Read-Alouds for Grades 2-4

By the time children are 8 and 9, they are ready to listen to stories that have a greater depth and complexity. This is good time to start reading novels, spanning over months. These are few novels I suggest for children in grades 2 through 4.

Heidi – Johanna Spyri
Heidi is a beautiful story about a little girl growing up on the Alps, facing with gaiety and refreshing innocence the ups and downs of life. The purity and simplicity of characters resonate easily with the children and they look forward to the unfolding of the novel with much eagerness. It is important to get hold of good translation though. I suggest the version translated by Elisabeth P. Stork as the language is beautiful and transports one to the charming mountain slopes with much ease.

Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This book takes the children, along with Edumund, Lucy, Peter and Susan from a drab countryside to the magical and mystical world of Narnia. Once, beautiful and perfect, Narnia has now fallen into the hands of the wicked and powerful White Witch. In a battle of the truth versus falsehood (good versus evil), the truth eventually prevails. However, the the victory of truth doesn’t come easily and children see the pitfalls in human nature in Edmund’s treachery. However, they also see the possibility of transformation, and eventually sympathise with him and the suffering he endures. This book is a part of a series of 7 novels. The teacher/parent can choose to read-aloud the others as well. In class, I chose not to read aloud the others to one group of students, as one of them said, “If you read them all to us, what will be left for us to read?” 🙂

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Get past the racism in the first two chapters, and one realises that this is wonderful novel about how unhappy children, relegated to the world of despair and hopelessness can find such a great joy, love and beauty as the tend to a secret garden. Like flowers that bloom after a long winter’s frost, the children in this book begin to grow, laugh, play and most importantly love and hope. I suggest the unabridged version. It is always good to read books where the language lends to the depth of the storyline.

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers, Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Both these books are light, simple and joyful. The leave the children with laughter and merriment. After reading a novel which carries a great depth of emotions like The Secret Garden, a teacher can choose to read-aloud a lighter novel like Mary Poppins or Dr. Dolittle which act like breathers. (Both Dr. Dolittle and Mary Poppins are part of series of novels, so the teacher can have her pick) In Dr. Dolittle, be careful to skip the subtle racism that creeps in here and there.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (G4)
This book is an autobiography of a beautiful horse named Black Beauty. While he is loved an taken care of in his early years. a misfortune causes him to be sold to a series of careless owners. While Black Beauty suffers, the author brings forth his emotions with great finesse allowing the listener to empathise easily. While the novel has some very difficult and painful moments, it does end on a happy note, leaving one with the feeling All’s Well That Ends Well.

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