During these troubled times, it is wonderful to have a mental escape, and there is no better way than through a good book! I believe children almost universally enjoy being read to, even well after they have learned to read themselves. Listening to a book read aloud is also an excellent way to improve your child’s vocabulary and interest in reading and writing on their own. It might even help to bridge the gap until the schools are up and running once more. 

The following list is composed of classic books that are classic for a reason—they are excellent reads. They are all chapter books, designed to be read aloud by you whether at bedtime or anytime your children could use some quiet snuggles with you on the couch.  They are all available free as ebooks through either the St. Johns County Library or Hoopla Digital, which is also free if you sign up with your library card. Just click on the titles!


My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett 

My son and I stumbled across this book in print at the library. It is addictive, and we ended up reading the whole series. Any child that likes to eat those tangerine “Cuties” should have no difficulty relating to this adventurous boy that heads off on a mission to save a baby dragon from slavery, using only his wits and pocketfuls of tangerines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White

When I was a young child I saw this movie and I loved it, but I completely missed out on hearing the story read first. It is difficult to not sympathize with poor Wilbur the pig, staring down death’s door as the months pass. I love that Charlotte, a black widow spider, finds a way to save Wilbur and becomes the hero of the story despite the fact that she is one of those creepy eight-legged arachnids. You should read this book to your child, and then watch the movie — you can get it on Amazon free with Prime, or rent it for $3.99. 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

I clearly remember my teacher reading this to me in about the fourth grade, and I also remember how entranced I was with it. Honestly, that didn’t change a bit once I read it aloud in my early thirties. I read one chapter at a time to the children but just wanted to keep going and going. The mysterious wardrobe that opens into a new world, the cruel snow queen, the unusual characters that unfold as the adventure and the tension grows — it is addictive as well. If you are like me and like to read an entire series, then feel free to start chronologically through The Chronicles of Narnia with The Magician’s Nephew, which is also wonderful. 

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

There aren’t any fairy tales more American than this classic. Most adults know the basics behind this story, but young children have yet to be exposed to it and are perfect for it. Even knowing the story well, I was absorbed. And did you know that Dorthy’s slippers were not red in the actual story? Yep. You are just going to have to read it to find out the actual color…

The Indian In The Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

This was also a book I clearly remember my elementary school teacher reading the class aloud, and once again, I was enthralled. As the Toy Story movies attest, kids love stories that involve their toys coming alive. And that is just what happens in this one, along with all the troubles that having a real-live toy can cause — especially when that toy happens to be a real live person from another time period. 

Winnie-The-Pooh by A. A. Milne

Now stop right there – this is not one of those silly Winnie-The-Pooh picture books that have been circulating for the past few decades. Those books are rip-offs of the real deal. A. A. Milne had a unique way of telling his son about his toy bear’s adventures while amusing the adult readers at the same time. I believe these stories were originally written for young elementary children, but frankly, I found them amusing, and I doubt that a teen would not be entertained. (The link above is not the true title of the books, but the title of a collection on Hoopla.)

 Matilda by Roald Dahl

This book is full of lovable characters. Matilda is charming and you desperately root for her, while Miss Honey is so wonderfully sweet, and Miss Trunchbull is so intensely vile that despite it you have to love her despicable role. Matilda is an underdog with the powers of telekinesis – who can resist? 

Charley and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

This story will literally make you think delicious thoughts. The chocolate bar with that golden wrapper — the golden ticket — you can almost taste that chocolaty goodness. Like no other, Roald Dahl illustrates characters with his words – vile ones, and lovable ones – makes them clash terribly, and then it all comes out in the wash. After reading it, watch the classic version of the movie on Amazon. 

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Adventure, exotic animals, a mission, and a charming silly man that has a magical gift for communicating and helping all creatures of the animal kingdom — it’s a classic everyone should have digested at some point in their childhood. 

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

It should be noted here that I did not link just The Tale of Peter Rabbit — this is the complete set of tales because just the first story is not enough. These stories are quite old, but good storytelling does not grow old. The younger crowd, in particular, should like these, but older children should hear them in childhood too. My personal favorite is The Tale of Mr. Tod. This story is of a mean fox and a very smelly badger that end up kidnapping Benjamin’s family of baby bunnies, and naturally, want to make rabbit pie of them. Benjamin and Peter team up to save them in an amusing and surprisingly suspenseful tale for being about fluffy bunnies and all.  

Happy reading!

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Growing up in central Florida, Ginger took annual vacations to St. Augustine throughout her childhood. She quickly learned to love the combination of historic charm and the beach, as well as a deep love for all things Florida—hot and humid summer days, thunderstorms, and the smell of orange blossoms. After meeting her husband in Gainesville, they relocated to St. Augustine where they have been living for the past fourteen years. In 2013 she became a mother for the first time, as well as a stay-at-home mom. Her family has grown since then, which now consists of her shy school-aged son, feisty preschooler daughter, two rambunctious dogs, and ten curious chickens. They are a homeschooling family who enjoy supplementing education with as many outdoor activities as possible.