Reading aloud to a whole class of students has always been one of my favorite things to do in the classroom. It's a great way to connect with kids, model fluent reading, and introduce them to new books that they may not have chosen on their own. Reading aloud has so many benefits…for you and your students. Choosing novels and chapter books that will captivate the whole class will keep your students engaged in each read-aloud and encourage them to read on their own, long after your read-aloud time is over.
Just like with any age group, the best read-aloud books will vary depending on the individual students in the class. However, there are a few novels and chapter books that are always popular with upper elementary students and they are sure to keep kids wanting more. Here are 10 of my favorite books to read aloud in the upper elementary classroom.
1. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
“The One and Only Ivan” is the story of a gorilla who has spent his entire life in a cage at a shopping mall. He has grown to love the people who visit him and the routine of his life, but he always dreamed of seeing the world outside. When a baby elephant named Ruby comes to the mall, Ivan is determined to help her escape.
This novel is a beautiful story about friendship, courage, and hope. It's a perfect book to read aloud as it is written in poetic prose that is sure to engage students.
2. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
This novel is about a young girl, Opal, who moves to a new town with her father. Opal is lonely until one day when she finds a dog in the grocery store and decides to bring him home. She names him Winn Dixie, after the supermarket where she found him.
Winn Dixie quickly becomes a part of the family and helps Opal make friends in her new town. He also brings some excitement into their lives, as he tends to get into trouble whenever he's around! This heartwarming story is perfect for read-aloud and will leave students feeling happy and hopeful. Each character is unique and memorable with a story to tell and the author brings all their stories together with a satisfying ending that has an uplifting message.
3. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
It can be hard to find the time to read aloud a whole book with your class, and even harder to find a book that all the students will enjoy. And that is why “Esperanza Rising” is the perfect read-aloud book for upper elementary classrooms.
This beautifully written story follows Esperanza, a young girl who is forced to leave her luxurious life in Mexico after an unexpected tragedy. She travels to California with her mother to start a new life as migrant workers. Esperanza must learn to adapt and survive in this new, harsh environment. But she never loses hope, and eventually finds a way to reclaim her dreams. This powerful novel is sure to engage and inspire your students.
4. Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Another excellent read-aloud choice for upper elementary classrooms is “Harbor Me” by Jacqueline Woodson. This moving novel tells the story of six diverse kids who come together to share their secrets and find healing in the process. They start off discussing bullying incidents and end up tackling much bigger issues. This hope-filled book is a fantastic starting point for many essential discussions. The dialogue is powerful, making it a perfect choice for classroom discussions.
5. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
One of the most beloved read-aloud books for upper elementary classrooms is “Flora and Ulysses” by Kate DiCamillo. This quirky novel tells the story of a young girl who befriends a squirrel after he rescues her from an accident. The pair quickly become friends, and Flora starts to see the world in a new way. Hilarious and heartfelt, it follows the friends on an adventure with comic-style illustrations. She learns about the power of hope and how to find beauty in everyday life. This uplifting book is perfect for inspiring discussions about the importance of hope and optimism.
6. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
“Bridge to Terabithia” is a classroom classic and a must-read for upper elementary classrooms. When a new student, Leslie, moves to town, she quickly becomes friends with Jesse Owens. The two create their own secret world in the forest called Terabithia. They spend hours there imagining that they are the heroes of their own fantastical kingdom. But when tragedy strikes, Jesse must find the strength to carry on without his friend. This moving novel is perfect for sparking discussions about friendship, individuality, grief, and loss.
7. Fish in a Tree by Lyda Mullaly Hunt
Ally is the new kid at school, and she's having difficulty fitting in. She has been hiding the fact that she is unable to read for a long time and bouncing from school to school has helped her keep her secret. Her new teacher, Mr. Daniels, is able to see Ally's creativity and helps her uncover her confidence in the classroom. She starts to see her own strengths and realizes that there is more to her than just her reading struggles. This inspiring novel is a perfect story about overcoming challenges.
8. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Roz, the robot, discovers she is on a wild island all alone. She doesn't know how she got there or her purpose for being there. She battles through some of nature's most difficult challenges before she learns to adapt. “The Wild Robot” makes a wonderful class read-aloud because it is a heartfelt story that speaks great conversations about kindness, community, and what happens when technology and nature come together.
9. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
“The War That Saved My Life” is a heartwarming novel about Ada, a young girl living in England during World War II. Born with a clubbed foot, Ada's mother does not allow her to leave their apartment. When Ada's mother sends her brother away to the country to escape the war, Ada is determined to join him and sneaks out of the only home she's ever known. Ada and her brother, Jamie, travel to live with Susan Smith and the story develops into a coming-of-age story for Ada as well as a tale of trust, friendship, and determination in trying times. This book is a perfect historical fiction read-aloud to share and discuss the challenges Ada and her brother overcome.
10. Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
“Crenshaw” is a story of family, friendship, and resilience. Jackson and his family are going through very tough times and find themselves without money for rent or food so they move into their minivan. Jackson finds comfort and friendship in Crenshaw the cat…but Crenshaw is imaginary. This is a great story of friendship and can spark great discussions about life's problems and how we can turn to others for help.
There are so many great books to read aloud with your upper elementary students! It is a fantastic time to teach students how to talk about books, grow a classroom community, deal with tough issues that are happening within their age group and in the world around them, and connect with students through books.
Some of my favorite read-aloud books are part of a series; this can encourage even your most reluctant readers to want more! When students are engaged and invested in the stories, they might seek out the next book in the series.
I also love books that have been adapted into movies or series. This is a great way to compare and contrast written and oral presentations of text and also practice comprehension when students notice parts that may be eliminated or changed for screen adaptations.
Here are a few more favorites to add to your “To Be Read List” this year…
I hope you found some new books to read this year and some favorites that you will read again. What are some of your favorite read-aloud books?