Choosing great read-aloud chapter books for first graders can bridge the gap between picture books and novels. Six through eight-year-olds have all the imagination and energy of younger kids, but are starting to read well on their own too. As parents and teachers encourage independent reading, it’s easy to forget how reading aloud with these kids is still beneficial.
Roald Dahl is known for his wild imagination and ability to write stories that kids love. While many of his books are great read-alouds, The BFG is one of the best early chapter books for first graders because it combines humor, wacky words, and an adventurous tale of friendship.
Since the main character, Sophie, is obviously British, you can have fun reading her lines in a British accent. The BFG, or Big Friendly Giant, speaks his own version of English creating all kinds of opportunities for you to say silly words as you read out loud.
Bestselling author and storyteller Neil Gaiman gets kids laughing in his crazy adventure Fortunately the Milk. The quick pace and nonsensical tone paired with quirky drawings by Scottie Young make this a must-read for every first grader. The story starts with kids needing milk for their cereal and develops into an unbelievable story about the adventure their dad had while getting milk from the store.
Featuring two seven-year-old female main characters, the Ivy + Bean series by Annie Barrows is full of wacky antics and disasters. Ivy is quiet, but imaginative, while Bean is loud and wild. Their parents keep trying to get them to be friends, but the girls just don’t see each other’s appeal at first.
Most kids can relate to these characters and their adventures, making all the books in the series fun to read out loud. There are over 10 books in the series in all.
Although she’s been around for over 20 years, Junie B. Jones continues to be a favorite character, especially among first graders. Early books from the series start with Junie as a kindergartener, but you can find more than 10 later books with her as a first grader that seven-year-old boys and girls can relate to.
Junie doesn’t always speak proper English and is a known trouble-maker, often accidentally. You and your children will have plenty of fun with these chapter books to read to first graders.
Beloved children’s author Kate DiCamillo doesn’t disappoint kids or adults with her newer Mercy Watson series, which includes over five books. Mercy is a pet pig who’s full of energy and causes havoc from time to time. Mercy’s owners, the Watson family, treat her like a child. So, she acts like one.
The short chapters in these early chapter books for first graders, paired with Mercy’s natural charm and illustrations by Chris Van Dusen, make it a wildly popular read-aloud choice.
Princess Magnolia isn’t your average dainty little girl. She’s got a secret identity as “The Princess in Black,” solving mysteries and saving the world in her all-black disguise. The Princess in Black series includes over five books and is illustrated by LeUyen Pham, so you can show pictures as you read out loud. The clever and sometimes ironic text appeals to both the kids and adults reading the book.
Fans of the great read-aloud picture book Click Clack Moo will love the chance to read all six books in The Chicken Squad series by the same author, Doreen Cronin. With names like Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie, it’s no wonder first graders love these chick detectives. Each character in the series has a big personality, which makes the story fun to read out loud. Illustrations by Kevin Cornell help sell the story to younger readers who still crave pictures.
Common Core Standards for first grade indicate kids at this age should be learning how to read independently, retell key details of stories through reading comprehension, and describe characters, setting, events, and the narrator. When you read aloud to six, seven, or eight-year-olds, or have them read aloud to you, it’s easy to point out these story elements as you go.
By reading aloud with kids who are just starting out in their reading adventure, you can model things like reading for pleasure by getting imaginative and expressive with your read-alouds. Kids can associate reading with fun, rather than just for school or homework purposes.
Choosing great chapter books to read to first graders starts with including kids in the selection process. Introduce them to some different characters or plots to see which sound most enticing to them.
Elements of great read-aloud chapter books for this age group include:
- Characters who are the same age or in the same grade
- Lots of humor
- Wacky real or invented words throughout
- Fun adventures
- Approximately 100 pages or less
- Some illustrations
Whether the kids are reading, the adults are reading, or both, reading chapter books out loud is the next step after kids start learning to read on their own. Check out suggestions from reading experts like Scholastic’s 100 best read-aloud books list or the best read-aloud books voted on by Goodreads readers for even more ideas. What are your favorite easy first grade chapter books for beginning readers?