Though my kids are 10 and 16, we still read books aloud together each week. It’s a moment that I treasure as we start our homeschool day, or while they work on washing the lunch dishes, or before everyone heads off to their own books and beds.
Often it’s just my 10 year old and me, but the books that follow captivated my teen as well and we savored them–together.
As summer turns toward autumn, I wanted to encourage you to begin (or continue!) your own family read-aloud tradition by sharing a list of our favorite read-aloud books with you.
Since one of my children has been sensitive to violent or suspenseful content, I shared
themes you may want to be aware of in the text that follows for families with a tenderheart of their own, or simply for your own awareness. For our family, these themes open doors for meaningful conversations and now that everyone is ready to handle them we don’t shy away.
Many of these books are laced with magic as well. While we love this, I understand it’s not a match for every family’s beliefs and values, so I mention it.
Check your library for these captivating titles, buy them at your local bookstore, or use the afflinked pictures and titles that follow! However you do it, make a habit of reading together as a family. I am certain it’s a choice you won’t regret.
Happy reading, friends.
Our 10 favorite family read aloud books
We read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon a few autumns ago and I remember it being the first children’s book that I truly fell in love with as an adult. The day we cracked it open we spread a blanket on the grass and read all day long, carrying our lunches out to the blanket and reading straight through until dinnertime.
It’s that captivating, for adults and children alike, and the subsequent books in the series (Starry River of the Sky, and When the Sea Turned to Silver) are as good as the first.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, kidnapping.
We picked up Wildwood on a whim at the library last winter and were hooked from the start (all of us)! We followed up with the sequels without even a pause, and enjoyed the three books so much we’re planning to start the series again soon. We love Wildwood. The characters, the child-heroes, the animals, the magic, everything.
There are some intense parts (especially in the latter two books), however, so I was glad I waited until my youngest was ready.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death.
The night we started this book we thought it might be too much. It begins with a local legend of a witch who lives in the forest and eats children, and is well told (read: scary).
I stopped reading and checked in with my plot-sensitive kid. She wasn’t so sure. So we read the book flap and she decided she was ready to dig in. And how glad we all were! A beautiful book laced with deep magic. If your family isn’t plot sensitive, don’t read the book flap, though. There are major spoilers found there.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, bigotry.
We fell in love with the main characters in this book from the very start. The girl, the boys, the dog… There is a copious amount blood and other unapologetic violence here, but it’s handled quite well. Themes of racism, sexism, and religious persecution make for excellent conversations after the book has been put away. A family favorite to be sure.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, racism, sexism, spiritual persecution.
Our current read-aloud, I am as captivated as my 11 and 16 year olds. Some intense themes, but a wonderful read full of strong girls (and boys!) that save the day.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death, slavery.
Books 1 through 3 are on our very short list of favorite books. (Book 4 takes place much later in the girl’s lives, so it was harder to get into but still an enjoyable read.) Though we read these books years ago, the characters are still discussed often in our home, almost like old friends. There is discussion of cancer and the loss of a parent.
Edited to add: a friend just emailed me to say that there is a 5th Penderwicks book that just came out this spring! Looks like our next read-aloud is scheduled!
Themes: cancer, death.
A friend picked up a copy of My Side of the Mountain at a thrift store for Sage when he was 8 or 9. We’re read it together several times since then, reveling in the story of a boy’s solitary life in the wilds. An inspiring and captivating tale that will make you want to run off to the hills.
Themes to be aware of: runaway.
I would be remiss to not mention everyone’s classic family read-aloud, the Harry Potter books. We have gotten as far as book 4 (when things start to get even more intense than in earlier books), and we’re taking a break now. My eldest has read them all, but book four and up are better suited for older or less sensitive kids (okay, and adults).
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence, death.
I would be remiss in not mentioning Narnia! Most of us read these as kids ourselves, and they’re every bit as captivating as adults, sharing them with our children. Reading the whole series (rather than just the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) puts Narnia into a greater context.
Themes to be aware of: magic, violence.
Published in the 1930’s and 40’s, there is unapologetic racism peppered throughout these books that sparked meaningful conversations in our home about the time at which they were written and what life in colonized America might have been like for both First Nations peoples and white immigrants. Don’t miss the opportunity to discuss racism when reading this series.
Themes to be aware of: racism.
And what do you say we add an 11th: my own book, due out this fall!
While a how-to book like Herbal Adventures might not be the first to come to mind as a read-aloud, I’ve written it to be just that! Each plant chapter begins with a first-person plant introduction, and each of these backyard herbs comes to life in their own words.
And since it was designed for parents and kids to explore together, the recipes, crafts, and projects included are the perfect transition from reading time into hands-on learning time–together.
What’s your family’s favorite read aloud? Share it in the comments below!