Many children start to build their fluency with written language and begin reading independently in first grade. It’s important to nurture and encourage this new skill—perhaps it will become the most enduring hobby of their lives—and one of the best ways to encourage reading is to turn it into a fun group activity!
Reading aloud to first graders helps improve their attention span and ability to focus because the read-aloud pace allows them to spend more time looking at each image and paying close attention to the words. You can do this by projecting the book’s pages onto your screen or providing each of your students with a copy of the book you’re reading.
The best way to get the most out of read-aloud time is to pick the right books. Choosing books that you can apply to your lessons—or books that teach lessons of their own—are ideal candidates. The following read-aloud books are perfect places to start!
You can probably find most of the following books in your school or public library—heck, you might even own some of them already—but we’ve included links to Amazon listings in case you need to purchase a copy.
1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web is a classic cornerstone of children’s literature that begins with a lonely, lovable little piglet and ends with a powerful and enduring message about the importance of friendship. This heartwarming story is a fantastic read-aloud book that will demonstrate how small acts of kindness towards others can have effects that ripple outwards in ways that can’t be anticipated or understated.
Read this book to your classroom during the week of World Kindness Day (November 13th) and see what acts of kindness they can come up with to celebrate!
2. Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osbourne
The Magic Tree House series began in 1992 with Dinosaurs Before Dark and is still ongoing; the latest book, Rhinos at Recess, was published this year! Dinosaurs Before Dark is the best place to start the series: it’s the first book, and the adventure follows two kids, Jack and Annie, as they head back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth—and if there’s one thing every kid can agree on, it’s that dinosaurs are excellent.
Read this book to your classroom to introduce them to a wonderful new series! You can continue reading other books from the series as well or encourage your students to choose their own adventures and continue on their own.
3. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Rosie Revere, Engineer is an inspiring realistic fiction about the titular character, who dreams of becoming an engineer. She never lets anyone see her inventions but works on them alone in her room at night. One night, she is visited by her great, great aunt, also named Rosie, who shows her that it’s impossible to fail unless you quit.
This book is a little advanced for first grade, making it a fantastic way to venture into larger vocabulary words and stories that involve more in-depth inner story conflicts rather than simpler external story conflicts. Read this book to your classroom to inspire them to pursue their passions and believe in their dreams. After the read-aloud, lead a discussion about what your students dream of being someday.
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4. Grumpycorn by Sarah McIntyre
This read-aloud book is required reading for anyone who loves humor stories. Luckily, that’s true of most first graders!
Grumpycorn is about a friendship that begins when a unicorn tries to write his own story. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any good ideas, and when his friends try to help, he turns into the Grumpycorn and is very not nice to his friends. After the unicorn realizes the effects his words and actions have on his friends, he apologizes, and they all sit down together to collaborate on a story.
Read this book to your classroom as an introduction to lessons related to emotional regulation and other social-emotional learning concepts. Ask your students for examples of things the unicorn can do in the future the next time he can feel the Grumpycorn coming on.
5. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
A classic comedic read-aloud book, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is about the town of Chewandswallow, which becomes a giant mess when the food raining down gets progressively larger and larger. The townspeople come together to help save the town. The book also inspired a hit animated movie of the same name in 2009, which you could watch with your class after finishing the book.
Read this book to your classroom as a segue into your natural science curriculum about the weather, or you can use it as an opportunity to analyze the differences between adaptations and their original source material.
6. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon is a gorgeous read-aloud book with distinctly delightful illustrations that tell the story of Molly Lou Melon, who starts at a new school and begins getting picked on by the school bully. Instead of giving up or losing confidence, Molly remembers that her grandmother told her to always believe in herself. By following her grandmother’s sage advice, Molly is eventually able to win over her bully and becomes friends with all of her classmates.
Read this book to your classroom when you want to pass on Molly Lou Melon’s grandmother’s sage wisdom—it’s an important lesson to teach any time of the year.
7. Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe
Another classic read-aloud book on our list, Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery is a clever and funny story about an adorable rabbit who happens to also be a vampire who sucks the juice (and the colors!) out of vegetables.
This disturbs the family cat, who makes it his mission to get rid of the vampire bunny, while the family dog, the narrator of the story, is more accepting of his new family member’s idiosyncrasies and peculiar food choices. Young learners will love this story, and their parents will feel nostalgic talking to them about it over their family dinner.
Read this book to your classroom during spooky season as a segue to learning about plants and vegetables or to begin a discussion about making the best food choices for oneself.
8. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
For a book about a different kind of bunny, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale is a masterclass in subtle and relatable character development. The story follows a little girl and her dad on a trip to the laundromat, where the girl’s beloved Knuffle Bunny is left behind. This leads the family on a dramatic search to reunite the girl with her lost friend.
Between the excellent writing, pacing, dramatic tension and illustrations—Mo Willems’s work is truly one of a kind—this fantastic read-aloud book is a must. Read this book to your classroom and then lead a discussion about your students’ favorite possessions. What makes those possessions their favorites? What would they do if those possessions went missing?
9. Groundhog’s Day Off by Robb Pearlman
Groundhog Day tells the story of a narcissistic, self-centered weatherman who gets trapped in a time loop until he learns to be a better person. Groundhog’s Day Off, on the other hand, tells the story of the difficulties that ensue when a town’s groundhog decides to go on vacation, and the town scrambles to find a replacement—only to realize that the groundhog was perfect for the job, and no one else can compare.
They eventually learn that the groundhog just wanted to be appreciated for more than the one thing the town believes he’s good at. Will they be able to find a compromise, or will the whole town get trapped in a time loop until they become more considerate people? Hint: It’s not the second one; there is no time loop in this book.
Read this book to your classroom when you want to teach your students about gratitude or encourage them to appreciate others for things that they may take for granted…oh, you could also read it on Groundhog Day, too (February 2nd).
10. Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
Gooney Bird Greene, written by Lois Lowry, iconic author of children’s and young adult fiction, follows the titular character after she transfers to Mrs. Pidgeon’s second grade class. She is self-confident, with an eccentric fashion sense and fantastical past, and always the center of attention.
When Mrs. Pidgeon begins teaching storytelling, the class chooses Gooney Bird to be the main character of the story! Be warned, this is only the first of a series of autobiographical stories that cover the outlandish and “only absolutely true” events surrounding Gooney Bird Greene.
Read this book to your classroom to give your students inspired new ways to write about things that are “only absolutely true.”
11. Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Interrupting Chicken is an especially fun and humorous book that takes the idea from a children’s joke and runs with it, clucking the whole way.
It’s bedtime for Chicken, and her Papa is trying to read her a story before she goes to sleep, but no matter what book Papa reads, Chicken keeps jumping into the story to save the characters from danger and stop them from making any silly mistakes. Will Chicken stop interrupting and let Papa finish a story so that they can both go to sleep?
Read this book to your classroom when you want things to get a little silly! This can also be a good example for your students of what not to do during story time and a good example of what to do during creative writing projects that involve making changes to existing stories.
12. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Green Eggs and Ham is an obscure book by a relatively unknown author…
One of the most beloved children’s books from one of the most beloved children’s authors, Green Eggs and Ham follows two characters who are at an impasse. One character wants the other character to eat green eggs and ham, and the other character doesn’t want to do that.
It’s a simple conflict upon which Dr. Seuss builds a series of tongue-twisters describing all the possible locations in which green eggs and ham can be consumed—with a special appearance by companions who would gladly share the meal. Green eggs and ham are good enough for a fox, and that should be all the proof you need that Green Eggs and Ham is a fantastic read-aloud book for your first-grade classroom.
Read this book to your classroom as a way to introduce the idea of carefully considering decisions instead of relying on snap judgements—then offer green snacks for an extra treat. Dr. Seuss Day is on March 2nd, but there’s truly no bad day to read a Dr. Seuss book!
13. Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst
Lulu and the Brontosaurus follows a spoiled kid named Lulu whose parents indulge her every whim until she demands a pet dinosaur for her birthday! When her parents refuse, Lulu decides to go out and find one for herself.
Will she find a pet dinosaur to make her birthday dreams come true? Yes and no: she does find a dinosaur, the titular brontosaurus, but the dinosaur decides to keep Lulu as his pet. The events that follow teach Lulu a lesson about behaving more kindly and considering the thoughts and feelings of others.
Read this book to your classroom when you need a short read-aloud story to fill a short amount of time.
Create a Read-Aloud Book for Your 1st-Grade Classroom!
You can help your class create their very own read-aloud book by using one of our FREE classbook publishing kits! Simply sign up online, and we’ll turn your young learners into published authors.
A read-aloud book where each of your students is in charge of one page of words and one page of illustrations will add up to a hilarious story that you can read to your future classes. Parents can also order copies so that your students can hold onto it as a meaningful keepsake for years to come.
You can also check out our blog and online Teacher’s Lounge for more writing activities, lesson plans and teaching strategies. Now that you have a collection of fantastic read-aloud books, your students are ready to learn new classroom concepts by encountering them in the wilds of fiction or just spend some quiet time listening to a fun and entertaining story!