration, religion, making a difference, science
SKILLS: character, compare and contrast, setting, ask questions, inference, perspective, making mental images
SYNOPSIS: From the writer of The One and Only Ivan, comes a warm-hearted story of kindness and connection to others. A wise old oak tree named Red narrates this beautiful story. He, after all these years, decides to intervene to help a lonely girl named Samar who is new to the neighborhood and whose family was the intended recipient of the word, “LEAVE” on Red’s trunk. Traditionally, Red is used as a Wishtree for the neighbor’s wishes which they hang on his branches. Now, before he is cut down (executed), he helps Samar find a friend.
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
THEMES/TOPICS: school, humor, community
SKILLS: vocabulary, background knowledge, determine importance, ask questions, inference, make mental images, synthesis, irony, perspective
SYNOPSIS: Old school humor at it’s best! These books describe a wacky school with crazy teachers and even crazier students and events. Perfect for a second grader’s sense of humor!
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
THEMES/TOPICS: good vs. evil, mythological creatures, loyalty, sacrifice, sibling rivalry
SKILLS: Inference, vocabulary, character analysis, figurative language, foreshadowing, make mental images
SYNOPSIS: Four siblings enter a magical world that is under the rule of the oppressive White Witch. Can they help Aslan take Narnia back for good even with the betrayal of Edmund? A wonderful fantasy story of kids who make a big difference.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
THEMES/TOPICS: kindness, loyalty, family, respect, identity, behavior
SKILLS: character traits, description, vocabulary, make mental images, inference, perspective, dialogue
SYNOPSIS: 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. The other not-too-nice-kids kids strangely disappear little by little. Funny and quirky, this book remains a classic for a good reason.
STAT: Standing Tall and Talented: Home Court by Amar’e Stoudemir
THEMES/TOPICS: bullying, sports, basketball, skateboarding, competition, friendship, problem-solving, believing in yourself
SKILLS: connect to background knowledge, plot, make mental images, figurative language
SYNOPSIS: Based on the real story of Amar’e Stoudemire of when he was 11. He’s a skateboarder, basketball player, and a worker in his dad’s landscape company. When other kids start trash talking his friends, Amar’e uses his intelligence and basketball skills to find a solution.
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John
THEMES/TOPICS: pranks, friendship, new school, change, behavior
SKILLS: voice, sarcasm, vocabulary, plot, determining importance, inference, perspective
SYNOPSIS: My daughter read this first and begged me to read it immediately. It’s SO funny! And, you can learn some valuable cow trivia. But, it’s mostly the hilarious adventure of two pranksters. They 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.
The Twits by Roald Dahl
THEMES/TOPICS: good vs, bad, behavior, love/hate, injustice, bullying, animal rights
SKILLS: word choice, voice, character comparison, make predictions, inferences, first person, description
SYNOPSIS: In the typical dark humor of Dahl, the Twits are mean and awful. We can’t help but crack up at every bad thing that comes their way. If you want to get your second-grade students laughing, this book will do it. See complete Roald Dahl book list and printable booklet here.
Wedgie & Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors
THEMES/TOPICS: family, divorce, friendship,
SKILLS: vocabulary, predictions, mental images, sequence, inference, point of view, perspective, voice, characterization
SYNOPSIS: Dog owners will nod along with the ADHD stream of conscious narration of Wedgie, the barkie dog who LOVES everything. Contrast this with the diabolical plotting narration of the evil genius guinea pig Gizmo. Two pets show two different perspectives about the new blended family situation. Selfors skillfully addresses this family in transition through the humorous viewpoint of the two pets.
Eerie Elementary: The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert
Introduce a new series!
THEMES/TOPICS: good vs. evil, facing challenges, school, horror
SKILLS: predict, connect, infer, figurative language, vocabulary, character
SYNOPSIS: Sam isn’t thrilled about becoming a hall monitor. Especially when he discovers that the school is ALIVE and trying to harm the students. Sam has quite a wild adventure trying to save the students from the school. This series is wildly popular with 2nd-grade readers.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
THEME/TOPICS: love, loss, emotions (might be too mature for your class– preview and decide if it’s right for you)
SKILLS: make mental images, inferences, character traits, character growth, story sequence
SYNOPSIS: Edward is a china rabbit with a fancy wardrobe who was adored by the girl who owned him. Until he was lost. Warning: this story will break your heart then put it back together again. Edward experiences loss many times over. He can hardly stand the pain. Yet a wise doll encourages Edward to open his heart to love again — and that’s when he finds a miracle.
More Book Ideas for 2nd Grade Read Alouds
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes
Freckle Juice by Judy Bloom
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins
Gooseberry Park by Cynthia Rylant
The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards
Stone Fox by John Reynolds
The Doll People by Ann M. Martin
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