A common question I see regularly in teacher Facebook groups is “What is a good classroom read-aloud novel?” so I’m here to help. In fact, I knew just WHO to ask to help. Melina from Galarious Goods is passionate about books in a way that can really not be described. She is a fountain of knowledge on all things books and is running out of storage for all the books she owns (the best way to be!). Below, she sets out some great classroom read-aloud novels for 8-12 year olds.
Reading aloud can be such a wonderful part of teaching a class. A moment of calm in a busy school day, a shared vocabulary a class carries together, doors opening to new authors and new genres and new stories to enjoy.
But sometimes it can be hard knowing which book to read next. Which book will speak to the students? Will the book connect nicely with other topics? Which book will be new to the students, allowing them to experience new characters and authors?
There are many ways to choose new novels for your class and many wonderful novels to choose. I’m going to highlight a few of my favourites here as well as giving you a few ways to find fabulous new books of your own.
While some classic books are read widely, other classic novels come in and out of fashion. Books that last and are read over and over through different generations, often last for a reason.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White has lasted, in part, because of its beautiful language. It’s lovely to read – especially out loud – and the messages of the story – of kindness, doing things for others, and friendship are still incredibly important today.
Another important story about friendship is Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson. This classic novel introduces us to Jess and Leslie, two young people who don’t really fit in with their small community. Instead, they come together as friends, creating a magical world they can share together. A content warning with this book, though – it does include the death of a character.
Other classics to consider: Roald Dahl‘s books are great, with a wide variety of stories to choose from, and Holes by Louis Sacher is a popular choice. Older classes might also enjoy tackling the more difficult themes of Lois Lowry’s The Giver or A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.
Books About Moments in History
Historical fiction is a great way to learn more about the world around us and the events and people that have shaped this world. My favourite historical fiction books concentrate on moments – little parts of a bigger story or regular people caught in notable events.
Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman is a must-read. Although the story is firmly set in the early 2000s, many of the themes and events are still very relevant today. Jamal and his family are forced to escape from Afghanistan, beginning a dangerous journey they hope will take them to Australia. We see the story through Jamel’s eyes, but we also grow to understand those around him and, through these characters, gain a better understanding of refugees.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry also tells a story about refugees, but this time from World War II. Annemarie lives in Denmark, which has been occupied by Germany. When the word comes that the Nazis are planning to take the Jewish people of Denmark away, including Annemarie’s best friend Ellen, Annemarie and her family contribute in different ways to help them escape.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia another excellent read. Set in 1968, it tells the story of three sisters who travel to visit their mother in Oakland, California. Here they are introduced to the mother who abandoned them, as well as learning more about the injustices in the world around them, as they are drawn into their mother’s world.
Other historical fiction to consider: The My New Zealand Story books (and their Australian counterparts) are wonderful ‘moments in time’ books. They’re excellent for learning more about events which are important in New Zealand and Australian history.
Books That Are a Bit Different
Sometimes it’s great to share a novel that is a little different. It might tell a slightly different story or use language in a great and unusual way. Or it just might have different kinds of characters…
Coraline by Neil Gaman is one of those different stories with memorable characters. It tells the story of Coraline, a curious girl who has just moved into a new house. As she is exploring, she discovers a door that takes her to a world – it’s a little like her own world, but is also terribly different.
The Phantom Tollbooth Norton Juster is another different novel. In this book, Milo is bored until he receives the tollbooth and decides to drive his toy car through it. He finds himself in new and unusual places and ends up on a quest. This book is filled with all sorts of wordplay and is perfect for students to explore together.
The Series of Unfortunate Events novels (by Lemony Snicket) also use words in unusual ways with the narrator explaining them to the reader as the story progresses. The misadventures of the three Baudelaire siblings are definitely different from other books where good always defeats evil and the best people are rewarded.
Other different books to consider: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet, and Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling are all a little bit different in their own particular ways and are well worth trying out.
Books That Are More Modern
A read aloud is the perfect time to break out the brand new book that you’re super excited about. Sometimes you might be able to share that book everyone is talking about, other times you might pick up a hidden gem for your class. When I’m looking for newer books, I usually look for strong characters and themes, something we can discuss or explore as a class, and something that’s easy to read aloud (so no super-complicated language or lots of pictures to share)
Front Desk by Kelly Yang tells the story of Mia Tang and her family who live at, clean, and manage a hotel while dealing with the difficult owner and other inequalities which just make life harder. This is an amazing book, one which would really suit the scaffolding and discussion that can come with a read-aloud.
How to Bee by Bren MacDibble is set in a world where there are no bees. Instead, children climb trees to do the work of pollinating the buds. The world-building in this book is excellent and there are so many topics to discuss further as you read through the book.
Where To Find New Books
Rather than giving you a list of new books to read aloud, I thought I’d give you some places to find new books! My favourite place at the moment is the Facebook group Your Kid’s Next Read run by a trio of Australian authors. I also adore the podcast One More Page, which is suitable for kids and adults. The Sapling is an AMAZING New Zealand resource – an absolute must-visit for NZ books. If you’re on Twitter, the hashtags #MGlit and #MGbookchat are a great way to find new and different books. You could also join New Zealand Read Aloud for an interactive real aloud experience. A great new Facebook page with plenty of inspiration and suggestions is Primary School Novel Study – Ideas and Suggestions.
Looking for book studies for some of these novels?
You can find novel studies for Bridge to Terabithia, Boy Overboard, Number the Stars, and Coraline at the Galarious Goods Shop. You can also find more information about teaching picture books and novels at the Galarious Goods blog.
Learn more about our guest blog post author, Melina!
Some of my most vivid memories are of the many great novels my teachers read aloud when I was at school – though Animal Farm was a bit of a strange choice for 10 and 11-year-olds! I carried this enthusiasm for read alouds into my own classrooms as a teacher, cherishing those times when we built shared worlds together around a single text. Now I work to develop literature resources for busy teachers at Galarious Goods, with the aim of maintaining enthusiasm for great books while looking that little bit deeper.
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