5 Reasons to read aloud to big kids (and 5 great read-aloud books)

A couple months back I had a mini-breakdown.  Life was too hectic, school was too overwhelming, blah blah blah.  I mean, I’m not one to make excuses, but I suppose it really was to be expected considering the season of life I’m in and everything I had taken on.  It took me a few weeks to work my head around how I was planning to shift our family dynamic, and in the midst of that I began listening to the Read Aloud Revival podcast.

Slowly but surely, everything shifted. Within a matter of weeks my stress level had fallen dramatically, and even though I was spending a lot of time planning the CWBN conference, I was still enjoying being with my kids, and them with me.

So I’m here to tell you: reading aloud to your kids is darn near magical.  I’m shouting it from the rooftops:read to your kids. Not just your babies and toddlers, but to the big kids too.  Yes, even the ones who can read to themselves.  Especially them.

Here’s why:

5 reasons to read aloud

Your kids will get smarter, and you might too.

According to this research, adding one extra day of reading aloud to your child may increase his/her test scores up to one half of a standard deviation.  Depending on the standardized test, that’s between 5-15%.  Nothing to sneeze at, and well worth 15 minutes of enjoyable activities per day.  In case you’re not familiar with academic research, that much improvement is almost unheard of.  (More at episode 9 of the RAR)

And I don’t know about you, Smarty-Pants, but somehow I missed a lot of the “must-read” childhood books.  Reading them aloud to my kids means they aren’t missing them and I don’t have to either.

Caddie Woodlawn: a sassy and spirited girl from Wisconsin, Caddie is my new favorite book character.  (The book is quite old, just new to me.)  Good for both girls and boys, probably 2nd grade and up.

You don’t have to play with your kids to connect with them.

I am an awful playmate.  Truly, I am.  I mean, I was probably decent as a kid, but I pretty much stink at it now.  It has something to do with the fact that the personality I want to have (energetic and free-spirited) clashes violently with the one I actually have (controlling and  lazy).

Gosh, that’s embarrassing to admit.  But it’s true.  Reading aloud allows me to join in my children’s play time without getting super annoyed because they aren’t following the rules or are making an uber mess in their efforts to be creative.  Reading means we are ALL having fun, even me.

The Green Ember: an actually new book.  This book makes a great transition for kids who are used to fast-paced TV shows,  It’s super adventurous and suspenseful and has my kids (literally) begging for more every time I read it.

Older kid books are so much better than little kid books.

Alright, I suppose I am breaking some kind of law by saying that, but it’s true!  I mean, I know there is some kind of Mo Willems fan club, but Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! could also be called Drive Mom Batty in our house.

I’ve talked before about how I don’t believe in rushing a child into early academics/reading, and I stand by it.  I read a lot of picture books, both to my little kids and my big kids. It’s a special thing when kids really are ready for chapter books, though.  Also, the kids give me a little more room on the couch when there isn’t a picture on every page.  Space = good

Favorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories Boxed Set: this book set makes a wonderful read aloud to little kids transitioning from picture books to chapter books.

Physical contact without getting “touched out.”

I read somewhere that kids should get 17 hugs per day to meet their emotional needs.  I have no idea if that number is accurate, but I do know that I’m not particularly good about seeking out my kids to give them hugs and affection.  Reading aloud to them allows me to give them the closeness they want from me without them clinging to me and driving me nuts.  I figure 15 minutes of moderate snuggling is far more actual contact than 17 hugs, anyway.

Grammar-Land: Grammar in Fun for the Children of Schoolroom-Shire: This book is a gem from 1877!  It teaches the parts of speech through an entertaining tale.  The kids and I laugh and laugh, and even Gabriel can name all the parts of speech (so far) and figure out which is which.

Inside jokes are the best.

Don’t you have inside jokes with your friends and families?  Phrases from movies or books that someone will throw out to make everyone laugh?  That’s what you can get from a good book.  It becomes a part of your family’s culture, as Sarah says in her podcast, and it enriches you.  Our family has recently taken to joking about the city of Ward Robe in land of Spare Oom. (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe .)  It always makes the kids giggle when their grandma mentions her spare room.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:  The girls just finished reading this, but because I truly enjoy HP myself, we’re now listening to the audio versionand the narration is so good!  Jim Dale is a vocal magician  But probably still a Muggle.

Side note: I made the girls wait until they were older to read HP.  Now they LOVE it and my boys are interested in listening too (and watching the movie later, of course).  So far I have refused but now I’m wondering: how do those of you with big age spans deal with maturity issues when you’re reading aloud?

Do you enjoy reading aloud to your big kids?  Why or why not?  And throw me some book suggestions in the comments, people!  My kids are voracious!

Alright, that’s all for now.  It’s been ages since I linked up with my favorite apron-sporting book guru, so I’m happy to join Jessica of Housewifespice for What We’re Reading Wednesday this week.

Also: we’ve got 5 reasons + 5 favorite books, so we’re doubly in to join Five Favorites at Efficient Momma.

This post contains affiliate links.  Anything purchased through my Amazon links will drop a few pennies in my Books PiggyBank.  So thank you!


  1. Thank you for this! Voracious readers over here and the evening read aloud is one of my favorite parts of the day. I have 5 children ages 9- 17 mo (4 boys and 1 girl) and I am excited because many on your list are new to me 🙂 we have gone through the Laura Ingalls books, Caddie Woodlawn, Fudge/Superfudge/tales of a 4th Grade Nothing (Judy Blume), several others. Currently reading All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor and my boys are loving that one. Next up is Charlotte’s Web for us. The nice thing about reading aloud is that I have no worries about skipping/changing words that I seem necessary but still keep the spirit of the story. Also, I enjoy reading a chapter or 2 of an engaging book much more than a trillion or 2 of the same picture books night after night. I save those for quiet/nap time with the little 3 during the day and then we all enjoy a chapter book at bedtime.

  2. See, I read aloud only because I know I need to. I can’t stand reading aloud. I didn’t ever like it after I learned to read. I can read very fast and reading aloud is SO SLOW. I was the kid in class who was chapters ahead and then when I was called on to read they would have to tell me what page they were back on. This probably started in second grade and lasted through senior year. I got to a point in high school where my snarky self would read in a complete monotone to avoid being called on often. But we have made it through the entire Magic Tree House Series and HP 1 and 2 as a family so honestly I take the research more seriously than my hatred.

    I don’t mind listening so much if the pace clips along. (I go between a 1.25 or 1.5 on audible depending on the book.)

    And as Secretary of the We Love Mo! Club, I can tell you that Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus is not the best. Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed? That is good stuff.

    Oh. Caddie Woodlawn? I loved that book in elementary school!
    Madeline recently posted…C is for Caterpillar and Other HappeningsMy Profile

    • You just brought back a ton of memories for me, Madeline! I was ALWAYS ahead and got in trouble for that a lot. I agree that it is so much slower. I always plan to read so much but then life and little kids prevent it.

    • Oh, and I will check out those other Mo books. To be honest, I actually like DLTPDTB the first hundred times I read it. 😉

  3. Jen Carlson says:

    Great list! There is a sequel to Caddie Woodlawn called Magical Melons. I read those repeatedly when I was 8 or 9.
    A couple others:
    Ronia the Robbers Daughter by Astrid Lingren
    Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow

    • I’ve heard about Magical Melons! I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the other suggestions, too. I knew you would have great ideas. 😉

  4. Micaela I could give you a 10-page list of my favorite read-alouds for bigger kids! My favorites are the “classics” though. Books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (any Roald Dahl book, really), The Phantom Tollbooth, Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Garden, and the Beverly Cleary books about the mouse and the motorcycle feel like they were intended to be read aloud.

    I love the Read Aloud Revival Podcast, too – so many great resources. As for the Mo Willems fan club… May I suggest Elephant and Piggie? Knuffle Bunny? (I’m a huge sucker for the pigeon books – even after reading them on repeat, I still love that little pigeon and Duckling!)
    Willow recently posted…Yarn Along – Wildflower, Week 17My Profile

  5. I don’t have big kids yet, but we do read aloud a lot. I love, love, love the RAR podcast 🙂 So good! Thanks for linking up!

  6. Love this post! I so desperately want my kids to be old enough to enjoy me reading aloud with them, but they’re just too young to be that interested still. It doesn’t stop me from occasionally reading the “Read Aloud Book of Bible Stories” by Amy Steedman to them while they’re confined to the bath tub. I can relate to you so much about the terrible play mate part, but reading time, yes please!
    Theresa recently posted…Mission San Juan Capistrano, CA: Saint Joseph’s Day and the Return of the Swallows CelebrationMy Profile

  7. Mo Willems drives me nuts too! And I can so relate to the mothering personality I want clashing with the one I actually have. Not the fun mom I wish I was. But reading aloud is one of the best parts of parenting and homeschooling for me, except when I’m pregnant and can’t stay awake. 😉
    Catherine recently posted…WWRW: April ReadsMy Profile

  8. I am sooooooo happy to have found you! I have fallen off the reading bandwagon with the kids. It’s a real shame. A dear friend of mine visited this weekend, and she inspired me along the lines of this post. She reads to her “big boys ” (15 and 13) along with her hubby quite bit. They are into Charles Dickens these days. Given my kids are 12 and 10, I don’t want to lose them to computers and video games constantly. I love some of the books on your list and will be interested in what else is out there. I’m particularly excited about Caddie Woodlawn. My girl is a big Laura Ingalls Wilder fan and loves this era. I hear Miracle on Maple Hill is wonderful also!

    • Welcome, Andrea! I go through dry periods too, times when life is too hectic or I am too tired to read as much as I’d like to. I have always been able to find inspiration to get back on the horse, so to speak, so I’m glad to offer that to you!

      Oh, we recently listened to Miracle on Maple Hill and loved it.

  9. Cristina says:

    Love this topic, and love your honesty about wanting to be free/energetic and actually being lazy/controlling – it’s also me! I’m trying hard not to let it interfere too much with the magic of reading aloud…

    We five kids age 12 – 1, and are currently with bated breath on the second-to-last chapter of The Green Ember!

    We live in a tiny (2BR) house so the four oldest are read to all together at bedtime. The littles have their fill of picture books (hello, Elephant & Piggie!) all day, so I like to read “up” toward the 9 and 12yo. I look for books that will capture the attention of the younger ones (animal characters, adventure, humor) but told in a more sophisticated way to keep the big kids invested. I also like to alternate between male and female heroes/protagonists.

    Recent favorites: Flora & Ulysses, Because of Winn Dixie, The Wizard of Oz, My Side of the Mountain, The Penderwicks (series). Next we will read Pippi Longstocking, the newest Penderwicks book, maybe some Unfortunate Events.

    There are so many great resources on the Read Alound Revival (RAR) website and podcast! Lots of ideas on keeping kids’ hands busy if you are reading during the day. I recently enjoyed podcast #23 on reading with teens. I will be making time this summer to read with my daughter (one girl, four boys) some “girl classics” that her brothers might not love, we’ll do some reading aloud and some reading independently, and then time to talk about it.

    • Great suggestions, thank you! I also enjoy “reading up.” Not that I don’t love picture books, but there is something really fun about laughing aloud/crying with the kids who at other times of the day are doing their best to push the limits. It just bonds us together in a way that I haven’t experienced otherwise. Thanks for commenting!

  10. I have been reading to my children 13,11,8 at breakfast before school for two years now. We only read 2-3 pages a day. The kids love it and I find it makes our early morning routine seem less hectic. I have been reading “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Augusta Teapp. It is a very catholic book!

    • Ah! I LOVE the VonTrapp family. Why have I never thought to read the book?! I can’t wait to get it, even just for myself. Thanks for the suggestion!

  11. Ronia the Robbers Daughter (Astrid Lindgren)- second!
    Homer Price (McCloskey)
    The Secret Garden
    The Tale of Desperaux (so, so good- a story of redemption)
    Trumpet of the Swan
    Wind in the Willows
    and I still remember my dad reading Treasure Island, Call of the Wild, and Watership Down to us at bedtime growing up!

    • We read Trumpet of the Swan last summer and adored it. I will add the rest of your suggestions to my ever-growing list!

  12. Oooh, getting Green Ember on the Kindle as soon as I post this.
    We’re super good about reading out loud during the school year, as it’s how we end our day, but during the summer I get lax. Bad me!

    As far as the age span of Harry Potter, here’s what we do:
    We waited until Lotus was 11 to start reading the books. I read one out loud per year, and the oldest 4 are allowed to stay up to listen. Jude mostly falls asleep. I think that since we’re reading first, not seeing the movies, the scary parts are only as scary as their brains can conjure. Does that make sense? Also, added bonus is by the time we’re done reading and do watch the movie, the kids are always too distracted by what was cut from the film to be scared by the images.

    Lotus is the only one allowed to read them on her own, and only once we’ve finished reading it as a family. That way, we’ve already talked about the plot together. When Joaquin is 11, he can start reading them on his own.

    Once Jude turns 11, I’ll start re-reading them out loud from the beginning, so the younger ones can get the experience, too.

    Yikes. That sounds awfully micro-managey.

    • I like all of those suggestions. I totally agree that reading aloud is less scary than the movie. Adding music and sound effects makes things way more dramatic, never mind the visuals. There was a scene in Liuon. Witch, and Wardrobe where a wolf jumps out snarling and our WHOLE family jumped and screamed.

      We went ahead and watched the Sorcerers Stone movie as a family and I *think* it was okay. Zeke wasn’t really interested and wandered in and out. We are listening to the audio for the first book and stopping to discuss a lot as we go along. Gianna is reading book 2 right now, and even though I wasn’t planning on allowing it, I am letting her because she is SUCH a reluctant reader that I hesitate to discourage her. But we are definitely stopping after 2 for awhile. She needs to be a bit older to handle the themes that come down the pike in the later books.

  13. Claudia says:

    One of my favorite activities is sitting down with the family to read a story before bed. It is a good way to encourage my younger ones to read and it promotes discussion and learning. My kids have been reading a new story that I would like to recommend. Their grandmother purchased it for them after hearing about it from a friend and it has quickly become a new favorite. It is called “Little Brown Animal” written by DiMari Bailey (http://www.dimaribailey.com/). This book is so lovingly written and beautifully illustrated. The lessons contained within are powerful and have the potential to last a lifetime. We need more books like this in circulation for our kids, it doesn’t feel like a cookie cutter copy but instead has its own powerful voice. Although “you are special, love yourself” is an age old theme, this book manages to make it fresh and teaches it to children in a unique and whimsical way. A must own for parents and kids.


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