My Favorite Read Alouds

Did you have any teachers in high school that read a book to your class simply for the enjoyment of listening to a good book?  I didn’t.  I really don’t remember any of my middle school teachers doing this either.  A few of my elementary school teachers read to us, but it was less frequent after 3rd grade.  I’m thankful my parents read to my brother and me on a regular basis since this didn’t happen all that much at school.  When I was working towards my bachelor’s degree the idea of reading aloud to my future high school classes never occurred to me.

The summer I took Dr. Steffel’s YA Lit class at CMU my plans changed.  I’ve mentioned Dr. Steffel many times before, and it’s because she’s been such a positive influence on my teaching career.  On the first day of our class, we sat in a circle and she read Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos.  She used different voices and everything.  I was astounded!  I couldn’t believe we were being read to in a college course, but I loved it.  Even though Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is young for a high school classroom, I really enjoyed the story.  Everything we did in class and everything Dr. Steffel did in class served a purpose; she wanted us to follow her lead and bring these lessons, strategies, ideas, etc. into our classrooms.

I tried my first read aloud while student teaching.  I had a few sophomore English classes, so I decided on Shattering Glass by Gail Giles.  It’s an edgy book, and there’s some bad language and mature situations, but it’s an excellent pick for reluctant readers.  I was  nervous about reading this during student teaching, but I went ahead and did it anyway.  I had a rationale prepared and everything.  My students loved it and often asked me to read “just one more chapter.”  Since then I’m much more comfortable reading books where characters swear, but I make sure to choose books that aren’t over the top in that category.  It sometimes shocks my students to hear me read those parts, but we have a conversation about why that language is in the book and how we won’t be using that language in class.

So let’s get to my favorites already! 🙂  I like these books for a number of reasons, but one of the most important qualities I look for in a potential read aloud is the amount of dialogue.  Too much dialogue can get confusing when reading it aloud, especially since the kids don’t have the book in front of them to follow along.  I also try to pick books that I know will be entertaining and have a nice moral. Shorter chapters are always a plus too.  And I need to really like the book too, because otherwise I’m not going to enjoy reading it out loud over and over again.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–I’ve read Speak out loud so many times!  It’s such a powerful story and so easy for my students to relate to.  Plus, since Melinda isn’t speaking to anyone all that much, most of the book is made up of her thoughts and opinions which is easy for the kids to follow.  The characters are well developed, and well, it’s Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Do I need more reasons? 😉

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Goodreads)–Last trimester is the first time I’ve read this out loud.  My freshmen were really interested in it because of the upcoming movie (Ahh!! This Friday!!), so I decided to give it a shot as a read aloud.  Some of my students weren’t sure at first because the beginning of the book is a bit slow as the world develops and we get to the training center and the actual games.  Once we reached that point, they were begging for more chapters.  It helps that many of the chapters end with cliffhangers.  My only complaint is that the chapters are so long.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Goodreads) (My Review)–I don’t remember what prompted me to choose Hex Hall as a read aloud, but I did for the first time last year.  I read it to my freshmen and the majority of them LOVED it.  In one class, we even went on to read the sequel Demonglass.  Oh my gosh did we race through that book!  It ran right into the very end of the school year, but we finished it.  Sophie is very clumsy, sarcastic, and easy to like.  She reminds me of  a female Ron Weasley.  There’s some foul language in Hex Hall, but nothing that was overly shocking or made me pause.  I should note that in general, I’m on the liberal side of things when it comes to YA and what I put in my classroom.  Many of my students prefer realistic fiction, but besides one or two in each class, even my die-hard contemps fans liked Hex Hall.  The guys even laughed and wanted me to read more 🙂  I read it again this year to a new group of freshmen and had the same enthusiastic response.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I’m actually in the middle of reading Boy21 aloud for the first time.  I’m reading it to my freshmen classes, but I wasn’t sure what they would think.  After reading Hex Hall and The Hunger Games this year, I didn’t know how my kids would react to a sudden switch to something realistic.  We voted on Friday, and the majority of all my classes chose to keep reading it.  Boy21 is a powerful read with a fantastic message without being preachy.  It’s diverse, has guy appeal without alienating the girls, and it’s humorous.  The chapters are short so I have more flexibility in how much I choose to read each day.  Finley doesn’t like to talk that much, so the dialogue is balanced with Finley’s thoughts and observations.  Right now my kids are really curious about Russ, aka Boy21, and what’s going to happen between him and Finley as the story progresses.

Here are a few more titles I’ve had success with reading aloud:

  • My Brother’s Keeper by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads)
  • Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen (Goodreads)
  • Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)

Here are some titles that I’ve recently read and plan to read aloud in the future:

  • Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I just finished reading this book, and I just know my students would love it as a read aloud.  It has a wonderful balance of narration and dialogue.  It’s really funny and full of heart.  It’s a clean book in regards to sex and language, but there is a minor scene that involves drinking.  I think it’d work for middle school classrooms as well as high school classrooms.
  • Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin (Goodreads) (My Review)–We read so many serious stories in high school that I like to mix it up and read something funny out loud when I get the chance.  Kelsey is hilarious and just a fun character to read.  This is a pretty clean book as well which I always appreciate.  There are a couple scenes with drinking, but I they’re definitely not glorifying it!  I think we’re going to finish Boy21 with enough time to read another book, and if that happens I’ll be reading this one to my freshmen next 🙂  I love this book and would read it to more than just my freshmen.


  1. These are some really awesome books. I so wish I had a teacher who read something besides our required reading to the class in high school. It would have been amazing. Keep up the awesome.

  2. I never would have thought of doing Hex Hall as a read aloud! I bet kids will love Curveball. I think read-alouds are loved universally. I mean, books on CD/playaways are just fancy read-alouds right? Your kiddos are lucky to have a teacher who reads to them!

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      Thank you, Katie! I really considered giving it up this trimester, but based on my kids’ reactions I’m glad I didn’t. I thought about giving it up for more independent reading time, but we’ve been finding ways to include more of that w/ the read aloud.

  3. I wish I had more time for read alouds. These are great choices, and I have some to add to my TBR pile! I did read aloud Gae Poliser’s The Pull of Gravity to one class, and they loved it!

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      I use the read aloud as my bell ringer. It has cut down on tardies, and it give the students a chance to calm down and get ready for the class to start.

  4. Lea Kelley says:

    I had a parent scold me during parent conferences for reading aloud “like they’re 3rd graders”. It was her excuse for her 8th grade son’s poor behavior one day. Sigh.

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      Oh my gosh! I haven’t faced anything like that. I keep wondering if I’ll ever get a complaint about subject matter or something, but so far no issues. I hope it stays that way!

  5. I love these choices, and I think my kids would too! I love all of these books – thanks for sharing such a great idea. It’s something so simple and yet as high school teachers, we over-look it

  6. I was searching “read alouds” and your blog came up. Imagine my delight to see you too were inspired by the amazing Dr. Steffel at CMU! I LOVE HER! One of the best professors I had during my collegiate years. Anyhow, I appreciate your suggestions. While I am liberal in what I stock on my classroom bookshelf, and what I read personally, I am always leery of what I read out loud. I am just never too sure what a parent might say. At least if they check it out they can’t accuse me of “forcing” their son/daughter to listen to the novel. I have read “Joey Pigza” to my middle school students before and although it is a bit young the kids liked it. I have also read “Witches” and they loved that…although I’ll admit I get into the theatrics and do the voices and such . With high school (or middle) I have read “Nightjohn” and “Sarny” by Gary Paulsen. Easy reads, but they love them! I have also done “Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry”. Like you, I have done “Speak” and it goes over well. It has some slow parts, but overall is a great choice. I always used to do read alouds at the start of class, but I think this year I am going to try the end of class because I have been struggling with wrapping up class and not having too little or too much time left over. I thought this might be a good solution. Please keep the suggestions coming ;).

  7. Kathleen Dent says:

    I work in an In-School Suspension room. Any suggestions for short stories? Our kids change each day, so without something I could complete in one day, we’ll never get through it!

    • Kathleen, Roald Dahl has written some excellent, creepy stories that my students love like “The Land Lady” and “Lamb to the Slaughter”. We’ve also read “Charles” by Shirley Jackson. Similarly, they may enjoy “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry. Even though Wayside School Stories by Louis Sachar are more elementary, each chapter is like a humorous short story and my older students still like to read them.

  8. Traci Shefka says:

    I read the Al Capone series by Gennifer Choldenko. My students raved over it.
    Thanks so much for the suggestions, I plan on checking out some new “stuff” for the new year!

  9. I’ve been teaching eighth grade for 14 years and I often do read alouds with my students, and I totally agree – they love it! Last year was not my best year for many reasons, and I never found a good read aloud so I have been searching this summer for some fresh ideas. Thank you for your list there are definitely some titles I’m going to be checking out. Also, I had Sue Steffle at CMU!!! I agree she was phenomenal and one of the few professors who I feel actually get what it’s like to teach in public middle schools or high schools. I thought it was so funny when I started reading your post and saw you mention her name – looks like she’s still doing an awesome job inspiring teachers! ?

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      Have you read The Crossover by Kwame Alexander? This year I’m going to have my students vote on which book I’ll read aloud to them and I’m going to add that to the contender list. I always recommend reading the book first, but I think this would be great for a middle school read aloud. And I love that we’ve both had Steffel! What a small world 🙂

  10. I haven’t read The Crossover, so I’ll have to check that out. I sometimes have the kids vote, too. And I like reading aloud books with sequels. I was thinking of adding the compound to the list this year. I had a lot of success reading alooThe Testing two years ago- similarities to divergent/hunger games and part of a trilogy

  11. My seventh graders had listened to Wonder in 5th grade. This year I am reading Auggie and Me by the same author. They loved Wolf Rider by Avi, and my 8th graders are mesmerized by Gary Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars.


  1. […] I’ve had some major successes with books and some major hiccups, so I put together a list of my favorite books to read aloud to my high school […]

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