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Read-alouds for juniors and seniors

February 2nd, 2021 By Services to Schools staff

World Read Aloud Day (#WorldReadAloudDay) 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 8 years of age 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 aloud to class of students
Reading aloud to students by Presidio of Monterey. Flickr. Public domain.

Picture books

I am the Universe written and illustrated by Vasanti Unka, Puffin Books (2020) — This gloriously colourful picture book whisks you through the universe, from the furthest galaxies to the bedroom of a little girl, looking out at the stars. The text is brief and poetic, but you'll want to stop, examine, and discuss every page, with small facts noted amidst the beautiful depictions of where we live. Repeat reading recommended. Reading age 3 to 8 years.

How Maui Fished up the North Island by Donovan Bixley, Upstart Press Ltd (2018) — Published in both English and te reo Māori Te Hīnga Ake a Māui i Te Ika Whenua, this fun retelling imagines Maui as a relatable young boy. The language used is modern, funny, and uniquely Kiwi and allows for a range of expressions and ‘voices’ to be used when reading aloud. Bixley’s signature illustrations jump off the page in bright colours to further captivate readers.

Please Mr Panda by Steve Antony, Scholastic (2015) — 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.

The Couch Potato by Jory John, illustrated by Pete Oswald, Harper (2020) — A laid-back potato gets up and gets out and gets active in this super funny story.

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. These perfectly capture the essence of the beach in summer — as well as the mothers' and daughter's fright, joy, and love — and 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 to 7 years.

Junior/intermediate 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.

Charlie Tangaroa and the Creature From the Sea by T.K. Roxborogh, Huia Publishers (2020) — Charlie and his brother discover a ponaturi (mermaid) on the beach and get involved in a stormy battle between the Māori gods Tane and Tangaroa over pollution in the ocean and discover Charlie’s special skills in the process. Full of action, emotion, stories of mythology and family. Reading age 9 to 12 years.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend, Little, Brown and Company (2017) — A 'Harry Potter-esque' book for a new generation. Morrigan Crow lives a sad and lonely life until she is mysteriously whisked away to the magical Nevermoor. Enrolled in a school of magic and living in a magical hotel with a giant talking cat, Morrigan’s adventures are imaginative and fun, with danger lurking in the shadows.

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

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberdale, Allen & Unwin (2020) — Badger is a rock-loving scientist who likes things neat and tidy. When Skunk moves in (along with a lot of chickens) to share his cottage, things get very difficult. Hilarity mixed with personal relationships and all the complexities of learning to get along, with delightful illustrations to bring extra life to the characters. Read aloud to 5- to 8-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.

The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold, 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).

Intermediate / young adult (YA) fiction

Layoverland by Gabby Noone, Razorbill (2020) — A surprisingly funny story about a girl who ends up in purgatory, gets a job there, and falls in love with the boy that helped cause her death. YA reading age.

Robin Hood: Hacking, Heists & Flaming Arrows by Robert Muchamore, Hot Key Books (2020) — After their dad is falsely arrested, Robin and his brother Little John must learn to survive in Sherwood forest. With his bow and arrow, some tech savvy and help from him friends, Robin sets out to seek justice for his dad and the people of Loxley. An action-packed reimagining of the traditional story. Good for students aged 10 to 14 years.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, HMH Books for Young Readers (2014) — 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. Intermediate/YA reading age.

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. For YA.

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. For YA.

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.

This blog post

This blog post was first published in February 2020. We've updated it to include links to titles in our Schools Lending Collection and added some new staff favourites.

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