One of my favorite aspects of my job as a Children’s Librarian is reading stories out loud to groups. I really love interacting with the school-age set, but I know there is a lot more information online about picture books that are great in preschool storytimes. If you’re looking for picture books that will engage elementary aged children (ages 5-10), I’ve got some great suggestions for you!
The Funny Stories
If you have a new group, a restless group, or a group full of reluctant readers, humorous stories are a surefire way to connect with this age range.
“The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog” by Mo Willems: When in doubt, go with Mo Willems. His books have a great quality of being simple enough for the little ones, yet sophisticated enough to appeal to children who are already established readers. He always manages to throw in a few great vocabulary words as well. This is a book to act out and do silly voices for. Prepare yourself for howls of laughter from the audience!
“Princess Penelope’s Parrot” by Helen Lester: This is part of a series of excellent books written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. They have recently been reprinted with the label “Laugh Along Lessons” on the covers. This book is a subtly funny retelling of the Golden Rule, and the illustrations are hilarious.
“King Bidgood’s In the Bathtub” by Audrey and Don Wood: If you have a lot of younger elementary schoolers in your group, this book will work well. Beautiful illustrations and a simple, repeated chant in the text will keep the group’s interest and make them laugh.
“You Will Be My Friend!” by Peter Brown: Another funny, sweet story, this time about a little bear’s long search for a true friend. The theme of this story will make it particularly appealing to children in elementary school.
“Zombie In Love” by Kelly DiPucchio: I like to read this book when I do afterschool storytimes in the month of February, since kids enjoy themes related to upcoming holidays. It’s a sweet story with cute illustrations, again about the search for a kindred spirit.
The Creepy Stories
Most kids like a little mystery, or something that will scare them just a little bit. The following stories are good for October (approaching Halloween with no mention of the actual holiday), or any other time of year.
“The Wretched Stone” by Chris Van Allsburg: Chris Van Allsburg is a classic author, the master of the picture book mystery. He’s written so many lavishly illustrated books that elementary school children will love. With its intricate drawings and suspenseful prose, this book had kids asking all kinds of questions after I finished reading, and better yet, I could tell it left them wondering.
“The Spider and the Fly” by Tony DiTerlizzi: A perfect Halloween book with no mention of Halloween. The kids loved the pictures so much, it took me about 20 minutes to get through this simple retelling of the 1829 poem by Mary Howitt. This grave cautionary tale was just creepy enough to engage the full range of kids without frightening the younger ones in the group.
“Outside Over There” by Maurice Sendak. A book from my childhood in the mid-eighties that the younger generation will not know. I still remember finding this book at my public library as a kindergartner, and how much it scared me (but in a good way)! It was fun to watch how huge the kids’ eyes grew as I turned each page. This book is like nothing I’ve seen published in current picture books.
What are some of your favorite read-alouds for short (30 minute), one-off storytimes with elementary schoolers? If you have any suggestions, please share them in the comments!