We love to bring read aloud books for a road trip because they help pass the time and keep the kids unplugged. We have pooled together some of our favorites, asked some of our favorite teachers for their suggestions, and found some friends to chime in with their choices too. We hope you will find that these books not only entertain your children, but promote discussion and family connection, helping those hours in the car fly by.
Read Alouds for Younger Children and Early Elementary School
1. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Who doesn’t love the maid Amelia Bedelia and her crazy antics! From literally drawing the drapes to dressing the chicken, Amelia takes all of her work instructions to the letter. I loved this story as a child and it really does stand the test of time, because kids these days still love to hear it as a read aloud.
2. The BFG by Roald Dahl
All of my children love the Big Friendly Giant (BFG). When Sophie is carried away from her orphanage bedroom by the BFG, she soon realizes how lucky she is that she wasn’t taken by one of the unfriendly child eating giants. Those giants are planning to eat all the children in England, and Sophie convinces the BFG it is their job to stop them. Dahl’s witty language, charming characters, and clever plot make for a heartwarming and entertaining read.
3. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
Stanley wakes up one morning to find that overnight he has been flattened by a bulletin board that fell off his wall. Thankfully he can still have amazing adventures and that’s what kids will love about him. He can fly like a kite, slip under a door, be mailed in an envelope across country, the possibilities are endless!
4. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My second grader learned about this book during his pioneer study at school and was really excited about it. He wanted to watch the movie and learn all about the pioneers. I had no idea he would want to know about Laura and her life with Ma, Pa, and her sisters. I guess some books just withstand the test of time.
5. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Mr. Popper is a house painter fascinated by the Arctic. One day he sends a letter to the great Arctic explorer Admiral Drake, who in return sends him a penguin! Mr. Popper’s children are thrilled, his wife is less so. Of course a penguin cannot live alone, so Mr. Popper gets another penguin friend, and the shenanigans begin in earnest. Kids and parents alike will be laughing throughout the entire book.
6. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
When a young boy and his family checks into a hotel, the first thing Ralph the Mouse notices is the boy’s red toy motorcycle. Ralph is determined to ride the motorcycle, and when he does, things don’t go as smoothly as he had hoped. Beverly Cleary has so many good books to read aloud, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
7. My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
This Newbery honor book is the story of Elmer Elevator (the narrator’s father), who runs away as a young boy to rescue a dragon on a faraway island. Using some creative tools he’s brought from home (think lollipops and rubber bands) he is able to defeat the beast that guards the island. This is a charming, lighthearted story, that children will enjoy over and over again.
8. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
I love all of Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry, but this is one of my favorites. It is the first one I remember reading as a child, and my kids enjoy it just as much as I did. We pick a few poems to read to break up a long car ride and giggles always ensue. We also try to create our own Shel Silverstein-esque poems along the way. Plenty of fun to be had with this book!
Read Alouds for Older Elementary School
9. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The main character Opal, adopts an ugly, but lovable dog, Winn Dixie, and everyone in town starts to befriend them. Abandoned at a young age by her mother, the dog helps Opal grow emotionally and replaces some of her sadness with the happiness of new friends and relationships.
10. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
This book is what happens when you mix Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with “Night at the Museum”. Luigi Lemoncello, the most famous game maker in the world, has built the new town library. He invites twelve kids to spend the night in the building and take part in a game competition. They have to compete to escape the library and the winner will claim the ultimate prize. My kids loved this book and were hooked from beginning to end.
11. The Genius Files by Dan Gutman
It seems any book series that Dan Gutman writes is a hit, and The Genius Files is no exception. Coke and Pepsi McDonald are twins, and part of a secret government program called the Genius Files (unbeknownst to them). They head off on a cross country road trip and immediately realize they’re being followed. Danger ensues and they have to outsmart evil villains as they journey across the country. Gutman throws in interesting geography facts and photos in this adventure series. My kids love these books!
12. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
This first book in the boy wizard series is fun to read aloud to kids of all ages. Whether they have seen the films or not, they will surely enjoy Rowling’s characters, creativity, and charm.
13. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
When Omri gets a toy plastic Indian from his friend Patrick for his birthday, he is a bit disappointed. He puts the toy in a cupboard and locks it with a key, but this transforms the Indian into a real live man from a different time and place! Will Omri be able to keep this secret? Kids love this story and they all wish this could happen in real life.
14. The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
This series places twins Alex and Conner in a fairytale land (The Land of Stories), where they encounter characters and places from classic fairytales. I really enjoy reading this series with the kids and we love each time a new character is introduced. The twins meet trolls, fairies, and the various residents of the Land of Stories as they try to get back home and reunite with their family.
15. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I just love the story of the Pevensie siblings who step through the wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land of eternal winter ruled by the White Witch. When almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change . . . and a great sacrifice. One of my favorites of all time.
16. From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Siblings Claudia and Jamie decide to run away from home and head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Once settled into the museum they find themselves in the middle of a museum mystery which Claudia is determined to solve. This is the tale of their grand adventure and their time on the run.
17. Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
Mrs. Frisby is a widowed mouse with a sick child and must move from her house immediately. She turns to the rats of NIMH for assistance who develop a brilliant plan to move her family and she repays them with her own kindness. The adventures the rats and mice take throughout the book and the obstacles they have to overcome will have everyone cheering along the way.
18. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This book won the 2013 Newbery Medal and has been #1 on the New York Times best seller list and I’m sure you will agree both are well deserved. The book is written from the perspective of a gorilla named Ivan, who spent 27 years in captivity in a shopping mall. When an elephant named Ruby moves in, he is forced to re-examine life as he knows it and try to find a better life for both of them. Based on a true story, the chapters are short, making it perfect for a read aloud.
19. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
This is the first book in the Percy Jackson series, about a young boy (Percy) who is half human, half Greek God, but doesn’t realize the extent of his powers until he is sent off to Half Camp Blood where other demigods live. Once there he is sent off on his first quest to battle monsters of mythical proportions, helping to prevent a war among the gods of Olympus. Action packed with clever dialogue, each chapter is a cliff hanger and time will fly by as you read this! This is the first book in the series.
Read Alouds for Middle Schoolers
20. Born to Fly by Michael Ferrari
When Pearl Harbor is attacked, young Bird’s world is turned upside down. Her father is sent off to fight and she is sent to live with her uncle. When a new student, Kenji, arrives at school, they become friends, and stumble onto evidence of an enemy Japanese submarine in the area. Unfortunately, no one will believe them. The book has many twists and turns, and some heavier themes, but this is a great book that will get families talking both during and after reading.
21. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
When Leslie moves to the farm next door, Jess doesn’t realize his life is about to change forever. The two create a magic kingdom in the woods called Terabithia, and crown themselves king and queen, fighting imaginary giants, and real life problems. Suddenly tragedy strikes and changes their lives forever. I read this book when I was in 5th grade and I still remember it. Kids will probably cry (you might too), so know that before you start the book, but it’s definitely worth the read.
22. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Definitely a book for older children as the book opens with a rather gruesome scene, but the story quickly turns to a more friendly tale. A toddler survives an attack on his family and walks to a nearby graveyard where he is adopted by the ghostly residents that live in the cemetery. Whenever the boy strays from his usual play among the headstones, he finds new dangers, learns his limitations and strengths, and finds the skills he needs to survive within the confines of the graveyard and in wider world beyond. Older kids will truly enjoy Gaiman’s writing style which mixes humor, fantasy, and horror in a terrific award winning tale.
23. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
A girl, Karana, lives alone on an island for 18 years and makes a life for herself. There’s more to the story about how she gets there, but I don’t want to give it away. As time passes, she adapts to life on the island, observes the arrival of enemies, fights off wild animals, and learns valuable life lessons. Based on a true story, this will give families a lot to discuss about survival and self discovery.
24. Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
The main character, Melody, has a photographic memory. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but no one knows it because she can’t talk, walk, or write. She has cerebral palsy and is literally stuck inside her head. This is driving her mad until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice but not everyone around her is ready to hear it. Definitely worth reading with older kids.
25. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
August is born with a facial difference that before now has prevented him from attending a mainstream school. All he wants is to be treated like a “normal” kid, but the other students aren’t quite ready to look past his physical features. Not only does August deal with the challenges of middle school, he teaches other students (and readers) life lessons along the way. Kids and adults alike will love this book.
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