Good read-alouds for older kids

OK everyone, I’ve got a question for you! My husband reads chapter books to the kids every evening. He’s done this for two decades.  Over the years he’s read them many favorites: the Narnia series, the Little House series, Phantom Tollbooth, Swiss Family Robinson, Robinson Crusoe, Watership Down, the American Adventure series, and many more. Recently we’ve ventured cautiously into newer stuff. The Mysterious Benedict Society and its sequel were winners recently.  North! Or Be Eaten (second of the Wingfeather Saga) was one that the older kids and dad liked, but that I was disappointed with.  I found it too intense and grim for our younger kids.

My husband most enjoys reading fast-paced adventures with good writing.  Old books are fine, as long as the language isn’t too archaic or hard for our new-immigrant kids to wade through.  (6th-8th grade reading level is fine.) Books don’t have to be overtly Christian, but main characters should be admirable, moral, and willing to fight for what’s right.

So within those paramenters, what do you think?  Got any good titles to recommend?


  1. The Archives of Anthropos by John White are excellent! It’s Christian allegorical fiction about children who enter another world. It’s a very exciting series and hard to put down.

    • I loved those books when I was a kid! (probably late elementary school/middle school age)

  2. How about the Little House on the Prairie series.

  3. I love the list of favorites!!!

    And I have not read all the books, but the Redwall series is excellent and would probably work well with your agespan. Lots of adventure! I listened to audiobooks just recently and loved them!

    And The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare.

  4. The kids and I read lots of great books together last year as part of Sonlight core 6 World History. Some of my favorites were: Mara, Daughter of the Nile, The Golden Goblet, and Master Cornhill all by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare, and A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park.

    I can hardly wait for us to get started again- this time we’ll be studying American History.

  5. They might like “Northern Exposures” by Eric Walters, a Canadian author. This one is set in Churchill, Manitoba and introduces the issue of “environmental commercialization” and polar bears. I’ve used it as a sample for writing traits sometimes at school. He’s written many other books and several of them have won awards. I think many of them have Canadian settings which might not be what you want. How cool that your husband reads aloud to the older kids!

  6. We just finished Hattie Big Sky and My Side of the Mountain. Both were so so so so good! Full of adventure and action.

    My Side of the Mountain has two sequels so we’ll be on to those next.

  7. The “All-of-a-kind-Family” series is about a Jewish immigrant family in NYC in the early part of the century. It’s a large family and the children get into adventures that are solved by wise adult role models.

    We also enjoyed the Melendy family books: The Saturdays, The Four-Story Mistake, And Then There were Five by Elizabeth Enright.

  8. My husband and I enjoy reading aloud together and our favorite so far has been the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull. We can’t wait to read them with our children some day.

  9. I really enjoyed Williwaw by Tom Bodett. I’m so glad you made this request because now we’ll all get some new ideas from your comments!

  10. My children really enjoyed The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. It has a sequel, as well.

    Have you ever read Understood Betsy?

    • Lynette says:

      The Princess and Curdie is the sequel. One of my gang’s favorites. You absolutely can’t go wrong with George MacDonald. We also just finished At the Back of the North Wind. Wonderful!

  11. How about the Wrinkle in Time series?

  12. Theresa says:

    Years ago we got this book,, from the library and found that it pointed us to many good selections for a variety of ages.

  13. Bethany says:

    I second the books about the Melendys, by Elizabeth Enright. Another good set of books are those by Eleanor Estes. She wrote about The Moffats (The Moffats, Rufus M., The Moffat Museum) and the Pyes (Pinky Pye, Ginger Pye). She has a few others too. Lastly, my kids have loved the Adventure books by Enid Blyton (The Island of Adventure, The Mountain of Adventure, and so on). We’ve read all of these to children younger than yours, but I plan on reading them again when they’re older. They’re all the kinds of stories that are funny to younger kids, but also have slightly older humor in them as well.

  14. My kids have all enjoyed the Max and Liz series by Jenny Cote. There are currently two books in the series, with a third to be released soon. The first one is about Noah’s Ark, and the second is about the story of Joseph. The third will be about the birth of Jesus Christ. The books are fantastic and funny–I know you wouldn’t be disappointed! The link for the first book is

  15. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned Anne of Green Gables yet? I always liked Little Women but that might be too archaic. I’m not sure what 6th-8th grade level is in English, as I am from the Netherlands. I do know what I enjoy(ed) to read! Mm, let me think. Call of the Wild?Alice in Wonderland? The Secret Garden.
    I’m going to think this over and come back if I think of anything else. Too bad you and your kids don’t speak any Dutch, because I can think of a bunch of Dutch books right away!

  16. Oops, forgot a / in my html. Sorry about that!

  17. Have you ever picked up anything by G.A. Henty? 16-year-old male protagonists involved in historical events, for the most part. He’s got a whole series. It can be a bit tiring to read them all in a row, but I can recommend ‘The Dragon and the Raven’ and ‘The Young Carthaginian’ for sure. Hope I got the titles correct …

  18. One of our all-time favorite read alouds is It’s a Jungle Out There and the two sequels (Life is a Jungle and Jungle Calls) all by Ron Snell. It is Ron’s story of growing up as the son of missionary parents in the Amazon rainforest. We laugh so much when we read them – you will love them.

  19. Elisabeth says:

    Some favorites from my own childhood that immediately come to mind, in addition to many of those already mentioned (some were read aloud to me; others I read on my own): Five Little Peppers and How They Grew series (Margaret Sidney); Wizard of Oz series (L. Frank Baum); many of Gordon Korman’s books are clever and great for a laugh (I Want to Go Home, Son of Interflux, Don’t Care High, Bruno and Boots series); Eight Cousins or the Aunt Hill (Louisa May Alcott); Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (Kate Douglas Wiggin); A String in the Harp (Nancy Bond); The Borrowers series (Mary Norton).

  20. ShackelMom says:

    Okay, no one has mentioned books by Gene Stratton Porter yet: Girl of the Limberlost, Freckles, Laddie (really great!) and The Harvester, if you can find it. I found Laddie recently on Amazon Marketplace. It’s about a family with 12 kids, living on a farm, written from the viewpoint of the youngest daughter.

  21. Last year I came across a series by Donita K. Paul, the first book is DragonSpell. It’s all about a fantasy world that includes magic and dragons, but it’s written by a christian author and brings a lot of christian principles into the mix. The books are great for young and old and have enough action to really keep your attention!

  22. My 11 year old daughter just read “Scat” by Carl Hiassen. She said, “Mom, there’s some mild language in there.” But I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it! Great characters, lots of suspense, and excellent environmental focus. You could say “darn” if reading aloud instead of the other more offensive word.

    We also loved the Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief series.

    These are great books for both boys and girls. My son is 9 and read the Percy Jackson series by himself, and I was so proud of him for doing so!

  23. My 10yo just devoured the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. (Seriously, all 6 multi-100 pg. books in less than 4 months.) Lots of mythology for school tie-ins.

  24. How to Get Your Child to Love Reading (E. Coddell) has a lot of great lists of titles, as does Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook.

  25. Kristin says:

    The City of Ember (and the next two books … it’s a trilogy) are great read-alouds for the 10 and up crowd. You could probably do 8 and up even for some children.

    We also love the Anne of Green Gables series.

    Another favorite is the Percy Jackson series.

  26. My Family and Other Animals by Durrell is funny. Also, some of the books by Farley Mowat would be good ie Owls in the Family might be a bit young but is good and some of his other adventures would be worth reading for kids who are interested in nature, etc.

  27. I just read “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper and Loved it. I thought it would make for good conversation with kids. It was a quick moving book. The main character has a disability that leaves her not being able to speak. She has many words in her head and understands more than people know.

    I also like the Maximum Ride series and books by Gary Paulsen.

  28. We’re listening to James Herriot’s book, “All Creatures Great and Small”, which is a lot of fun.

  29. Anne of Green Gables (all 8); the Adventure series by Enid Blyton; the Louisa May Alcott books; What Katy Did & sequels What Katy did at School and What Katy Did Next; the Henry Reed books by Keith Robertson; the My Friend Flicka trilogy by Mary O’Hara; the Biggles books by W.E. Johns; the Silverwing series by Kenneth Oppel; the Hank Zipzer series by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver. That’s all I can think of off the top of my head!

  30. How about the The Chronicles of Prydain by LLoyd Alexander. It’s a five volume series:

    “the stories detail the adventures of a young man named Taran, who is awarded the honor of Assistant Pig-Keeper but dreams of being a grand hero, and his companions Princess Eilonwy, Fflewddur Fflam the wandering bard and king, a feral yet gentle creature called Gurgi, and a dwarf named Doli.”

    “In these series of books, we follow Taran from his humble beginnings as assistant pig-keeper to noble hero, from awkward adolescent to a holy man, encountering adventure, love, and just plain fun along the way! The characterizations are exquisite, the action surprising, and the morals wonderful. This series is an especially good answer to the recent Harry Potter craze, since it follows a young boy’s journey to heroic manhood, but with the moral bent and just as much fun (and better literary quality)! Although it calls upon early Celtic myth, there’s no fear of “paganising” your children.”

    • I heartily second this!! We could go for 3 hours on these at times, and I had all my kids (9 of them, 15-3) on the edges of the couch, and sometimes in tears. I read them myself to preview them, then I read them to the kids, then my husband started reading them and read them aloud to the kids again!

      While I’m commenting, the Henty books are good, but I think for read aloud purposes the R. M. Ballantyne books are better. I can second the Redwall series! Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Ranger’s Apprentice series us good but I definitely edited a bit as I was reading. Oh! The Gammage Cup!!!!

  31. I have all boys right now. That being said, the Hardy Boys series has been a big read aloud hit. We all get into it and are eager for the next chapter.

  32. Most of our favorites have been mentioned. Rob is currently reading the kids The Chronicles of Prydain by LLoyd Alexander as a PP suggested; they’re on The Black Cauldron right now.

    I also greatly enjoy reading The Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum to my kids and even remember reading it to/with each of my younger siblings growing up as the 2nd oldest of 6. The movie makes Dorothy out to be a little victimized and weak and mostly lucky, but Baum very strongly believed in women as equals and intentionally wrote the book to have a strong confident sensible female hero. My 4 year old (now 5) LOVES it and I still do to, so good for the age range.

    Redwall is great. So are The Borrowers by Mary Norton which has a family of tiny people as part of a society of tiny people that live under the floorboards and in the walls and “borrow” all those lost pins and stamps and spools and such and live their lives. It’s a 4-book series.

    Alice and Wonderland and even “peter and wendy” were lost on our little ones. Too trippy.

    Charlotte’s Web (E.B White) is a classic and quite fun to read.

  33. Rebekah says:

    Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place has been our favorite thus far. We have also enjoyed the Terrestria Chronicles by Edward Dunlop (Christian allegory set in Middle Ages). So glad you mentioned this b/c on my “to do” list I have “Make a Read-Aloud List.” LOL!!!

  34. We just finished The Secret Garden, which you’ve probably already read, but our kids, even the boys, loved it! They also loved the Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull.

  35. Peter Pan is my favorite but the language may be a bit hard. I like to read E. Nesbit – (The Railway Children, 5 Children and It.) The White Mountains Trilogy by John Christopher, Crash by Spinelli, The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli, Number the Stars by Lowry, Mr. Poppers Penguins, Heidi, Pollyanna, Caddie Woodlan, and very best of all The Wheel on the School.
    Thanks for asking, it’s great to share and receive ideas.

  36. I like the new Peter Pan that Dave Barry co-wrote explaining how Peter got to Never Land. My going into 6th grader loves the Fable haven books as well as the Sisters Grimm series.She has also gone through the Percy Jackson series, and started the new one.We too have enjoyed the Mysterious Benedict Society books, and would suggest the art/math books of Blue Balliet (Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3, etc).

  37. Rebecca says:

    Patricia M St John- Treasures of the Snow, Star of Light (perfect for Christmas time)
    Paul White- “The Jungle Doctor” series.(Mission doctor in Tanzania in the 1930s)
    And I second Gerald Durrell- great descriptions of another place (Corfu) and all the fascinating animals.

  38. RALPH MOODY!!!!! Enjoyed your website for about a year now! Finally leaving a comment because this series is too good for your family to miss!!! It’s written by Ralph Moody. We are just finishing the last book of this 8 book series and my kids LOVE it! We read aloud during lunch. It’s set in the early nineteen hundreds. It’s kind of like a “little house on the prairie” book for boys, although my girls enjoy it too. Here’s a link: Oh, I hope your family can read these together. You won’t be disappointed!!! Let me know if your family reads them!

  39. One of my favorites has always been “The Wolves of Willoughby Chase” by Joan Aiken. It has all of the elements of a great children’s novel – mystery, friendship, suspense, love, etc.

  40. I have to second (or third) My Side of the Mountain, the Wrinkle in Time series and The Borrowers. I just read the Bartimaeus Trilogy — much better/more intelligent/more interesting than Harry Potter.

    Try Thief Lord or Inkheart, from Cornelia Funke — Inkheart is an amazing book. Howling Acres is a fun series. Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden (good mix of characters for boys and girls), and The Three Investigators. The Westing Game. Indian in the Cupboard. Beverly Cleary. Wind in the Willows. The Boxcar Children. If you can find a series called Mr. Bass, it’s great (out of print, though, so you’ll have to go through Amazon or Powell’s).

  41. servetus says:

    If you like Lloyd Alexander, mentioned above, try Susan Cooper, Dark is Rising series (may be too Celtic / esoteric for you, though).

    would also like to recommend _Carry on, Mr. Bowditch!_ (historical novel about an important US historical figure) and _Johnny Tremain_.

  42. Casey Houseworth says:

    I second the last commenter – you must, must, must read “Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.” It’s fast-paced, based on a true story, and it has a very admirable character. It’s set in colonial times. Your kids will really enjoy it.

  43. I know many people do not like the Harry Potter series, but I have to say that we loved the books. The books are well written and fun to read. The main characters are moral and admirable, learn what real friendship is about. To me the books were not about witches and wizardry and, as much as they were about kids at a boarding school dealing with teachers, being away from home, making new friends, trying to keep up in class and dealing with some very unusual characters and situations. Reading the series allowed me to look at a group of kids develop strong character, compassion, and meaningful relationships, while making choices and decisions that were not easy to do. The overall theme is that it is not always easy doing and defending the right thing, or figuring out what that is–but the right thing is always the right thing.

    I used to read it to my kids, and then sneak it out of the room when they were asleep in order to read ahead.

  44. I have to admit I’m not a big “read aloud” person except picture books, but with one of my son’s who HATES to read, I’m finding that I need to spend the time and read to him every single day. Right now I’m reading Sign of the Beaver with him – he seems to like it. We started “The Maze” but he couldn’t get into it, but so many people have recommended it highly. My daughter loves the Fablehaven series so I may start those with my son after this. I was given a recommendation of The Eye, The Ear the Arm by Nancy Farmer – haven’t gotten it from library yet. The older ones enjoy Erin Hunter’s The Seekers series. I’ve heard good things of the Hunger Games series.

  45. A few we have enjoyed are: Teddy’s Button (a Lamplighter book), Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott, Across Five Aprils (can’t remember the author right now), The Moody Family Series by Sarah Maxwell. Jan Bloom has a book on books to read. You could google her name. I know she is usually at some of the homeschool conferences.

  46. I second the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody. They are really wonderful books. I would add The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong and The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare. Another of my children’s favorites is Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (really, anything by E. Nesbit). Now I have to add a disclaimer… she wrote at the turn of the last century, so her language is a bit more challenging. We have found though, that our children have no problem understanding the story if we take it a bit slowly through the first chapter or so and help them to understand what is going on. The more we get into the story (which is great fun), the less difficulty they had with comprehension. This was even true for our 7 year old who was came home from Vietnam at nearly four. They are a bit of a stretch, but worth the effort.

    I do keep a huge running list of our family’s favorite chapter books on the sidebar of my blog ( ). We read a huge amount of books as a family.

  47. Well, I see a lot of books that Sonlight Curriculum uses. Seriously, you could get a Sonlight catalog and use that as a reading list. (psst my kids are on the back cover) When we were first considering Sonlight, we borrowed some Core 1 books to try: Kildee House, The Wheel On The School, and Ginger Pye. My kids begged me to keep reading!

    Thanks to everyone else for the great lists here! I’ll have to use this as a reference.

  48. How about books by Jack Cavanaugh, especially his “An American Family Portrait” series?

    Here’s a link to the “Family Portrait” page of his website, there are links from that page to some of his other works.

  49. When my husband was young, a favorite book was _Follow My Leader_ about a boy who was blind and his guide dog, written by James Garfield.
    When we had sons wanting bedtime reading, we hunted high and low for that title, finding a copy at last on a Used Book list online.
    They loved it as much as their dad, which pleased him no end.

    I am glad to see that it is now in reprints, seeing a paperback at a local bookstore.

  50. I’ve recently revisited the books of Lois Lenski. Her best is “Strawberry Girl”. This is probably best read-aloud, because the “drawl” used in the book can be hard to read silently. She wrote books for many age ranges, and are great historical books. “Indian Captive” is good for older kids, while “We Live in the City” works for younger kids as well.