Read-alouds for juniors and seniors

World Read Aloud Day 2020 (#WorldReadAloudDay) on 5 February promotes one of the most effective ways of hooking children and young people into the pleasure of stories and reading.

There is something profoundly powerful about sharing a story with another, of falling into the thrill of adventure curled up next to a parent or sitting in class relaxing into a story.

For many young people, hearing a teacher read to them aloud is their only experience of being able to simply enjoy a story without any work attached. It's important to avoid what author of the Read-Aloud Handbook Jim Trelease has coined a 'sweat mentality' around books, where reading is associated with assignments, stress, and reports.

The 2019 Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report found that despite reading aloud increasing in frequency for young children, it starts to fall off the radar in homes and at school from about the age of 8 as children begin reading for themselves. This coincides with the decline after age 8 in the number of children who say reading for fun is 'extremely important'.

The 2014 Scholastic report found that of the 6- to 11-year-olds whose parents had stopped reading to them, 40% didn’t want them to stop.

In this blog post, our staff recommend a few of their favourite read-alouds for junior and senior students.

Adult reading to class of students
Reading aloud to students by Presidio of Monterey. Flickr. Public domain.

Picture books

Please Mr Panda by Steve Antony, Scholastic (2016)
A repetitive formula and the right use of pauses (aided by the punctuation in the book) makes for a funny read-aloud as Panda searches for someone with manners.

Things in the Sea Are Touching Me! (also available in te reo Māori: Ngā Mea Kei rō Moana e Whakapā Mai Ana! ) by Linda Jane Keegan, illustrated by Minky Stapleton, Scholastic NZ (2019)
Delightful rhyming text, brightly coloured illustrations — which perfectly capture the essence of the beach in summer — as well as the mothers' and daughter's fright, joy and love, combine with rich language (‘buoyant and bouncing … gelatinous lumps’) to create a perfect summer read-aloud.

Tom’s Magnificent Machines by Linda Sara and Ben Mantle, Simon & Schuster (2018)
Tom and his dad are creators of crazy contraptions. This picture book celebrates imagination, teamwork, and incorporates the theme of resilience. The illustrations are engaging, and it will appeal to children aged 3–7 years.

Junior fiction

A Wolf Called Wander by Roseanne Parry, illustrated by Mónica Armiño, Harper Collins (2019)
A story about an American grey wolf who travels 1000 miles in search of a mate after his whole family is wiped out by a larger wolf pack. An adventure story in a similar vein to Gary Paulsen or Jack London. Includes notes on wolves with ideas for discussion. Good for 10- to 12-year-olds.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, Allen and Unwin (2017)
Brilliantly written fantasy / grown-up fairytale, full of magic, drama, and heightened emotions, with a good witch, a swamp monster, and a perfectly tiny dragon. The inventiveness and dark edge brings to mind the Harry Potter series.

The Magic Place by Chris Wormell, David Fickling Books (2019)
Lively adventure with spirited young heroine, Clementine, escaping fiendishly awful baddies (à la Dahl), who get their comeuppance. Great language, suspenseful chapter endings, author breaks the fourth wall to address the reader, atmospheric illustrations. Picture book author/illustrator Chris Wormell’s first foray into junior fiction.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder, Harper Collins (2017)
A mysterious and intriguing adventure story set on an isolated island. Good for students aged 8–12 years.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary Schmidt, Andersen Press (2019)
Carter and his family are struggling for various reasons. One day, a butler turns up to help — in practical ways but also as a 'gentleman’s gentleman' — to teach Carter about growing up into a good man. Entertaining and well-written.

The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold, Bloomsbury (2016)
When Frank visits the house of class misfit Nick Underbridge, she hears strange music coming from the cellar. Who is the mysterious creature living there? This is a beautifully written fantasy novel that explores the issue of bullying and the theme of friendship. It was awarded the Amnesty CILIP Honor for Illustration (2018).

Young adult fiction (YA)

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, HMH Books for Young Readers (2014) — intermediate/YA
Rich in rhythm, with clever structure and great family and coming-of-age themes, this verse novel rocks along at a great pace following twin basketball stars learning about the highs and lows of the game and life.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Harper Collins (2018)
A verse novel about teen girl ‘X’ developing her slam poetry skills and negotiating teen and family life.

The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith, Penguin (2017)
Set in 1980s Canada, 14-year-old Bun has grown up with an abusive, hoarder mother and escapes to create a new life, meeting interesting characters who become friends. Heart-warming and poignant, funny and challenging.

The Skylark’s War by Heather McKay, Macmillan (2019)
This novel tells of Clarry, her brother, and her cousin, growing up before and during the First World War. Hilary McKay is utterly brilliant at creating memorable characters and writing with wit and insight. This is a timeless book about coming of age against the backdrop of war.

Find out more

LitWorld and Scholastic’s World Read Aloud Day has information on reading aloud, resources, and additional lists of read-alouds.

Our Reading aloud guide has tips and strategies for reading aloud, along with information on choosing appropriate material and brochures for download in English, te reo Māori, Samoan, and Tongan.

Strengthening reading aloud practice to build a school’s reading culture — article about Oturu School working with Services to Schools on a capability building project to investigate and develop teacher reading aloud practice.

By Services to Schools staff

National Library Services to Schools supports educators by providing professional learning, advice, and quality resources to inspire and inform student learning, foster their love of reading, and develop their knowledge of culture and heritage.

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