The 16 Best Read-Aloud Books For Kindergarten — To Inspire Budding Readers

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by Lauren Beach
Cute preschool child son holding a book reading fairy tales for mom, lying in bed together, happy mo...

Cuddling up with a new book and sharing a love of reading can be a fun and relaxing ritual with huge benefits. In fact, being read to five or more days a week through kindergarten are “key factors in predicting whether or not children ages 6 to 11 will be frequent readers,” according to a report from Scholastic Inc. But not all books are created equal when it comes to holding a kindergartner’s attention. The best read-aloud books for kindergarten not only keep them interested, but also inspire discussion (and giggles), creating memories that will last forever.

Scary Mommy reached out to kindergarten teacher Brittany Tauber to learn what to look for in kindergarten-level books and how to get the most out of read-aloud time.

The Expert

Brittany Tauber, M.Ed, is a kindergarten teacher at Northbrook School District 27 in Illinois. She served as a Summer Success Program Principal for her district this past year and is certified/endorsed for school leadership, special education, and English as a second language (ESL). She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Teaching from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and her Masters of Education from National Louis University.

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Read-Aloud Books For Kindergarten

Letting your child’s interests lead the way in choosing a book is key, according to Tauber, whether that’s fantasy, mystery, or books about cats. “The most important thing is that the child is excited about what they are seeing and hearing so they can build a lifetime of enthusiasm toward reading,” says Tauber.

Another trick? Tauber says children often connect with books where the main character is the same age as them. That’s why many of the books on our list feature elementary-aged characters.

How To Get The Most Out Of Reading Time

To engage your child and get the most out of this special time reading together, she recommends “saying what you are thinking aloud to model comprehension.” For example, tell your little listener what you think may happen next and why — get their input too.

While you may feel like you’re just using silly voices and asking simple questions, ultimately reading aloud “sets a great example for children,” according to Tauber. “[It] helps children recognize what reading for enjoyment is all about.”

Tauber says picture books read-alouds are helpful for kindergarteners, as illustrations keep kids involved. That’s why all of our picks have at least some illustrations. She also notes that many kindergartners enjoy chapter books because they “allow you to dive deeper into character and story development.”

Ready to find your kiddo’s next favorite? From books based on real-life heroes to books about superheroes, we’ve got your reading list covered below!

The Best Read-Aloud Picture Books For Kindergarten

A Sweetly Illustrated Nod To Fairy Tale Favorites

A warm and cozy read, Fern and Otto: A Story About Two Best Friends is about two animal friends on the hunt for story ideas for the book one of them is writing. They come across characters from fairy tales and Mother Goose stories in beautiful, detailed illustrations that will remind you of the Frog and Toad stories of your youth. The charming pages switch between bubble dialogue and traditional storytelling in a gentle, simple tale that ends with Fern using those adventures to finish her book.

Review: “My 6-year-old grandson enjoyed this book so much that he was upset when we had to stop reading for a moment. Otto and Fern wander through the forest in search of an exciting story and on the way, they run into many familiar characters such as the three little pigs, the tortoise and the hare, and other nursery rhyme and fairy tale favorites. There is so much detail in the background that every time I read it, I notice something new. From Little Miss Muffet to a dish running away with a spoon, you’ll find fun on every page. I enjoyed this as much as the author’s Little Fox in the Forest. And the Little Fox makes appearances in Otto and Fern. This book is sure to be a family favorite.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 7 years

A Caldecott Award-Winning Book That Explores Friendship

This Caldecott Award-winner answers the question: “Where do imaginary friends come from?” Dan Santat, author and illustrator of After The Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) gives readers a peek at the island where imaginary friends wait to be imagined by a child. The illustrations bounce between muted and dark and colorful and bright as Beekle journeys into the human world to find a child of his own. Kids will relate to this sweet tale about trying to make friends, finding your place in the world, and being brave enough to go after what you want.

Review: “[...] My kids are 6. They LOVE Beekle. We read it almost every night. They love the amazing story and the beyond beautiful illustrations, but their favorite part is to pick out the pieces of the story that aren't told in the words; just in the pictures. It lets them take an active role in the storytelling. This would be especially great for kids even younger who haven't started to read yet, as they can still participate in the development of the story, even if mom or dad does the reading. I can't recommend this book enough!”

Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years

The Antidote To Typical Princess Books

While this book is a sequel to author Julia Donaldson’s hit Zog, it’s also a fantastic standalone book with serious girl-power vibes. Princess Pearl is sick of wearing silly, frilly gowns and wants to help cure the people (and creatures) of her kingdom. She travels with her knight on Zog, their living, flying ambulance as they tend to the ill mermaids, unicorns, and other creatures of the land. The king is opposed to her dreams, but changes his mind towards the book’s end, when Princess Pearl is the only one who can diagnose and cure his mysterious illness. Written by the same author as The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, this book pairs their whimsical, rhyming style with a strong message about following your dreams.

Review: “What a great book telling kids they can be more than one thing. In this case, a Princess can also be a Doctor. The story is fun to read, Zog is a cute dragon who is great at flying but not so great at landing. The illustrations are beautiful & vivid with lots of interesting little details for your kiddo to talk about. This became an instant favorite, the first time we read it. I am definitely looking for more Zog books.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 7 years

A Gorgeously Illustrated Bedtime Story That’s Especially Fun To Read Aloud

Have a kid that needs ALL the things at bedtime? You’ll love this book about Mother Earth trying to get her Wild Child (the season Autumn) to bed. The pages’ enchanting hand-painted illustrations and the rhyming, poetic language make for a fun read aloud. The book inspires awe in nature and helps children relate, as it ties the rhythm of the seasons to the rhythms of a child’s daily life. Weary parents will see themselves in Mother Earth’s struggle as she lovingly tries to get her little one to bed (even seasons need a nighttime snack apparently.) Hopefully your own wild child will want to mimic Autumn and eventually go to sleep themselves!

Review: “Love, love love this book. Moms can really relate to the behavior of the ‘wild child.’ Just a very sweet book. My daughter loves the ending, she laughs out loud. I am going to buy it for 2 of my friends now for their kids' birthdays, and I am going to get the rest of Lynn Plourde's books for our collection.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 8 years

A Dreamy Picture Book Inspired By The First Black Woman To Travel To Space

Based on the true story of Mae Jemison, this book will inspire little ones as they follow Mae’s fictionalized journey from space-obsessed child to her career at NASA as a real-life astronaut. You’ll want to borrow the book’s refrain, which is what Mae’s parents say to encourage her to follow her dreams: “If you can dream it, if you believe it and work hard for it, anything is possible.” Parents and kids alike love the star-spattered illustrations; this book has a stellar 4.9-star overall rating on Amazon.

Review: “This is an outstanding book for kindergarteners! The illustrations are bright and pleasing. The message of believing in yourself and the life of Mae is beautifully interwoven.”

Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years

A Charming Tale About Friendship And Standing Up To Bullies

Kids will be intrigued by the unlikely pairing of best friends Mac and Will (an apple and a worm.) This sweet picture book explores bullying (Mac is called a “bad” and “rotten” apple for hanging out with a worm) but ends with Mac realizing he shouldn’t let what others think of their friendship matter. There’s lots of apple-themed humor for kids to enjoy, like the elderly Granny Smith and the crabby crab apples.

Review: “How many children's books deal with the complex issue of being bullied for who you like? I can't think of any and yet this is one of the most common weapons that bullies use. Bravo for handling the issue with kind spirit and humor. While bullying is part of the book, Bad Apple is really about friendship and what it's worth to us. In a word, everything. My son read it and seems to really understand now that he's allowed to like anyone he wants to like as long as they treat him with respect. [...] A beautiful concept, beautifully done.”

Recommended Age: 3 to 6 years old

This Book With A Twist Ending That Teaches Kindergartners About The Value Of Honesty

An elementary school teacher favorite, The Empty Pot is set in ancient China where an emperor is looking for a successor. Children are given seeds to grow and green thumb Ping hopes he will win. Featuring detailed and stylized illustrations, the pages show all the other children tending to their beautiful plants, as Ping’s pot stays stubbornly empty. Children learn the importance of honesty, integrity, and being brave enough to ignore what people think as Ping delivers his empty pot at the end of the year. Kids love the surprise ending (the seeds were cooked and wouldn’t grow) and how Ping’s courage is rewarded when he is chosen to be the next emperor.

Review: “This book blew me away with its simplicity and its great message. The emperor teaches the little boy in the story that the effort made is greater than the outcome. It is truly a lovely story that teaches children to be honest with themselves and also with others. I cannot wait to read this book to my children and teach them to abide by the principles that are demonstrated by the boy in this book.”

Recommended Age: 4 to 7 years

This Based-On-A-True-Story Tale About An Aquatic Houdini

My kids couldn’t get enough of this fictionalized tale of a real-life octopus that escaped its tank back to the ocean at the National Aquarium of New Zealand via a drainpipe. Inky tells his tank mates the tales of his many escapes while they play cards to pass the time (Crazy Eights, of course.) When his tank-mate Blotchy says he bets he can’t escape their tank, Inky starts to scheme. The cheerful, colorful illustrations make it easy to follow the story, which kids will follow with rapt interest. My youngest was obsessed with this book as a kindergartener and it spurred her to learn everything she could about octopuses and had her begging to visit the aquarium!

Review: “[...] Inky is an octopus [...] to cheer for from beginning to end, and proves that everything is possible. It only takes a few things: patience, determination and some laid out work (thorough plans, in this case). The illustrations are bright and bold, allowing the ocean life in its vibrant variety to come across with tons of glory. Inky, with his lovely orange, is hard to miss and demands attention. [...] Text mixes with the illustrations, allowing the story to sink in and yet, remain easy to read. There are a few guaranteed giggles here and there, and a couple higher level vocabulary terms dot the text, just the right amount to not throw readers off but to allow them to learn a word or two. It's a fun, active story which rolls along nicely. [...]”

Recommended Age: 5 years+

The Best Read-Aloud Chapter Books For Kindergarten

This 16-Book Early Chapter Series That’s A Real Hoot

The first in a New York Times bestselling series, this book is written diary style with full-color illustrations. Eva is a school-aged owl dealing with issues little readers will be familiar with — from “meanies” at school to big emotions. This is a good pick for kids who are leery of chapter books with walls of text. The colorful images and large font combine with manageable-length text for kindergarteners, and the plot pacing is swift enough to hold their attention.

Review: “My 6 year old daughter, who happens to be named Eva and has 2 brothers of her own, loves these books! She reads them over and over again and gets excited about what she's read every time. These books are also great because it has encouraged my daughter to write in a diary and she loves making lists. She has also talked about how people she knows can relate to the owls in the book and it has given her skills to learn how to deal with those people in a positive light, especially ‘Meanie McMeanerson.’ The words, mixed with beautifully colored pictures keep her interested in her newly budding love for reading. These are great books!!”

Recommended Age: 5 to 7 years

This Book Teaches Kids That Weaknesses Can Be Strengths

A great introduction to early chapter books, Mia Mayhem is about an 8-year-old girl who discovers that the mayhem she is causing isn’t due to bad luck or being a klutz — she’s actually a superhero. She joins an after-school training program to hone her skills and become the superhero she’s meant to be, while keeping her new identity under wraps. Mia’s loving and supportive parents reveal they’re also superheroes. The book has adorable black and white illustrations on most pages to keep kids interested. The language is simple enough for kids to help read along. Even better? This highly rated book is part of a 12-book series.

Review: “My four year old loved having this read to her at bedtime. She is easily scared and I have to be careful about what I get for her because she will make me stop reading a book if she gets too scared. [...] It was refreshing to find something that she wanted to read nonstop AND I wasn't bored out of my mind. I actually really enjoyed reading it. It was very appropriate and amusing. [...] It has pictures on just about every page as well which keeps her interested. Also, I'm always looking for books about strong female characters and this fits perfectly.”

Recommended Age: 4 to 8 years

This Gentle Chapter Book Series To Share A Love Of Mysteries

A Swedish whodunit mystery is not your typical early chapter book, but the Detective Gordon series has been winning awards and turning new readers into mystery lovers in Sweden for years. The crimes Detective Gordon solves are mild and not scary: Someone is stealing nuts in the forest in this book. Author Ulf Nilsson’s lovable cake-loving protagonist, touches of humor, and full-color illustrations hold kids’ attention.

Review: “Scandinavian crime fiction has never been more charming than [...] Detective Gordon: The First Case' by Ulf Nilsson. This early reader book left me with a huge smile on my face. [...] The case is difficult and with a lot of standing in the cold, Detective Gordon finds that he needs help. He finds it in young mouse, Buffy. They have a series of adventures that lead to them trying to solve the crime. There are plenty of laughs along the way. It reminded me a bit of Arnold Lobel's 'Frog and Toad are Friends' in tone and sweetness. The illustrations are plentiful and cute. [...] I highly recommend this for young readers, but it would make a fine read aloud book as well.”

Recommended Age: 5 to 11 years

Editor’s Choice: A Friendship Series With Spunk

A more realistic look at friendship, Ivy and Bean are a pair of mismatched friends who don’t always get along. Kids will enjoy the easy, simple language of this adorable chapter book, and the often humorous adventures the two girls get up to. One reviewer said the hijinks come from “characters with good hearts and kid reasoning.” This book is the first in a bestselling 12-book series. If you want to jump right in, there’s a bundle that will save your kiddo from anxiously waiting for the next installment to arrive.

Editor Praise: “This was the first chapter book I read with my daughter and it delighted us both. Of course, we got into the whole series. The characters are funny and easy to root for (and relate to), and the storylines are engaging enough that when the inevitable pleas of “just one more page” come, you don’t actually mind. We ended up liking this series more than Junie B. Jones, although that’s also a classic.” - Kate Miller, Scary Mommy Editor

Recommended Age: 6 to 8 years

Writer’s Choice: A Hilarious Graphic Novel You’ll Read Time And Again

This detailed graphic novel-style chapter book is the first in a series of seven. Binky is a housecat who believes the world outside his home is outer space and the bugs that try to get in are alien invaders. Adorably fierce and more than a little paranoid, Binky spends his time preparing to explore space, protect his seemingly clueless humans, and attack the bugs. There are a few more advanced vocabulary words in this one, but they don’t slow down the text and my daughter was motivated to learn them to follow the story. I will warn you: they’re going to want to read and re-read this one over and over again!

Writer’s Praise: “This was the book that got my youngest into longer books with more text. The book’s premise is unique and original. My daughter thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. The pages contain super-detailed comic strip-style illustrations that my daughter loved to study – even between reads. I actually found myself enjoying following Binky’s ridiculous adventures. I have such great memories of enjoying this entire series with my daughter.”

Recommended Age: 5 to 9

A Magical Chapter Book For The Fairy-Obsessed

This early chapter book might just be the one to tear your kindergartener away from screens. It features four best friends who end up in Never Land with Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. Several reviewers said this was the book that got their reluctant readers into chapter books! The short, snappy chapters of this book keep kids turning pages, as do the black and white illustrations peppered throughout. A large font and manageable vocabulary makes this book a fun read that helps new readers see chapter books as an exciting next step, rather than a step down from picture books.

Review: “This book was great for me to read to my 6 year old at night. I like the idea of her getting used to chapter books without a lot of illustrations. This book had just enough illustrations to keep her interested but also did a great job of sparking her imagination.”

Recommended Age: 6 to 9 years

A Mo Willems’ Series With A Parisian Spin

A departure from the simplicity of Mo Willems early reader series Elephant & Piggie and his Pigeon books, Diva & Flea is a beautifully illustrated chapter book about two Parisian friends who are opposites. Diva is a beloved housepet who is afraid of the outside world and all the FEET out there. Flea is a streetwise cat who isn’t so sure about the mysterious indoor world Diva is from. This chapter book has detailed illustrations and Parisian flair on every page. In the end, the animal friends learn a little about opening up their worlds and kids learn a few new French words.

Review: “This book has proven to be [a] great way to introduce my son to chapter books. We all love Mo Willems so purchasing this book was a no-brainer. With the chapters being short, it was nice to be able to read a little bit, put the book down, and then pick it up the next day. The story is, of course, cute and meaningful and the illustrations are absolutely beautiful.”

Recommended Age: 5 to 8 years

A Page-Turning Fantasy Series For New Readers

Take your kindergartener on an epic journey with The Lost Stone, the first in an 18-book series about The Kingdom of Wrenly. Young Prince Luca and his friend Clara adventure across the kingdom looking for the queen’s lost stone, overcoming challenges and meeting magical creatures like dragons, witches, and wizards. To keep kids interested, chapters tend to end on a cliffhanger that will have them begging for more and there are illustrations on most pages. Have a fantasy-loving kid? Get started with the first bundle!

Review: “Finally, a book my emerging (and somewhat reluctant) reader enjoys! The illustrations are lovely, the story and the characters are well done, and the writing is engaging and approachable without being dumbed down. There are a few words my son has needed help with (such as thoughtful, certainly, magnificent, described) but they're in there just enough for a challenge to push the level. Very well done, we have since purchased all available books.”

Recommended Age: 6 to 8 years