25 Top Chapter Books to Read With Your Child at Bedtime​

Jeanne Sager | Oct 13, 2014 Big Kid

mom reading to her daughter

Chapter books. Two words that are harder on parents than one would expect. Sure, we're proud when our kids "graduate" from picture books, but all too soon we know they won't need us to come into their bedrooms at night for a bedtime story.

I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to give up that special time at night without a fight. And according to the experts, you shouldn't either. Even when your kiddo is zooming through chapter books, it turns out they still need Mom or Dad to read to them at night.

"As children become proficient readers, they begin to place an emphasis on comprehension. While this is extremely important, children may overlook proper reading expression," explains Laura Bailet, PhD, operational vice president of the Reading Bright Start! program at Nemours Children's Health System.

More From The Stir: 10 Fun, Fabulous Book Characters That Every Little Girl Should Meet

That's why it's crucial for parents to continue reading aloud to their bookworms.

"As a parent or caregiver, reading aloud continues to provide a model for good reading practices in fluency, inflection, and rhyming," Bailet explains. "It also serves as a great opportunity to introduce new words/meanings and texts beyond their reading level."

Makes sense, doesn't it? And yet, some two thirds of parents of kids 8 and under admit they don't read to their children every night.

If your child bristles at the idea of being read to, Bailet suggests a little role reversal. Let your child read to you, and ask them questions about the author's purpose in including certain storylines or characters. Query them on unfamiliar words and discuss important topics. You can also try switching back and forth between parent and child from chapter to chapter or night to night.

Still struggling to keep bedtime stories fresh and exciting (hey, you've been doing this for years!)? Maybe this will help: The Stir asked parents, teachers, and even a few librarians to suggest the very best chapter books for reading aloud to kids and to explain why they're worth adding to your kids' bookshelves (or at least hitting the library for a copy).

Some tackle tough subject matter that's best for kids to encounter with a little adult guidance (although they're all kid-appropriate). Some have historical references that might need to be explained to kids. And some? Well they're just plain fun to read out loud!

chapter books to read aloud to kids

Have you read #18 to your kids yet? Which is your favorite?

 

Images © iStock.com/DZM; © iStock.com/Deklofenak

  • 'The BFG' by Roald Dahl

    1

    "Saying all those made up words is so much fun!"

  • 'My Side of the Mountain' by Jean Craighead George

    2

    "It is told in the voice of Sam. It takes place in the Catskills, and its descriptions put you right there in the woods with him and his falcon. You feel like you're roughing it with him! I still love it and read it aloud to my daughter when she was 8, 12, and again at age 16 when she was very sick in bed last year. She fell asleep with a smile on her face!"

  • 'The Phantom Tollbooth' by Norton Juster

    3

    "It teaches children about adventure as well as the idea that you need to recognize the beautiful things in life. If you just continue on without admiring, those beautiful things disappear."

  • 'The Watsons Go to Birmingham' by Christopher Paul Curtis

    4

    "This is a funny story about a family surviving during the Civil Rights movement. It is a Realistic Fiction that will help facilitate deep discussions about our country's history."

  • 'The Chronicles of Narnia' (series) by C.S. Lewis

    5

    "It's a story with many lessons and also includes many descriptive scenes and dialogue that require the listener and reader to use their imagination as you 'paint' the story in your mind, which helps you bring the story to life and be in the story!"

  • 'The Library Card' by Jerry Spinelli

    6

    "It is a great story about a group of kids who find a library card, and the world opens up for them. I love the message it sends children. My students always loved reading that story. The message they felt the author was trying to express is that books are a ticket to worlds they never knew possible. Great message and wonderful story ..."

  • 'Little House on the Prairie' (series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    7

    "There are so many details about how things were back then that are vastly different from our lives today. My 5-year-old daughter is fascinated and stops to ask many, many questions along the way. She's blown away by the answers -- no electricity! No cars! Children should be seen not heard! It's fun to talk about how things have changed as we read."

  • 'The Bridge to Terabithia' by Katherine Paterson

    8

    "It made my girls ask a lot of questions and opened [up a] discussion about death and friendship."

  • 'Big Nate' (series) by Lincoln Peirce

    9

    "They are hilarious for both the child and the parent. [My 11-year-old son] and I will take turns reading the characters' voices. It helps his reading, and to be honest, they give a very true and humorous approach to both the sixth grade character and the people around him in how they react to each other."

  • 'Anne of Green Gables' by L.M. Montgomery

    10

    "The Anne books were my favorites as a little girl, and I bought my daughter a brand new copy of Anne of Green Gables. I couldn't wait for her to read it, but every time I asked if she'd started it, she'd sigh and tell me she'd read the first few pages but nothing more. So I decided to sit down and read it to her. I realized that while the story stands up, there are a lot of dated references that were tripping her up. Once I was able to explain them to her, she was falling in love with 'Anne with an E' and asking for her own dress with puffed sleeves."

  • 'The Hobbit' by JRR Tolkien

    11

    "It's so fun to see their faces as you read it with them. It was the first book I read to all three of my kids."

  • 'The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles' by Julie Andrews Edwards

    12

    "My teachers read it aloud to us in fifth grade, and I've re-read it numerous times since then. Being able to close your eyes and picture Whangdoodleland and all its creatures as the descriptions are read to you ... that can't be beat."

  • 'The One and Only Ivan' by Katherine Applegate

    13

    "While working in my son's school library last school year, I listened in as the librarian read The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, to the fourth graders. They were captivated and complained every time when she stopped reading so they could check out books."

  • 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' by Roald Dahl

    14

    "I love the imagery and that after we could watch the movie to see how it compared to his mental pictures."

  • 'The Book of Three' (series) by Lloyd Alexander

    15

    "It is an archetypal story, which surrounds you with a world of innocence, and the cadences in the language and the dialogue are not to be missed. Our family still today brightens mundane conversations with turns of phrase from this book."

  • 'Mr. Popper's Penguins' by Richard and Florence Atwater

    16

    "The comedy in this book is almost slapstick in nature. There is nothing better than watching my daughter fall into a fit of giggles -- and this book would make it happen night after night."

  • 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle

    17

    "It's fun to do Mrs. Which's voice and the scenes on Camazotz!"

    (Not sure what she means? You'll have to check it out!)

  • 'The Hundred Dresses' by Eleanor Estes

    18

    "It is for younger-ish kids, like K-4, but introduces the concept of conscience, of the harm that words can have on a person, as well as the impact of 'saying nothing' when you see someone harming someone else. It is a great read to have a conversation about not just teasing, but class and differences in economic status. Though written in 1945, it was one of the first to deal with 'mean girls.' A must-read for any family, but especially one with daughters. [My daughter] loved it and still remembers and talks about it. It is a winner of the Newbery Honor."

  • 'Summer at Forsaken Lake' by Michael D. Bell

    19

    "My tween daughter and I really loved Summer at Forsaken Lake! We fell in love with the fact that it was a coming of age tale about a boy who reluctantly goes to live with his grandfather during the summer in upstate New York while his dad traveled the world as a doctor helping in third world countries. During the summer, all sorts of discoveries were made that let him get to know his dad in a different way, including an unfinished movie that his dad made; he made it his goal to finish it with the help of new friends. There's a bit of mystery to the book, a budding romance with the girl next door (all very sweet and totally PG), and lots of character development that shows huge growth in the boy throughout the story. At the end, he and dad have an even stronger bond and he doesn't want to leave to go back home. "

  • 'The Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust' by Eve Bunting

    20

    "Because it is a simple allegory of what happens when we do not take a stand against wrong."

  • 'The Trumpet of the Swan' by E.B. White

    21

    "Louis the Swan -- born without a voice -- decides to make his own. His antics and adventures are delightful, and the voice of the curious, patient, and calm Sam will make it an enjoyable read for the grownup as well. It’s not as well known as Charlotte’s Web, but equally delightful. I remember being enthralled by this story in the fourth grade as our teacher read it to us aloud."

  • 'Where the Sidewalk Ends' by Shel Silverstein

    22

    "Because Shel Silverstein represents everything that is wonderful about literature. The delights of plays on words, rhyme, symbolism, irony, charm, and so much more. He takes children on a journey from silly nonsense to beauty to sadness to love. He was the first magician of words I fell in love with and gave me the idea that you can do anything with paper and pen."

  • 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' by J.K. Rowling

    23

    "The Harry Potter series might be the only children's book series I have read multiple times as an adult, and that was before my daughter was ever born. Reading it to her was a chance to revisit old friends and get her hooked. Then we watched the movies together, making it a really good bonding experience."

  • 'Junie B. Jones' (series) by Barbara Park

    24

    "The chapters are short, which makes them a quick read when you don't have a lot of time at night if you just read one chapter, and my daughters just think they're very funny!"

  • 'The Secret Garden' by Frances Hodgsen Burnett

    25

    "The Secret Garden was one of my favorite books as a kid, so I wanted to share it with my daughter. There is a lot of Yorkshire dialect, which I do in an Irish accent, but she's none the wiser. Reading a book I loved when I was young added to the experience -- it wasn't just about sharing the book, but about something from my childhood. She loved knowing that I first read it when I was her age."

books & media

More