School-Age Read Alouds

Kids are never too old to read picture books. Heck, even adults still enjoy them! Kids of all ages also love being read to, so today I’m sharing some of my favourite picture books for school-age children.

I love having my local elementary school classes come to the library for a visit, and I’ve built up a collection of go-to books I can grab when they drop in. Most of these books work best with grades K – 2, though I’ve had Grade 5 students sitting rapt with attention. It really depends on the kids!

Have fun reading these to school-age kids and testing out which grades like them the best. Did I miss a favourite of yours? Let me know in the comments!

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat
A clever take on the classic nursery rhyme with themes of overcoming fears and resilience. Beautifully big pages make it good for large groups. I think the message strikes home the most with kids in grades 1 – 4.

Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex
Perfect silly read for those Star Wars obsessed K – 2 students. Practice your Darth Vader voice before reading or enlist a strong reader to help you out.

The Bad Seed by Jory John; illustrated by Pete Oswald
One of those magical books that works for any age. Older kids will get the humour, while your K – 1 kids are just beginning to have more complicated discussions around good and bad. I hear there’s a sequel coming out this year too!

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
Perfect for grades K – 3, this origin story of the moon offers an opportunity for soothing storytelling. There’s so many art extension activities you could weave in if you’re a teacher.

Bowwow Powwow by Brenda J. Child; translation by Gordon Jourdain; illustrations by Jonathan Thunder
A bilingual tale of a real and imaginative powwow. Can be used with any grade to show present day Ojibwe people.

Brief Thief by Michaël Escoffier; illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Mistaken identity and a creature’s conscience make this a great choice for grades 2 – 4. You can swing it with younger kids but they often don’t get the concept of an inner voice. Funny, unique, recommended for fans of Klassen.

Chester by Melanie Watt
Oh, Chester. I read this one in my Early Readers Book Club and then we create our own masterpieces. Best read aloud in two distinct voices. Look for the whole series if it’s a hit with your crowd.

The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell
This cumulative tale features a brave girl and lots of scary funny monsters. Recommend for K – 2. My niece’s grade 2 class LOVED it.

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Inspired by a true story, this book tackles sexism and a girl’s fight to overcome it. Even kindies are attuned to what’s fair and what’s not, but it packs the most punch with grades 2 – 4.

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
What do *you* see? This optical illusion book is highly engaging for your K – 2 crowd and will have them talking about it long after.

Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach
An animal antic with a theme of belonging. Perfect for kindergarteners but can stretch up to grade 2 in my experience. I like asking the kids what they are excellent at after reading it.

Froodle by Antoinette Portis
Kindergartens will adore this goofy sound book. I like how some of the words are in big word bubbles so you can encourage the emerging readers to help you pronounce them. Because they are made up words, there is no pressure to get them right!

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
I’ve read this successfully with many ages, but I actually think older kids appreciate the humour the most. Twisted fairy tales in general make great read alouds for school-age kids. And Willems is a master.

Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde; illustrated by John Parra
I love story’s about the community coming together to do something mutually beneficial. An inspiring story that will encourage young activists.

Horse Meets Dog by Elliott Kalan; illustrated by Tim Miller
Great for grades 2 – 4, this one works best with two distinct voices. Try asking a kid to read one of the parts. They definitely nail the school-age kid level of humour.

In a Cloud of Dust by Alma Fullerton; illustrated by Brian Deines. 
This one made my 2015 Favourite Storytime Books list too. As I said there, I love showing kids how other kids live around the world. There’s the perfect amount of text per page for preschool – Grade 2 in this one.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Kids who are well versed in fairy tales will enjoy this one the most. A laugh out loud bedtime story. I highly recommend the sequel that came out last year, Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
This is my favourite of his “something gets eaten” books. I know a lot of people read these to preschoolers but I think they work the best with school-age kids. They get the humour and are much more versed in the art of someone getting their due. You could choose any Klassen book from the shelf and be all set though.

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
I love reading this one to kids in preschool up to Grade 3. I *still* remember the terror I felt when faced with jumping off the diving board. Great to read during the summer time, obvi.

King Baby by Kate Beaton
So fun. So funny. Any kids with younger siblings will especially love this one. When Sophie was 5-years-old she couldn’t get enough, especially when the baby learns to crawl.

legend of rock paper scissors

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Adam Rex
This one works best with older kids. I’m saying Grade 4 – 6. They get the jokes. They may even be inspired to write their own “origin” story.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
Basically all of Mo Willems books work great for school-age kids. This 2005 title is one of my favourites for grades K – 2. If they like it you can read them the companion book at your next visit.

Little Red by Bethany Woolvin
This book has seen me through so many Summer Reading Club school visits. I can read it to any grade. One kid looked at me afterwards and said, “Savage.” That about sums it up. Woolvin’s got a few other fairy tale retellings too.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy  and Theresa Howell; illustrated by Rafael Lopez.
Another story about transforming a community through art. I love that this one is based on a true story. Great for grades K – 3.

Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos; illustrated by Joy Ang
I sent this one in with Sophie’s Grade 2 class and they LOVED it. The teacher has requested all the other books in the series. It’s got some great metaphors and a twist ending to boot.

Moo! by David LaRochelle; illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka.
This is one of my favourite books to read to kindergartners because even if they can’t read yet they can still help me tell the story. Great for building self confidence and a love of books.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
This one also works great for preschoolers. Fits in great with any themes about individuality or finding your own beat.

Nanette’s Baguette by Mo Willems
As I said, basically all of Willems’ books could be on this list. I wanted to shine a light on this one because the rhyming is top notch. Perfect for kids who are learning to read! Recommended for grades K – 3.

Potato Pants by Laurie Keller
So funny! I mean, it’s a potato with an eggplant nemesis and they are fighting over PANTS. Perfect for K – 4.

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton
Beaton’s second appearance on the list! I took this to a school outreach event and a Grade 2 boy demanded that I read it aloud. It’s got a biracial princess and a farting pony. What more can you ask for?

Rot the Cutest in the World by Ben Clanton
Man, do I have a soft spot in my heart for this book. I love Rot so much. He believes in himself and isn’t afraid to take a chance. I also like how the other animals learn to love Rot too. Perfect for K – 4.

Stumpkin by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Grab this for all your fall visits. It’s not an in-your-face Halloween story, but it can stand in if needed. We all have dreams, even stemless pumpkins. Great for K – 3.

Tadpole’s Promise by Jeanne Willis; illustrated by Tony Ross.
This is a lesser known choice, but you won’t be disappointed. It reads like a folktale with a twist ending that will leave kids gasping. I’ve had success with all school-age kids.

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
This one’s got awards all over the cover for good reason. A generous grandmother feeds the whole community who return her in kind. A beautiful uplifting story. I love to read it to grades K – 2 and talk about family and favourite meals.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
The kindergarten classes I’ve read this to have been fascinated. Such a wonderful way to talk about perspective. I love teaching the song by Emily Arrow after reading the book.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciezka; illustrated by Lane Smith
A classic. I remember reading this when I was in school. And you know what? It still pulls its weight. If you’ve never read this fractured fairy tale, you’ve got to put it on hold straight away.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
You can find this one on my 2018 Favourite Storytime Picture Books list. As I mentioned there, the Mother Bruce series is also great for school-age kids. This one works great as a back-to-school read when you are meeting kids for the first time.

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Zachariah OHara
Dyckman snags the last two spots on my list! This one is a funny tale about an adopted sibling. Great for when you want to liven up storytime and get the kids guessing about a character’s intent. I read it to kids in grades K – 2.

You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman; illustrated by Liz Climo
I bought this one for my nephew and he demanded multiple readings. It’s got the rainbow factor. It’s got the poop factor. It’s got the silly factor. What other animals would you definitely not want as a pet? Just the right amount humour for preschool – kindergarten kids.

There you have it! Certainly not a comprehensive list, but these are some of my favourites to read to school-age kids. Did I miss one of your favourites? Please let me know in the comments!


10 thoughts on “School-Age Read Alouds

  1. These are almost all books I’ve come across that I would love to do, but have sadly put back as I haven’t ever had kids old enough for them. Hopefully when I get a ft librarian gig I’ll get to visit schools and read them all! I LOVE dark humor, but Tadpole’s Promise is even a bit much for me, LOL! Great list!

    1. haha, ya I’ve had looks of horror at the end of that one, but they always ask to hear it again! Sending good thoughts your way to getting that full time gig 🙂

  2. I was *just* brainstorming a summertime readaloud program for elementary-age kids, thinking, “I wish I had a community of practitioners to ask how to make this work.” Then I thought, “I’ll check Jbrary!” and how delighted was I to see this post right at the top! You always have what I need right when I need it, and I thank you!

  3. Awesome list! I’m always on the lookout for picture books that “work” for older kids, especially around this time of year – with SRC promotion just around the corner.

    I love to read these ones to big kids:
    “Use Your Imagination” by Nicola O’Byrne
    “This is a Ball” by Beck and Matt Stanton
    “The Book With No Pictures” by B.J. Novak

    1. Thanks for those recommendations! I’ve only use the third one with preschoolers, but I should try it with K students too.

  4. Thanks so much for this great resource. As a new and learning youth services librarian, I appreciate all the help I can get. I am always in need of ideas for great books to read for class visits…15 minutes or so is all I have to read. The younger kids are easier to find books for, but the 4th and 5th grades are where I struggle. This list you compiled is terrific! If you think of any more titles that really score with the upper elementary kids, please share more of those as well. You guys are amazing, and thanks again for being such a great resource for so many of us:)

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