Read-Alouds Your Students Will Sit Still For

This baker’s dozen selection will liven up your read-aloud time with true stories, humor, poetry and mystery.


Who Stole Mona Lisa?  Ruthie Knapp.  Bloomsbury, 2010.
Cleverly told from the point of view of the painting itself, this picture book will help children understand why it is the world’s most famous painting.  And what a life she has had!  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-4th grade



Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade.  Melissa Sweet.  Houghton Mifflin, 2011.
Sweet wonderfully tells the fascinating true story of Tony Sarg who invented the balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  They debuted in 1928 as Macy’s way of honoring immigrant employees who missed their holiday traditions of music and dancing in the streets.  The illustrations are a combination of collage and watercolors.  Picture book biography at its best.
Read-aloud 1st-4th grade

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend.  Calvin Alexander Ramsey & Bettye Stroud.  Candlewick, 2011.
A powerful true story from the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement.  While waiting for his mother, Alex learns the story of Belle from an old woman.  Dr. King had visited Gee’s Bend and inspired the residents to exercise their right to vote.  The local authorities closed the ferry, so the town’s mules help transport people to vote.  The townsfolk had to overcome other obstacles to get the mules to Atlanta to pull Dr. King’s casket.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade

Born and Bred in the Great Depression.  Jonah Winter & Kimberly Bulcken Root.  Scwartz & Wade Books, 2011.
The author tells the story of his father’s childhood during the Great Depression, in East Texas.  The struggle of everyday life is clear, but there was also a lot of love and time for fun.  This is a good introduction to the Great Depression for young kids.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade

Clementine.  Sara Pennypacker.  Hyperion, 2006.
Fans of Junie B. Jones and Ramona will love Clementine, the well-intentioned 3rd grader with a talent for getting herself and her 4th grade best friend in trouble.  In this first book of the series, Clementine cuts off her friend’s hair to get the glue out and then tries to draw the hair back on with a Sunset permanent marker!  Short Chapter Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-3rd grade
Other titles in the series:
Clementine’s Letter, The Talented Clementine, Clementine and the Family Meet, Clementine: Friend of the Week.

Hound Dog True.  Linda Urban.  Harcourt, 2011.
Mattie is a painfully shy fifth grader starting the school year in a new school for the 5th time.
This time, she and her mother are living with Uncle Potluck who is the school custodian.
Mattie wants to be his apprentice so that she can help him during recess and lunch times, to avoid interacting with kids.  Things don’t go quite as she had hoped, but she does make an unlikely friend.  Beautifully written with well developed characters.
Read-aloud 4th-6th grade

Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea: A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants. Tony Johnston.  Harcourt, 2011.
Definitely a whopper, but with a thread of truth.  Pun intended!  This story of how Strauss invented blue jeans for gold miners who wore barrels or vanilla (their birthday suits) when their pants wore out and created the city of San Francisco,  is a delight to read-aloud.  Dang!  The author’s note at the end supplies the facts about Levi Strauss.
Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-5th grade

Mary and Her Little Lamb : The True Story Behind the Nursery Rhyme.  Will Moses.  Philomel, 2011.
Mary Sawyer nursed a sick lamb back to health on her family’s farm in 1810s Massachusettes.  The lamb became her playmate and did follow her to school on the first day, including visitor John Roulstone who wrote the first stanza of the poem.  Delightfully told.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 1st-3rd grade


Pie.  Sarah Weeks.  Scholastic Press, 2011.
Set in a 1950’s small Pennsylvania town, this mystery revolves around Aunt Polly and her award winning pies.  Her pie shop is most unusual because she gives her pies away, though her family thinks she should sell them.  She left careful recipes for the filling, but kept the crust recipe a secret. Her young niece, Alice, spends a great deal of time with her Aunt and when she dies unexpectedly, Alice inherits her cantankerous cat, Lardo, whom Aunt Polly left the crust recipe to.  When Lardo comes up missing, the chase is on and it is up to Alice to solve the mystery.  Recipes included, but not for the crust!
Read-aloud 3rd-6th grade

Reading, Rhyming, and ‘rithmetic.  Dave Crawley.  Wordsong, 2010.
These 20 poems about typical school experiences are humorous, relatable and sometimes thought-provoking.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 1st-4rd grade



The Secret River.  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.  Atheneum, 2011.
Calpurnia’s father says hard times are ahead because he has no fish to sell.  With advice from a soothsayer, Calpurnia and her dog embark on a perilous journey to a secret river in a Florida forest where she catches enough fish to feed her family and hungry neighbors.  Gorgeously illustrated by the Dillons of Caldecott fame.  Long Picture Book.
Read- aloud 3rd-5th grade


Spunky Tells All.  Ann Cameron.  Farrar, Straus Goroux, 2011.
This story about Julian and his brother Huey is told from the dog’s point of view.  Spunky understands humans most of the time and wishes they would learn to speak dog.  Thinking Spunky needs a playmate, the family adopts a cat.  Humorous and poignant.
Read-aloud 3rd-5th grade


A Storm Called Katrina.  Myron Uhlberg.  Peachtree, 2011.
Louis and his family must evacuate when their New Orleans home is submerged in the aftermath of the hurricane.  They struggle to stay together and find shelter in the Superdome.  The understated text and poignant paintings evoke the emotions and hope of those displaced by this natural disaster.  Picture Book.
Read-aloud 2nd-5th grade
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