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Great Read Alouds for First Graders

First grade is when many children put it all together and begin to read independently. But reading aloud with first graders remains not only a pleasurable but an important activity. It encourages longer attention spans — children can focus on a page of images and words for longer periods, build their understanding of the connection between speech and print. Their sense of language develops as they are introduced to its use in different types of books ranging from poetry to nonfiction or even in a silly story that uses repeated sounds. And they can see themselves and others more readily as they read about other places and characters.

See also: Great Read Alouds for Kids: Babies to Grade 3.

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

By: Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by: Betsy Lewin
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Farmer Brown has his hands full when the cows on his farm get a typewriter. Duck, however, negotiates successfully for all parties in this very funny farm story of very clever animals. Be prepared to talk about typewriters or take a trip to a museum to see one!

Grandfather's Journey

By: Allen Say
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Say narrates the saga of his grandfather who as a young man travels to the United States in the early 20th century, marries, and returns to Japan. Watercolor portraits of people and places glimpse the contrast of cultures and parallel the lives of grandfather and grandson. It could lead to a discovery of family histories. Country of origin: Japan

Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me

By: Daniel Beaty
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

A boy's game with his father begins each morning with, "KNOCK KNOCK." Then one morning, the father is no longer there but he shares his dreams for his son through a letter. Based on the author's separation from his father, sadness and hope radiate from the pages of this affecting story.

Martha Calling

By: Susan Meddaugh
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

There are three words that Martha — a dog who gained the ability to speak when she ate alphabet soup — absolutely hates. They are: No Dogs Allowed. So when Martha wins a weekend for her (human) family at the Do-Come-Inn, those words propel the Martha and the family into action with very funny results.

Mirandy and Brother Wind

By: Patricia McKissack
Illustrated by: Brian Pinkney
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Mirandy wants to win the cakewalk dance but to do so, can she capture Brother Wind? Inspired by a family photograph, the author and illustrator richly imagine a time past and what a clever girl can achieve. Realistic watercolor illustrations increase the story’s sense of time, place, and its drama.

My Father's Dragon

By: Ruth Stiles Gannett
Illustrated by: Ruth Chrisman Gannett
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

A boy sets off to rescue a baby dragon and has a series of adventures before the happy conclusion. Though written long ago, the slightly eccentric tale continues to engage young readers.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico

By: Cindy Trumbore
Illustrated by: Susan Roth
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

How colorful parrots that have lived on the island of Puerto Rico for “millions of years” almost disappeared but can again be seen today makes an exciting saga. Enjoy the richly colored collage cutouts illustrate alone or read the informative text which details the history of parrots and their island home.

Snowflake Bentley

By: Jacqueline Martin
Illustrated by: Mary Azarian
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The story of one boy’s passion for snowflakes led to a lifetime’s study. Wilson Bentley, better known as Snowflake Bentley, is presented in a fascinating picture book biography. Read just the story portion or include the factual narration which is included on each page. Illustrations evoke Snowflake’s Vermont, just the thing for a warm day.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

By: William Steig
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

When a young donkey named Sylvester comes across a magic pebble, he saves himself from a confrontation with a lion by wishing himself into a rock. Frantic parents search for Sylvester until they stop for a picnic on a large rock. Rich language and humorous cartoon illustrations make this a memorable classic.

Tacky the Penguin

By: Helen Lester
Illustrated by: Lynn Munsinger
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Tacky is an odd bird, very unlike his friends and colleagues. But it is Tacky’s peculiarities that save he and his friends from hungry predators. Humor is created by offbeat illustrations of Tacky’s behavior and clever language.

The Three Pigs

By: Steven Kellogg
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Serafina Sow returns from her retirement in the Gulf of Pasta to help her three pig offspring to defeat the big bad wolf, Tempesto. Elements of the more traditional story are here (houses of brick, straw and sticks) but made fresh and funny (such as the family business of waffle-making) in this creative recasting of an old tale illustrated in the artist’s signature style.

Zen Shorts

By: Jon J Muth
Genre: Fiction, Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Stillwater, a large panda, tells each child a story that illustrates a principle of Zen. Although the tales will captivate children, adults may recognize the philosophy imbedded in them. Delicate, handsome illustrations capture the mood and flow of the stories.

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