Top 10 Picture Books to Read Aloud

Every since I was a little girl, picture books and reading aloud have been a big part of my life. I can't remember a single night growing up when my mom or dad didn't read a book to me. And to this day, whenever the grandnieces and nephews show up, into a lap they climb.

When I became a teacher, my favorite part of my day was when my students were gathered around me and I was reading to them. As I became frustrated with the requirements of being a classroom teacher, that storytime became my only joy. I needed to know how to do that all the time. That is what led me to Library School.


Of course there's a lot more to being a librarian than just reading aloud, and story time isn't limited just to the elementary crew. I ended up becoming a middle school and high school librarian, but I still figured out how to have that read aloud time with my kids.

We even celebrated World Read Aloud Day, which takes place in the beginning of February every year. The entire school stopped what they were doing and all the teachers read aloud to their students. You might think that the older kids would be bored by this, but they love it just as much as the kindergartners I've taught. And quite often, they can give you much greater insight into a book than you ever imagined.

Top 10 Elementary Picture Books

The key to reading aloud successfully with younger kids is to make it entertaining. This might mean adding character voices, using facial expressions, and becoming animated. Don't be afraid to get caught up in the story and look a little foolish. The kids eat it up and love it!

1. Walter the Farting Dog

written by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray and illustrated by Audrey Colman

  • My mom and I were almost kicked out of the bookstore because we were laughing so loud when reading this. That made it a must buy! Then my sister almost disowned me when I gave it to my nephew because she hadn't taught him "the F word" yet.

2. King Bidgood's in the Bathtub

written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood

  • Audrey and Don Wood are a husband and wife team that have written some of the most beautiful, funny, and creative books for children. You must read this book with a British accent! The illustrations in it are divine.

3. The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

written and illustrated by Dan Santat

  • Beekle is the most adorable imaginary friend who gets tired of waiting for his human to imagine him, so he goes out into the word in search of that person for himself. It's a story of perseverance and believing in yourself. The illustrations are divine and Dan Santat was completely deserving of the Caldecott that year. I found a plush Beekle that I gave my nephew that he still carries around with him everywhere.

4. Carnivores

written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat

  • Carnivores is about learning you can't please everyone and you can't be friends with everyone, and that's okay. It's also about being true to yourself. This is one of those books that may have been written more for the enjoyment of the parents rather than the kids, but they will still find it plenty of fun.

5. How I Became a Pirate

written by Melinda Long and illustrated by David Shannon

  • I've actually gone through multiple copies of this book because it has been read so many times it's fallen apart. It helped launch "Talk Like a Pirate" Day, and you have to do just that when reading this book. There is great opportunity for call and response, and the kids get involved in the story.

6. That is Not a Good Idea!

written and illustrated by Mo Willems

  • The style of this book is so unique. Mo Willems has written it like an old timey silent movie, which can lead to a great history lesson. By using that technique, he allows for a wonderful twist ending that no one sees coming. Then you have to read it all over again to see what you missed. It's like you're getting two books in one!

7. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

written by Derk Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James

  • You can see all the awards this book has, and it deserves every one. There is nothing quite so nice as a fresh haircut! What I especially love about this book is that the illustrator used photographs of the author's son as the inspiration for the paintings.

8. Found

illustrated by Jeff Newman and Larry Day

  • Found is a actually a wordless picture book, which means you have to interpret the pictures and figure out the story yourself. This adds a whole new element to reading aloud. You spend so much time studying the pictures to figure out what's going on. I could create an entire post of my favorite wordless picture books, this just happens to be the most recent. You might want tissues handy for this one.

9. Dude!

written (word) by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat

  • Anyone from California can tell you that the word DUDE can be an entire sentence. Somehow the team of Reynolds and Santat have done just that. They've written an entire book and the only word is DUDE! This will definitely test your read aloud skills as you try to figure out just what type of tone to give that powerful word.

10. The Wonky Donkey

written by Craig Smith and illustrated by Katz Cowley

  • If you have somehow escaped life without seeing the video of the Scottish Granny reading this book to her grandson, then you haven't lived. And if you've done it without cry-laughing, then you might be an android! This book is a tongue twister you will laugh your way through. And when you are done, listen to the song and try to sing it together.

Two Bonus Secondary Picture Books

1. Voices in the Park

written and illustrated by Anthony Browne

  • This is one of the most powerful books I've ever taught with, and every time I read it aloud students will find something new. On the surface it is a very simple story of four people going to the park. However, their lives intertwine in ways you can't imagine. Their voices are unique and they have very different backgrounds, upbringings, lifestyles, worries, emotions, and classes. As you look at the illustrations you'll notice all of these tiny details reflecting how they are really feeling, especially in the trees. There are hidden meanings in everything, from the statues to the dogs to the lampposts. I've read this book probably a hundred times at this point, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that my students find something new to analyze everytime we read it. Every. Time.

2. Undefeated

written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

  • This book made me cry it was so beautiful. As soon as my copy arrived for my middle school library, I bought a personal copy for myself and every niece and nephew. Everyone needs to see the beautiful and amazing history Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson have crafted of African American History. There are pages that will take your breath away with their powerfulness. Their might be some pages that are harder for young kids to understand, but that is its purpose. It is meant to discussed. It is meant to raise questions. It is meant to be celebrated. It is meant to show a race of people who is undefeated.

Library Time!

I have so many more books that I could recommend. The shelves in my home are overflowing with books. The nieces and nephews all know what they are getting every year for Christmas, and I love shopping for them to discover new books.

If you want to join me for read alouds, you can sign up for one of my Library Time! class on Outschool. All of these classes are 45 minutes long, include a read aloud of one of my favorite books, and a short reading comprehension lesson. Keep watching my Outschool profile for more books added all the time.

Mention this blog post and I'll give you your first class for FREE!

What are some of your favorite read alouds? Are there any books I should add to my reading list? I can't wait to give them a try!

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