Looking for picture books to read aloud at circle time? These 10 children’s books for story time are sure to entertain kids!
“I want you to be the Home Reading Parent,” my first grader told me. I figured his teacher had told the class about the vacant spot and asked their parents if they were interested.
But when he asked me a second time, I wondered if I should give it a shot.
“Okay, I’ll email your teacher,” I said, “but there’s a chance another parent has already asked.” Except later that night, I received a response from the teacher, delighted I had volunteered.
The job seemed pretty simple. The program encourages students to read books at home for fun, so every month, the Home Reading Parent (that’s me) tallies how many pages they’ve read. Those who turned in their logs automatically receive a pencil and a pizza coupon, while those who read 500 pages or more get a free book as well.
Easy enough—my job would be to tally the numbers, hand out prizes… and apparently read to the class every month.
“The kids love it when a parent comes in to read,” his teacher told me. “It’s totally optional, but it might be something you’ll enjoy.”
I knew a roomful of first graders can get squirmy. They interrupt. And deep inside, I wondered whether they’d enjoy the story times or if it’d be a boring addition to their day.
Turns out the kids love it (phew!). I try to make story times memorable, starting with the books I’d bring to read.
10 children’s books for story time
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Not all books lend themselves well to be read aloud to a roomful of first graders. I wanted stories to inspire, to make them laugh, and think. I wanted them to look forward to story times and to rush home and be inspired to keep reading.
These are the books I’ve selected for the year, one book a month. I include links to the books so you can learn more about them, and you can always search your local library for a copy. I also suggest a few ways to make each book engaging to hook the children to your every word.
I began the reading sessions with a book sure to surprise the kids. Robo Sauce shares the story of a boy who wants to turn himself—among many other things—into a robot. Lo and behold, the book itself turns into a “robot,” and the kids were amazed at the transformation.
While this book has no pictures, it has plenty of laughs, especially as I was “forced” to read silly words and songs.
I began this session by bringing one of my own books I pulled from my shelf. I asked the kids, “Have you seen books like these that adults read? The ones with no pictures? Well, I brought one, too. Let’s find out if all books with no pictures are boring, or if they could be fun.”
I truly believe we need more kindness above other traits in this world, and The Invisible Boy shows the kids one of the easiest ways to do that. The story centers on Brian, a quiet child in a rambunctious classroom who is often overlooked.
For this story time, I asked the kids many questions, and they responded with their own. One of them asked why Brian has color at the end of the book whereas he was drawn in black and white in the beginning. I asked what they think Brian is feeling, and why, as well as what could make him feel better.
The book itself even comes with its own questions you can ask, depending on which page you’re on. An inspiring book that encourages children to lead with empathy.
I love Beaty’s books for the way her rhymes sound. My son suggested this book, and the kids had a hoot at some of the funny instances, such as when Iggy Peck built a tower of dirty diapers. Rhyming books make for awesome read aloud stories, especially if you read it smooth and slow.
I began story time by asking if anyone knew what an architect was. I also changed facial expressions and used hand gestures to show things like smelly, anger, and getting a bright idea.
And finally, I finished the story by asking questions like what had changed in Miss Lila Greer and what the kids had done to solve the problem. We also talked about other solutions they could’ve done, and why they may or may not have worked.
I’m excited to read The Day the Crayons Quit, not only for its humor, but because the book lends itself well to props. I plan to bring crayons of the colors mentioned in the book, and hold one up for each page I read.
Ask the kids how many of them have crayons, and whether they’ve ever thought about what crayons must think about how they’re used.
My son has been laughing his head off reading Amelia Bedelia picture books, so I plan to bring one to story time.
The books are filled with jokes, especially using homophones. For instance, Amelia Bedelia’s First Apple Pie tells of how her grandmother said, “Shoo! Shoo!” to try to shoo the birds away. In response, Amelia removes her shoe instead and tries to bat the birds away with it.
I remember reading Miss Nelson Is Missing and feeling a little spooked by the story, in a good way. The classic book lends itself well to different voice changes, from sweet Miss Nelson to cackling Miss Viola Swamp.
I plan to highlight clues in the book to show how Miss Viola Swamp is actually Miss Nelson, and why she had dressed in costume to get her class to behave.
Kids love guessing, and this book gives just enough hints to see which nursery rhyme character is up next! Characters in fairy tales swap homes, from the gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel to the Three Little Pigs’ brick house.
As you read the story, see if the children can guess which character the book is talking about.
Children love to talk about themselves, and this book lends itself to discussing where we come from. At the beginning of the reading session, I asked the kids if they, their parents or grandparents came here from another city or country.
We talked about the diversity of where people come from and the stories they take with them.
After reading the story, we discussed what they would pack in their suitcases if they were to go to another place. Talk about the things that remind them most of their home, or favorite items they can’t part with.
This will be my parting book. Stars is a beautiful, inspiring read about holding on to the good things in life, especially when the days aren’t so bright. It also shows how we can find stars everywhere, and not just in the sky.
One part of the story includes cutting out a star and keeping it in your pocket for when you need one. I plan to cut out my own stars and giving it to the kids to keep in their pockets as well.
Story time tips
This is the first time I’ve read to kids besides my own, and part of its success is in learning how to manage a roomful of fidgety children. The teacher is instrumental in keeping the class in order, but I also found a few tips to keep the kids engaged:
- If the kids are rowdy, acknowledge the intention. When I was handing out their prizes, I announced how they had read so much more than the previous month. The chatter began, as one kid began talking after another. I acknowledged how proud they feel, then steered the conversation back to handing out the prizes.
- If a child interrupts while you’re reading, hold your hand up to quiet him. Kids will interrupt, but out of respect for the others, they need to keep their questions and comments until a more appropriate opportunity. Keep reading, then after you’re done, invite questions and comments. (Read more about dealing with interruptions.)
- Ask engaging questions. Kids love giving their opinions, so you might ask, “What do you think is going to happen next?”
I never would’ve thought I’d be creating a round up of children’s books for story time. As much as I love reading to my kids, I’ve never done so with a roomful of children.
But I’m having a blast, and these monthly story times have become a highlight for me. I love sharing books my kids and I love, encouraging his classmates to read at home, and even putting on a few theatrics here and there as I read.
I’d love for more parents to take part in it, so hopefully next year, someone else can volunteer. If not, my son will let me know—and this time, I won’t wait for him to ask a second time.
Want to read with your kids, but not sure which books to start with? Download my FREE Read Aloud Book List! You’ll get hundreds of favorite selections to read aloud with your kids. Get it below:
Tell me in the comments: Have you read any of these books? Which book have you read aloud—even at home—that the kids loved?
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