List Fun: Read Aloud Fiction Picture Books

Whether you’re snuggled up with your own kids, or you’re seated in the “teacher chair” for a group story time, if you want a lively read aloud experience, you look for picture books that encourage children to think, to notice, and, quite often, to laugh. Here are book suggestions from the Cybils archives.

Too Many Toys written and illustrated by David Shannon: Nominated way back in 2008, this book features a young boy whose abundance of toys and games is driving his parents absolutely bonkers. What will happen when he’s given a box to fill with toys to be discarded? Any parent who’s ever stepped on a LEGO (or twenty) will chuckle with understanding as they read this one aloud.


That is Not a Good Idea! written and illustrated by Mo Willems: I’m of the opinion that you can’t go wrong with any of Mo Willems’ books for a fun read aloud session. With this 2013 nominee, there’s a fun cinematic setup to the text and illustrations, giving the feeling of being in a silent movie. Of course, as we’ve come to expect from Willems, there’s a slight twist that gives the book one final wave of humor in the end. Be prepared for your young listeners to chime in with the repetition of the title phrase.

Sparky! written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans: There is a subtle sort of humor to this 2014 nominated book that can be played up by the adult reading it aloud. A sloth named Sparky is funny enough to start, but in Offill’s hands, this becomes a story of an earnest young girl who learns that even if he doesn’t live up to his name, her sloth is truly the best pet ever.


All the World written by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee: The winner in 2009, this picture book gives me all the feelings, and that’s why I’ve loved sharing it with children ever since I first saw it. When children hear stories read aloud with the emotion of the words brought to life by the reader, it helps them to understand the bigger picture. For this book, that picture is not only gorgeous thanks to Frazee’s immense talent, but it evokes a lovely feeling of acceptance and togetherness in a diverse community.

Chalk written and illustrated by Bill Thomson: Don’t run away when you figure out a wordless book has made it into a list of read alouds. Fear not! This 2010 finalist makes for an exciting read aloud, especially when you encourage the children to help tell the story. There’s magic to be found in pieces of chalk on a playground one day, but watch out how it gets used. Hard to believe, but those incredibly life-like illustrations are just that- hand-drawn illustrations and not photographs!


Interrupting Chicken written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein: This very well may be my favorite read aloud, and after reading it more times than I can remember to preschool and kindergarten aged children for the last five years, I can tell you that it has never once missed the mark. Stories within the story provide opportunities for the little red chicken to burst out with hilarious warnings to the characters, while his poor papa just longs for sleep. This gem was most definitely deserving of its 2010 win.


I Want My Hat Back written and illustrated by Jon Klassen: When a bear discovers his favorite red hat is missing, he proceeds to ask one animal after another if they’ve seen it. The text may be fairly simple, but be sure to give it a pre-read so you know just how to emphasize particular animals’ responses. This 2011 finalist is the perfect example of how subversive humor can work with young children, and be prepared to have a post-reading discussion to hear everyone’s interpretations of the ending.


Creepy Carrots written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown: With a black box outlining the pages, ala an old episode of The Twilight Zone, this 2012 finalist delivers just the right amount of creepy fun for young readers. A bunny begins to worry that he’s being followed by the carrots he loves to munch on from Crackenhopper Field, but that’s just a crazy, silly idea… right? A change of perspective in the surprise ending gets kids laughing and seeing the whole story in a new light.


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild written and illustrated by Peter Brown: The 2013 winner has so much going for it as a read aloud– creative language, wacky characters, and a plot driven toward breaking out of the norm. When reading, encourage children to take note of details in the illustrations that help propel the story along, too. As Mr. Tiger frees himself of the formal conventions of his world in favor of returning to the wild, even his roars cannot be contained in speech bubbles! (Bonus: Read Mo Willems’ 2009 nominee Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed for a fun comparison.)


Here Comes the Easter Cat written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudia Rueda: Of all the 2014 finalists, this was the most requested read aloud by the little ones in my life this past Cybils season. With quick page turns, this longer-than-usual picture book doesn’t drag, but instead reads as a performance. A sometimes ornery cat decides he wants the attention and accolades usually given to the Easter Bunny, so he decides to try out the job himself… until he finds out that he isn’t allowed any nap breaks. The cat’s communications via hand-held signs and wry facial expressions never failed to bring the laughs!

Grab a book, get comfy with your favorite kids, and give one of these read alouds a try!

—Dawn Mooney, 5 Minutes for Books