Best read-aloud for 10-11 year old?
August 29, 2019 7:00 PM   Subscribe

I’m going to be teaching a Grade 5/6 class, perhaps for the whole year, and my last teaching assignment was Grade 1 French. Hit me up with your best, most engaging literature suggestions for this age group!

I’m looking for ideas for books which can be ‘taught’ but also for books intended for a daily read-aloud time to engage students, build community within the classroom and show them that reading books can just be fun and not every book has to be ‘studied.’ Hit me up!
posted by ficbot to Education (29 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
My fifth-grade teacher read us The Hobbit, which I remember liking.
posted by bertran at 7:05 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

My fourth-grade teacher read us The Trumpet of the Swan, which enchanted me. I think it would still be popular with 6th graders.

Also, The Phantom Tollbooth.
posted by Reverend John at 7:19 PM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

- The Hobbit
- Where the Red Fern Grows
- Rats of NIMH
- Hatchet
posted by colossal at 7:32 PM on August 29, 2019

Obscure choice, but I just finished reading T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon)'s Summer in Orcus to my 5th grader and he really liked it. It's a portal adventure that involves Baba Yaga, a Bertie Wooster-type talking bird, and a were-house. It's very episodic (she published it serially) and a lot of fun.
posted by gideonfrog at 7:37 PM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

When I was in a mixed Grade 4/5 class, our teacher read us The Giver, which I think is subversive enough to keep the attention of a Grade 5/6 class. It was already a favourite of mine by then (I was a precocious reader) and I remember feeling... respected? By her choice to read it to us.

Also seconding The Phantom Tollbooth! And The Golden Compass and its sequels were HUGE for me at that age.
posted by some_kind_of_toaster at 7:38 PM on August 29, 2019

My 5th grade teacher also read us The Hobbit and I loved it. Some others my kids enjoyed at around that age:

Mysterious Benedict Society series - Trenton Lee Stewart
May Bird series - Jodi Lynn Anderson
Silverwing series - Kenneth Oppel
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – Robert C. O’Brien
The True Meaning of Smekday - Adam Rex
posted by Redstart at 7:41 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

The Read-Aloud Handbook has an appendix that lists great read-aloud books for a bunch of ages (also some themes and "special issue" type lists). You should be able to at least browse part of the list using Amazon Search Inside the Book.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:58 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Another vote for using The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease as an invaluable resource. Be sure to get the latest edition for recommendations that include recent titles.
posted by bookmammal at 8:12 PM on August 29, 2019

The Great Brain series.
posted by AugustWest at 8:56 PM on August 29, 2019

My kid's 4th grade did a group read of Wonder and El Deafo.
posted by k8t at 9:06 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Elementary school library tech. here, so I'm going to suggest some novels that teachers in grades 5/6 have recently used at my school as readalouds which their students really liked. It appears that you're in Canada, so I threw in some Canadian books as well: The One and Only Ivan, Fish in a Tree, Counting by 7s, The Crossover, Wonder (it might be overdone at this point), The Tale of Desperaux, Fatty Legs (not "light" reading, to be sure), The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, Underground to Canada, The Breadwinner, Maniac Magee. Ok I'll stop myself now. Also, you usually can't go wrong with Roald Dahl (esp. The Witches or Matilda).

Also, check if your local library system does a "best book" voting competition-type thing. I find that the books our local library association chooses for that in my region are usually really engaging and teachers love reading them to the students because the kids love the competition and knowing that they can vote for their favourites.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 9:08 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

One more thing! Even though these kids are in grades 5/6, don't forget that older kids sometimes still enjoy having picture books read to them. Lots of picture books are really thoughtful and often more appropriate for older grades than younger grades and some books just have cool art styles that kids enjoy.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 9:15 PM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Pushcart War is a classic.
The First Rule of Punk by C. Perez is contemporary
Chains by Laura H Anderson
Seven Dead Pirates

The last three were read & recommended by my 12 year old, Chains was read aloud at school.
posted by childofTethys at 9:21 PM on August 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Fish in a Tree is also one he has read & endorses.
posted by childofTethys at 9:24 PM on August 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

A Wrinkle in Time
posted by potrzebie at 10:45 PM on August 29, 2019

The BFG (Roald Dahl) or The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (Julie Edwards, better known as Julie Andrews) worked for me in class at that age.
posted by huimangm at 11:09 PM on August 29, 2019

I still remember my fifth grade teacher reading us Tuck Everlasting, and I otherwise hated fifth grade!
posted by easy, lucky, free at 11:54 PM on August 29, 2019

I teach grades 4-8, and I read aloud to my students a lot! Here’s my amazon list of novels I have read with my students that worked well for us:
There’s a whole variety on the list, some classics, some realistic fiction, some historical fiction (which I love) and a lot of fantasy. Good luck with this year!
posted by mai at 6:03 AM on August 30, 2019

My fourth grade teacher read us Danny, the Champion of the World and it was wonderful.
posted by luckdragon at 6:33 AM on August 30, 2019

I remember my 5th-grade teacher reading Searching for Shona to us; I loved the story and it stuck with me, enough that I remember it 40 years later, despite not being in a genre I'd normally read.

I don't think the class discussed it, but it does have some obvious potential topics - if you could trade places with anyone, who would that be; what problems do you think you'd run into; would you want to trade back.

Also seconding Summer in Orcus and My Side of the Mountain mentioned above. Both are wonderful "Kids have adventures on their own" stories, and we desperately need more of those as kids are increasingly kept so close to home that they never have any unsupervised time.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:27 AM on August 30, 2019

my 5th grade teacher read us the 2nd version of charlie and the Chocolate factory which had the caucasian oompa loompas; i had the earlier edition depicting black ones. the local public library had both editions.

he also read Armenian fairy tales and after harvey milk and george moscone were assassinated told us the story of a poor man who visited a king with a sword permanently dangling over his head.
posted by brujita at 8:27 AM on August 30, 2019

I second the recommendation for the Mysterious Benedict Society. It is funny, exciting, and sweet, plus there are more books for motivated students to tackle on their own. Also, while I enjoyed many of the classics that appear in this thread, even the best classics tend to fall short at presenting a diverse group of characters. This isn’t a fatal flaw or anything, but for a class-wide read-aloud I encourage you to hold out for a good book that also has a diverse group of characters. And, maybe also consider looking for books by diverse authors too. There are sooo many great folks writing for that age group right now.
posted by ElizaMain at 9:05 AM on August 30, 2019

B. J. Novak's _Book with No Pictures_.
Here's B. J. reading it
posted by at at 10:47 AM on August 30, 2019

Louis Sachar's "Holes"

nthing Pushcart War and Danny the Champion of the World,
also if you're going the Roald Dahl route, why not Matilda?
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:00 AM on August 30, 2019

My brother just wrote a book for that age group! It's about a kid who's trying to get a handle on his anxiety disorder (among other things): Eight Times Up. I've gifted it to many 8-12 year olds and they've all been very positive about it.
Also nthing The Phantom Tollbooth.
posted by dotparker at 1:00 PM on August 30, 2019

Mr. just_ducky teaches grade 5/6 and recommends:

-Holes by Louis Sachar
-The Breadwinner series by Deborah Ellis

He says anything Deborah Ellis is worth checking out but some are pretty intense.
posted by just_ducky at 3:11 PM on August 30, 2019

I was just remembering yesterday that my fifth-grade teacher read aloud The Giver and Hatchet and they were both great.
posted by radioamy at 2:29 PM on August 31, 2019

I asked my twelve year old for recommendations and she wrote this:

I would say no to Roald Daul. Not because his books aren’t great, but because most kids have read them or had them read to them already. Many sixth-graders would consider his books to be too young for them, even the few who haven’t already read them.

I would suggest picking a few good ideas and letting the kids vote. Even if you don’t want to do that, many of these suggestions are classic read-aloud ideas, which means you might want to check with the kids to make sure that most of them haven’t read it already.

If you’re gonna choose a classic (90% of the books suggested here are classics), be prepared to have some of the teaching be “all the things that are wrong with this book.” (I would also suggest not picking a classic. There are other books out there.) If you do pick a classic, try to find one of the more diverse ones. Seconding what ElizaMain said.

Consider just wandering into the young adult (many sixth graders and some fifth graders have already moved on to YA) or children’s section of your local library and looking for good books, or asking the librarian at the school you’ll be teaching at for suggestions. Kids that age tend to love fantasy, action, humor, graphic novels, and dystopias, by the way.

Also - please please please consider reading aloud a book that has a female protagonist. You’d be surprised how many read-alouds are targeted largely at the boys in the class.

- Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, especially Wee Free Men. (Probably some innuendo; heavier in some books than others. Some are adult books, some might be children’s or YA.)
- Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway. (YA book. Mentions of sex. Murder mystery with a high body count. Lots of diversity. Really teachable but still enjoyable.)
- L. M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon or Anne of Green Gables. (Some religious teaching, a little sexism, very little in terms of representation, but very little racism, especially for classics.)
- Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit. (Adult book, but no sex or cursing. Survival, dystopia. Really teachable but still enjoyable.)
- Hilary McKay’s The Exiles.
- Elizabeth Enright’s The Saturdays.
- Edward Eager’s Half Magic, The Time Garden, or Magic By the Lake.

(All of these recommendations have at least one female protagonist and at least two important female characters. All of them are “teachable,” some more than others. All of them are funny. I put notes where there are issues that might make them a no-go.)

Of those already suggested: Pushcart War, Mysterious Benedict Society, Rats of NIMH, The Giver, and Phantom Tollbooth were good. Hated El Deafo and The Watsons Go to Birmingham, didn’t like Wonder much, but Wonder and El Deafo are very popular with my age. Hatchett, Holes, My Side of the Mountain, and Where the Red Fern Grows were good for extremely male-centric nature survival books.

Disclaimer: I’m entering seventh grade and read far above grade level, as do most of my friends. I tried to keep this in mind while making recommendations.
posted by Margalo Epps at 1:57 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

I came in to say what Margalo just posted: Somewhere someone got the idea that boys can read about boys and girls can read about girls or boys, and so everything that is read to boys is about boys. Maybe there's a girl sidekick if you're lucky. Don't do this. Expect the boys in your class to learn to identify with a girl protagonist the same way you expect the girls to be able to identify with a boy.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:07 AM on September 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

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