6 great read-aloud picture books

Today we had a group of 2nd graders visit our academic library for story time. A handful of our librarians, professional staff, and student workers all pitched in to help with this outreach effort.

Our children’s/YA collection in the library is the second most (read: heavily) used, which primarily supports candidates in our robust teacher education program. Yet it’s rare when we have actual groups of school-aged children in the library, so today was a special treat.

During my stint as a school librarian aide I became quite familiar with story-time with our K-2 students. Even though I’m no longer a children’s librarian I’ve never quite outgrown children’s literature and one of the best parts of my job is overseeing our youth collection. Thus, over the years I’ve amassed a few favorites that are fun, interactive, and memorable for the reader and listener alike.

Many of these have corresponding coloring pages or worksheets from the author’s website, Pinterest, or a general Internet search, which is a great way to incorporate a more engaged and thorough lesson.


1.) The Gold Miner’s Daughter: A Melodramatic Fairy Tale by Jackie Mims Hopkins 

This unique story combines some snippets of classic fairy tales, a dastardly bad guy, and presents an interactive way for students to respond the story in melodramatic fashion. Students must keep watching the pages of the story to look out for familiar fairy tale characters, plus know when to insert their sound effects.

Reader interaction: This is a great choice for those who have trouble keeping quiet during story time, since it prompts guided and appropriate noise.


2.) Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

This 2011 Caldecott Honor book just begs for a dramatic reading! The little red chicken is so eager to listen to his bedtime stories and is so full of imagination…well, the book is called “interrupting chicken” for a reason, so you can guess what happens!


3.) Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian

One of our student workers discovered this in our youth collection when we hosted last year’s group of 2nd grade visitors. (It made a reappearance today!) There are some silly parts, some sweet parts, and a great take-away reminder of how we are better together than alone.


4.) Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC by June Sobol

A dear friend of mine used to teach 1st grade and was kind to include me as a guest reader in her classroom each year (see photo at the end of the post). I often came to read during the first few months of the school year and my Momma, a retired kindergarten teacher, reminded me how these kiddos are recent kindergarten graduates. Thus their attention spans are a little shorter and reinforcing the alphabet is never a bad idea.

Reader interaction: Every time the pirate  captain says “arrrrgh,” students can say it along with him and hold up a printed letter R. (See link above for ideas.)


5.) A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

In my opinion, this is probably best suited for older elementary students, 2nd – 3rd graders. The illustrations are big, round, colorful, inviting, and warm. And the theme of being okay with yourself is a lesson that kids of all ages can take to heart. For a classroom conversation, this website includes some great philsophical discussion ideas.

Reader interaction: For a fully narrated version, visit Storyline Online, a terrific website reminiscent of Reading Rainbow.


6.) We’re Going on a Bear Hunt retold by Michael Rosen

This version of the poem/story has been around for 25 years and is a modern-day classic. A father and his three children search for a bear and traverse different types of terrain on their quest, allowing for repetitive, onomatopoetic text. Intensity builds as they encounter said bear, have to hastily retrace their steps, and rush home to safety.

Reader interactions: Watch Michael Rosen perform and act out the story.

If you want to incorporate music, the story pairs terrifically with an audio recording of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” from Peer Gynt. The musical dynamics crescendo in volume and intensity as the story progresses.

What are some great read-aloud picture books you enjoy and recommend for elementary-aged students?


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