Top Twelve Picture Book Read-Alouds for Halloween

I’ve been so busy lately with other projects and volunteering in my kids’ schools that I still haven’t gotten to writing TATTLER #3, which will highlight David McPhail’s wonderfully compassionate book The Teddy Bear. I hope hope hope to get to that soon. In the meantime, Halloween themes — witches, monsters, spooky ghost stories — fascinate kids and fuel their imaginations. Take advantage of this with great Halloween read-alouds that provide opportunities for learning and thinking as well! Here is a list (in alphabetical order) of my 12 favorite picture book read alouds for Halloween (some specifically Halloween, others with Halloween–related themes).

1. A Very Witchy Spelling Bee (by George Shannon). 

This is a fun and witty read-aloud that combines “double spells” (spelling words and casting spells), clever wordplay, and a lesson on perseverance and friendship. With so many possible outcomes throughout the story, it is also great for encouraging kids to make predictions. A great new Halloween treat!! (Kinder – 4th grade)

2. Big Pumpkin (by Erica Silverman). 

This little gem of a Halloween book has been around for more than twenty years, but I just discovered it! A witch plants a pumpkin seed that grows too large to pull from the vine, and a succession of traditional Halloween monster passers-by attempt to help her. Its repetitive, cumulative, rhyming text make it a rollicking read-aloud that inspires participation and prediction. After reading the last page, ask kids to predict what will happen with the new pumpkin seed that the witch plants! Will the seed grow into a normal sized pumpkin, or will it grow too big again? Kids can even make a new last page to the book, writing or dictating the words and adding an illustration. Kids can also be encouraged to discuss some of its important themes — of helping others, teamwork, and that even small creatures can make a positive difference! (Preschool – 2nd grade)

3. Bone Soup (by Cambria Evans).

This is an engaging and funny Halloween-themed adaptation of the classic book Stone Soup, with whimsically spooky illustrations. After reading this aloud, share ideas about how this version is similar to and different from the original Stone Soup (text-to-text connections, an important comprehension strategy). Also, encourage text-to-self connections with this question: “What would you do if you knew that Finnigin were about to visit your house as you were getting ready to eat your favorite meal? How would you prepare? (Kinder – 3rd grade)

4. Creepy Carrots (by Aaron Reynolds).

This is a silly, clever, and suspenseful story about a rabbit who fears that his favorite treats are out to get him. It is a great choice for working on many of the most important comprehension strategies: predicting (because it keeps you guessing until the very end); identifying key story elements (“Who are the characters? Where does the story take place? What is the problem in the story? How was the problem solved?); and identifying the message (Greed isn’t good!). Serve up a plate of carrots while reading this for a fun and healthy bonus! (Kinder  – 2nd grade)

5. How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin (by Margaret McNamara).

This is a fantastic Halloween- and Thanksgiving-themed read-aloud that inspires mathematical and scientific thinking in the context of a good story! The teacher challenges the class to consider how many seeds are in each of the small, medium, and large pumpkins; as the class conducts this experiment, the student characters in the story as well as “students” listening to it join together to hypothesize, estimate, skip count, measure, graph, and learn pumpkin facts. It works perfectly to read alongside a hands-on experiment at home or in the classroom, so get three of your own pumpkins and test out which one has the most seeds! This one also has a great message — “Small things have a lot going on inside of them”! (Kinder – 3rd grade)

6. Pumpkin Jack (by Will Hubbell).

It can be SO hard to find engaging read-alouds that convey factual information. This one does just that — embedding the life cycle of a pumpkin through the seasons into a narrative storyline about a boy and his beloved jack-o-lantern. The storied nature of the text invites numerous text-to-self connections (e.g., Have you ever named your carved pumpkin? Have you ever kept a pumpkin so long that it deteriorated like the one in this book?), which makes the informational aspects of the text that much more accessible. The book also provides inspiration for a great hands-on science connection — kids would get a kick out of seeing what happens to their own jack-o-lantern through the seasons! And it’s a great opportunity for writing about/journaling the process as well! (Preschool – 2nd grade)

7. Room on the Broom (by Julia Donaldson).

I can’t imagine a top ten Halloween read-aloud list without this book on it! Nor could I give this book a plug that really does it justice. The entire story is told in clever rhyming verse, with wonderful illustrations. This is a good one to work on children’s retelling skills. After you finish reading the book aloud, ask your child to “tell me the whole story again, from the beginning to the end.” As needed, help your child retell the story with a beginning, middle, and ending and the key story elements (e.g., characters, problem) and important events. Even better, the memorable characters with explicit dialogue throughout the text make this a great book for  dramatic re-enactments. kids might also enjoy making stick puppets of the characters in the story. (Popsicle sticks work great!) (Kinder – 3rd grade)

8. The Little Green Witch (by Barbara McGrath) 

This is a super fun Halloween rendition of the The Little Red Hen. In this version, a witch finds pumpkin seeds and plants them, though her monster friends are lazy and refuse to help her at every step in the making of the pumpkin pie. Like Bone Soup (mentioned above), it provides another opportunity for kids to make text-to-text connections with a classic folktale. How are the two stories similar and different? Is the author’s message similar to that in the original Little Red Hen? The surprise at the end makes this version extra enjoyable!  (Preschool – 2nd grade)

9. The Pumpkin Book (by Gail Gibbons).

It’s important to include nonfiction texts in our kids’ read aloud diets! Don’t miss out on this one by Gail Gibbons — the leader in nonfiction books for primary grade children. Like all of her books, this one is well-written with simple text and clear illustrations. It conveys a good amount of factual informational about pumpkins, including planting, growing, harvesting, and carving them. While reading this aloud, there are many opportunities to ask kids to relate what is in the text to what they already know about pumpkins (text-to-world connections) or to experiences in their own lives (text-to-self connections). For more thematic nonfiction reading, also check out Bats and Owls by the same author! (Preschool – 3rd grade)

10. The Widow’s Broom (by Chris Van Allsburg).

Along with Room on the Broom, The Widow’s Broom will always make my list of top Halloween read-alouds. The story starts off with the lonely widow finding a presumably defunct broom in her vegetable garden. It turns out that the broom sweeps on its own and can be trained to do other chores; however, the widow’s ignorant neighbors dislike the broom and demand that it be burned. The story is suspenseful, magical, and has a surprise ending; it also sets the stage for a rich discussion about prejudice, bullying and fearing what we don’t understand. With some prompting, this discussion might pave the way for a more personal conversation about these these sensitive issues in kids’ own lives. (For all ages!)

11. You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You: Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together (by Mary Ann Hoberman).
I absolutely love Hoberman’s You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You series, and this fourth installment, with a variety of monster characters, is no exception! Her books are a collection of short rhyming two-page stories written in two colors for two voices, so beginning readers seem to LOVE these. Although this is not technically a picture book, it is so fun that it is a must for Halloween reading! (For all ages!)

12.  Zombie in Love (by Kelly DiPucchio).

This is a hilarious tale of a zombie’s quest for love. The detailed watercolor illustrations require attention and analysis, and the wordplay adds another element of fun. It manages to double as an entertaining read aloud for all ages as well as a an easy read for beginning readers. (For all ages!)

If you have a favorite Halloween picture book that’s not on this list, please share in a Comment below!


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4 Responses to Top Twelve Picture Book Read-Alouds for Halloween

  1. Debbie Healy Gilmore says:

    Will definitely check these out!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Steve says:

    This is a fun bunch of books. My personal favorites for pure fun are Room on the broom, The widow’s broom and Zombie in love and Creepy carrots

  3. Emily Frye says:

    Quinn LOVES “Zombie In Love!”

  4. Pingback: OTR Links 10/21/2013 | doug --- off the record

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