I’ve been reading out loud to my girls since they were born, and now that they are older we’re still reading, ending each day with a chapter or two of something. That means for years now I’ve also been on the hunt for that next great book to read, talking to others and searching their bookshelves to find out what their favorites are and what they might recommend.
If you’re looking for that next book too, or maybe the coronavirus quarantine has you thinking about reading to your kids for the first time, here are some favorites that our family and others have sure loved. Many of these can be checked out electronically from your local library. Otherwise, consider buying the e-book version of one of the chapter books – it’s an investment that’ll pay off in the hours you and your family can enjoy these stories together.
While there are 35+ recommendations below, some are of books series, so the total number of books recommended amounts to well over 100, and all of them fantastic!
All of these have big bright pictures on every page, and the first three are rhymed, which makes it a lot easier for a beginning Dad to get off to a good reading-out-loud start; these will make you sound good!
- A camping spree with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen – it has 2 great sequels.
- The Farm Team by Linda Bailey – about a hockey-playing barnyard.
- Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel – a favorite of millions for the last 40 years.
- Charlie The Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond – while the 10 sequels can’t quite match the enormous charm of this, the original, your kids will love them too.
- Don’t Want to Go by Shirley Hughes – Shirley Hughes has dozens of other wonderful read-aloud picture books.
- The Little Ships by Louise Borden – this is a stirring WWII account suitable for the very young, about the bravery of ordinary folk.
- James Herriot’s Treasury for Children – a big book with 8 sweet stories for animal-loving children.
- Mr. Putter and Tabby series by Cynthia Rylant – an old man and his cat, and his wonderful neighbor and her trouble-making dog – 23 books in all.
- Piggie and Elephant series by Mo Willems – an Abbot and Costello-like duo of Piggie and Elephant getting into all sorts of antics. 29 books, most of which require from the reader only the ability to do just two different voices.
BOOKS WITH PICTURES
There are pictures in these selections, but not on every page. These are slightly longer, more involved, stories that your children will not be able to read on their own until the later part of Grade 1, or the beginning of Grade 2, but they’ll love to hear them a lot earlier than that.
- Bruno the Bear by W.G. Van de Hulst – one in a series of 20+ classic books that are impossible to find except here.
- Winnie the Pooh & The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne – it’s worth getting the big collected treasury to read and reread again and again.
- The Big Goose and the Little White Duck by Meindert DeJong – a gruff grandpa wants to eat the pet goose!
- Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling – the gorgeous Jerry Pinkney adaption is the very best.
- Prince Martin Wins His Sword by Brandon Hale – epic story, in rhyme – this is just so fun to read out loud, and there are 3 sequels!
Once the kids are hitting kindergarten or Grade 1 mom and dad can read books they might read for themselves only in Grade 5 or 6, or even as adults. That can make reading aloud more fun for parents, as the stories will be of more interest to them now.
- The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – this is not the easiest read aloud – the sentences can be quite choppy – but girls everywhere are big fans, and there are 8 sequels. I will note, there was more tragedy (the pet dog Jack dying, Mary becoming blind, etc.) than I was expecting. Still, our girls really enjoyed their mom reading the whole series to them, even though there was, on occasion, tears flowing.
- The Bell Mountain series by Lee Duigon – only downside to this 13-book Christian fantasy series is that each title leads into the next; it’s one big story with no clear ending in any of the books. But we’ve read all 13 so far and are eagerly anticipating #14!
- The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson – A laugh-out-loud hilarious adventure for older children (maybe Grade 3 and up), with 4 main books, and then a book of short stories too.
- The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien – much more of a children’s tale than Lord of the Rings and shorter too (maybe also best for Grade 3 and up).
- The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton – the author is Christian though that doesn’t come up directly anywhere; it’s just good silly fun.
- Treasures from Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson – a clearly Christian grandma talks with her granddaughter, telling stories about way back when she was a little girl. This wouldn’t work for boys, but our girls absolutely love it (and there are 3 sequels every bit as good).
- Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
- Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Arleta Richardson
- Innocent Heroes by Sigmund Brouwer – Brouwer has collected true stories about the amazing feats different animals managed while working in the trenches of World War I, and then told them as if they all happened in just one Canadian army unit. This is probably my wife’s favorite book on this list, and the girls sure liked it too. There were one or two instances where I had to skip a few descriptive words, just to tone down the tension a tad – war stories are not the usual fare for my girls – but with that slight adaptation, this made for great reading even for their 5-9-year-old age group.
- The Last Archer by S.D. Smith
- Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Sir Lancelot the Great by Gerald Morris
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
- The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers
- Brave Ollie Possum by Ethan Nicolle
Half of the following are multi-voice and with great sound effects, but even the three that are simply being read are spectacularly well done. These are great for long car rides, and would be appreciated by all ages, though I’ve arranged them here by target audience, youngest to oldest.
- The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith
- Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince – Lamplighter Theatre
- Teddy’s Button – Lamplighter Theatre
- Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims by Rush Limbaugh
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – the LifeHouse Theater production is just 97 minutes, so quite compacted. But it is very well done, and a great first exposure to this classic for young and old alike
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (as done by Focus on the Family theater)
- Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (and read by Glenn Close)
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (as done by Focus on the Family theater)
Jon Dykstra, and his siblings, blog on books at www.ReallyGoodReads.com.