My oldest child and middle child are well over 3 years apart. That means that basically everything I learned the first time around was obsolete by the time we had the second. (Anyone remember when you were not supposed to introduce allergens until 2 years old? Yeah, now that’s the EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT THEY SAY TO DO!)
It also means that the kids are at different levels of listening skills and interest. A 7 year old just does not always like the same story as a 3 year old, you know?
However, I have found lots of books that both kids enjoy together. These chapter books will appeal to kids of all ages. As you are looking at the list for books that are right for your family, the first 4 are fully illustrated, and the last 4 have less illustrations.
Read Aloud Chapter Books for Multiple Ages
Read Alouds for Younger Kids that Older Kids Will Enjoy
These first four books all follow my guidelines for being perfect read aloud chapter books for very young kids. They have less plot than books that were written for older kids. However, they all have one of the most important things to get bigger kids to enjoy read aloud time – HUMOR!! I can not overstate how important laughing is when you are trying to get all of your kids to buy into a book!
The Adventures of Pug series by Laura James
This series of fully illustrated chapter books are about a darling pug named Pug. There are just a few characters and lots of pictures for the younger set, and tons of humor and silly situations for the older set. Read my full review of the series HERE.
Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Shlitz
Princess Cora and the Crocodile does not get enough attention. (When I wrote that I meant that the book itself does not get enough attention…but actually, Princess Cora doesn’t get enough attention, either!) First, it’s a hysterical story about an overworked young princess and her dream pet. Second, there’s a lovely message about making your voice heard. Third, the chapters are super short. You could probably get through at least half of the book in one sitting. Finally, it is fully illustrated in color, with pictures on every page. Kids of any age will enjoy it, especially if you play up the crocodile’s voice. Deep and raspy or high pitched and a little squeaky – either is funny!
Digby O’Day series by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliany
Digby O’Day and his friend Percy have lots of adventures in his red convertible. The plots are simple enough for young kids to follow, but still interesting. It is definitely on the longer side, so keep that in mind if your toddler or preschooler still does not grasp the idea of putting the book down after a chapter or two. You’ll be up WAY past bedtime if you try to power through this one in one sitting. The books are fully illustrated with a few splashes of color. Plus, there are maps of their town and the surrounding area. What is it about a good map that makes any book better?
The Three-Ring Rascals series by Kate Klise
This series is about two mice and their life in the greatest circus in the world!! All of the books are very sweet. They are character driven, but there is enough action to keep everyone interested. Be aware that there are some things that might not be quite right for your family. For example, one couple gets married after knowing each other for a week and one character runs away. As always, preview! I found everything to be told in a humorous way and age appropriate, but every family is different! It also opened up so many conversations about grace, and how the kids can tell us anything, and that running away won’t solve the problems.
Related: Looking for more books that you can get through QUICKLY with very young kids? Here’s 40 read aloud chapter books you can easily get through in one sitting.
Read Alouds for Older Kids that Younger Kids Will Enjoy
All of the books that follow are written for elementary age children and older. So, they have some things that younger kids might not fully “get,” like school. They also have a more complicated plot. However, they are still simple enough that the little ones should sort of follow, and they have quite a bit of that super-important element – HUMOR!
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi is FUNNY. And, let’s face it, a horse in the house is funny if you are 3 or 9. This is also an excellent audio book. The first book in the series is by far my favorite. (Be aware that a later book in the series, Pippi in the South Seas, talks about people of different nationalities in ways that we know are not appropriate, but was cultural at the time.) Especially if you have independent kids, they’ll be obsessed with Pippi living by herself.
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins
Toys Go Out is written from the perspective of a little girl’s toys. They get to go to school for show and tell one day, and they have many adventures. If you are reading this to younger kids, I recommend explaining that all of the characters are toys, and the character named Plastic is a red ball. That way they can picture the story better. The other characters are named obvious names like Stingray and Buffalo…Plastic is a little unclear. There are some illustrations, but not a ton. It’s a darling story about friends and bravery.
The Doll People by Astrid Lindgren
Annabelle, the main character, is an 8 year old girl. She is also a china doll who can move. The story is interesting because it is told from her perspective – getting played with, adventures in the attic, and running from the cat. There are quite a few named characters, which can be tricky for younger listeners. However, there are also pictures which help a lot. The story is clear and interesting enough that my 3 year old could easily listen to a full chapter in one sitting, and twice she asked to hear even more. (Be aware that I found the second book in the series, The Meanest Doll Ever, to be rather dark, and a main character doll “dies.” I have not read that one aloud to my kids.)
Naya Nuki by Kenneth Thomasma
Naya Nuki is an 11 year old Shoshoni girl who gets kidnapped and walks 1,000 miles back to her home. This classic book is full of adventure and peril, but also bravery and inner strength. Make sure to do a thorough preview before you start to read it aloud to make sure the content is right for your kids. (There is one scene that could be particularly traumatic after Naya Nuki’s brother dies and her mother cuts herself to show her mourning.) I am including this book on this list because it is perfect for a wide range of ages, but it certainly would trend older. I would suggest 5 years up to older tweens or young teens of either gender will enjoy the story.