It feels like most read-aloud focused bloggers are also HOMESCHOOL bloggers. I don’t homeschool, my kids go to plain old, every day, see-you-in-7-hours, school. Some of the tips, reading lists, and recommendations from the read-aloud homeschooling bloggers just don’t work for us. (Looking at you, “morning book baskets” and your Pinterest takeover.)
So, I want to help out my fellow non-homeschoolers by sharing tips for how to have a rich read aloud life even during the seasons that your kids are attending school.
ALL of my recommendations on this page are suitable for ALL AGES of kids, and for both genders. My kids range from toddlers through third grade, so I know it can be hard to find books that are ok content wise for the little kids, but are spunky enough to keep the older kids’ attention. These books should keep everyone happy!
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5 Tips for Reading Aloud for NON Homeschoolers
1. Audio books are amazing
Embrace the audio book life, because it is truly the easiest way to expose your kids to great read aloud books when you don’t have a ton of time. You can listen to audio books in the car, during snack time after school, or while waiting in pick up line.
My personal favorite place to get audio books from is the library. (Our library uses the Libby app for digital audio book downloads, but see what your local library has available.)
Of course, you can check out Audible if you want a paid service. It is not quite right for our family budget, but it is a popular option that might be worth a look if you will use it a lot.
When using audio books, don’t be surprised if some of the classic books do not work for your family in audio book format. When we tried to listen to The Chronicles of Narnia, which has a very British reader, my sweet midwestern kids started yelling, “What language are they speaking?!?”
So, I’d suggest you start with good old American readers, especially if you have young kids.
My pick for top audio book for all ages:
The Three Ring Rascals series by Kate Klise
This darling series is about a sweet circus that is more like a family. They have gentle scrapes, but it all turns out ok in the end. It has quite a few characters, but they are all distinct and easy to keep separate. (That’s important if you have younger listeners.)
This audio book series is fully produced, with different voice actors and everything. They’re wonderful, even the grown ups enjoy them on road trips. I can’t recommend them enough!
(Heads up for my readers parenting kids from tough places, in the first book there is some food insecurity, but it is brief, and remedied.)
4. Have a time when you always read aloud together
Let’s face it, with school, piano lessons, homework, church, sports, and everything else, it can feel impossible to read aloud to your kids. The only way to make it happen is to schedule it.
You can schedule your read aloud time for whenever works for you. Some families have good success reading before bed. (Not us, I’m worn out by bedtime, but you might be stronger than me.)
For our family, our scheduled read aloud time is listening to audio books in the car after I pick the kids up from school (yes, it counts) and on Monday evenings after dinner. We eat treats while we read, because everyone listens better with a cookie.
Get creative with when you can squeeze in some reading time, and then put it on the calendar! Explain to the kids that it is scheduled, and going to happen.
My pick that everyone in the family will listen to without complaining:
Adventures of Pug series by Laura James
The Adventures of Pug series appeals to the whole family because it is funny. It is a fully illustrated chapter book series about a pug named Pug and his oddly rich owner, Lady Miranda.
The colorful pictures and cute main character are perfect for all ages. This could easily be a first read aloud chapter book, because there are only two main characters. I’ve read it aloud to a toddler, a preschooler, and an early elementary kid, and they all loved it.
The reason I recommend it for this tip is because it is short enough that if you REALLY power through, you can read it in one sitting. However, it’s definitely a chapter book. So, even if you read aloud together only once a week, you’ll still be getting through a whole chapter book every week. Woo hoo!
If this is a good length for your family, there are tons of wonderful illustrated chapter books that can be read aloud in one or two sittings.
3. You do not have to read aloud everyday
A lot of pressure is put on the concept of reading aloud every day. That’s a nice thought, but for a lot of us who have kids in school, that just isn’t a possibility.
Do the best you can, but do not get hung up on the homeschooling moms who post their 600 day read aloud plans and things like that. Schedule some read aloud time for every week, but do not stress about finding read-aloud time every single day. Because some days it just isn’t going to happen.
My pick for a read aloud with short chapters for all ages:
The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren
I recommend The Children of Noisy Village to all families. It is written by the author who wrote Pippi Longstocking, but is completely different. It shows a year in the life of a few families who live in the Swedish countryside, happily working and growing together. The parents are firm, but kind, and there are some nice examples of happy marriages.
I know that sweet books like that aren’t currently in style (looking at you, dystopian literature), but I purposefully read books with happy families to the kids – I want to give them something to aspire to. I know there is benefit in kids seeing and learning about the hard stuff from books, but there is equal benefit in seeing the absolute beautiful good of living in loving relationships. That’s why I continue to recommend the old, sweet stories from years past, with the loving families, and uncomplicated stories.
I want my kids to recognize goodness when they see it. The only way to do that is to continually show them, “This is it. This is the good we’re shooting for.”
I recommend this book for families trying to squeeze in a little reading time because it is SHORT and the chapters are also extremely short. Each chapter is only a few pages.
It is also a good pick if you are struggling to read everyday because the chapters do stand alone. It is not a big deal if the kids forget what happened in the last chapter, because each chapter is a little story.
4. Piggy back off of the books your children’s teachers are reading aloud in class
Your school age kids are most likely hearing chapter books read aloud at school. (At least, hopefully they are!) This is a great way to get through a series of books without having to make time to read aloud every book in the series.
For example, your oldest might hear The One and Only Ivan read aloud at school. (It’s currently very popular. It’s also very sad, FYI before you check it out. Do preview it to see if it’s right for your family.) Since the oldest is already hearing it at school, you can listen to the audio book of the story with your younger kids while you wait in pick-up line for school. This will open up the door for conversations with the whole family, since they’ve all heard the same story.
Then, when you’ve all heard the whole book, either at school or home, move onto the lesser known sequel, The One and Only Bob.
Rarely does a teacher read aloud a whole series to the class, instead reading the popular books, and trying to hit several different genres. You can use this to your advantage, and choose for your family read aloud books that are in a series they were exposed to at school. (Looking at you, The Chronicles of Narnia, and the overwhelming popularity of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as a read aloud book, versus the other books.)
Of course, I have no idea what books your child’s teachers will read aloud. But here are a few suggestions of longer series that are very popular, so your child may be exposed to them at school. And even if they aren’t reading aloud at school, these are great options for your family!
My pick for older kids:
The Green Ember series by S. D. Smith
Full disclosure, I do not think that these are literary masterpieces. They could have benefited from a good editor. HOWEVER, kids love them, so what do I know? The premise is basically bunnies with swords.
These are so exciting, and quite a bit of fighting, so best for ages second grade and up. There is not really any humor, so definitely a more serious series than what I normally feature. I recommend these books because there is bravery, justice, and classic good versus evil.
If your kids have already enjoyed The Green Ember series, here’s 60 similar books.
My pick for younger kids:
The Adventures of Sophie Mouse series by Poppy Green
All ages will love hearing about sweet Sophie Mouse and her many forest friends. She gets into the usual school aged kid scrapes, but it’s different because she’s a mouse living in a forest. I like the series because of the sweet family relationships, no romantic crushes, and no snark from the kids. I hate un-punished snark.
There are lots of books in this series, and you do not have to read them in order. Sophie is school aged, but the books are fully illustrated, so this is a good option for all ages of listeners.
Don’t be fooled by the feminine book covers – this series is for both genders.
5. Have your kids read aloud to you
If you just don’t have time to read aloud every day, see if a few days a week your child car read aloud to you and the other kids instead!
This works well if you have a young independent reader and other younger kids at home. For example, the oldest could read aloud in the kitchen to the younger kids while you prep dinner. Waiting rooms are also great places to hear your kids read aloud chapter books to you.
We found success starting when my oldest was going into third grade, but if you have a precocious reader you could always start earlier.
Pick books that are fully illustrated to help the reader with new words. Definitely pick something they will be comfortable reading aloud, at their reading level or slightly below.
Pro tip: if your younger child is going to take a turn reading, prep the older kids that it is NOT ok to make fun of someone for stumbling while they read. Ever.
My pick for kids reading around a third grade reading level:
Rabbit and Bear series by Julian Gough and Jim Field
Kids love this series about friends Rabbit and Bear. There are poop jokes. There are fart jokes. There are ridiculous situations. (At one point a porcupine locks a baby owl in a jail because owls have funny digestive systems…For real. My kids HOWLED laughing.)
There are also full illustrations on every page to help with comprehension. Not to mention the lessons that Rabbit learns in every book that are perfect for gentle conversations with your kids.
Come for the laughs, stay for the heart.
If your kids like this type of story (illustrated and FUNNY), check out these similar series at about a third grade reading level.