27 Imaginative and Award-Winning ​​Books to Read to 2nd-Graders

If there’s one classroom activity I could do over and over again without getting tired, it’s reading aloud to my students!

I love seeing my students’ faces light up, especially those who would otherwise struggle if they were reading alone, as they fully immerse themselves in an exciting story.

That’s the great thing about 2nd-grade read-alouds, you can choose books that are above your learners’ reading level as long as it’s at their listening level. This monumentally expands their vocabulary.

Here are my recommendations for high-quality books to read aloud to second-graders.

1. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

This book won The Children’s Book Council (CBC) Kid’s Book Choice Awards in 2021.

We Are Water Protectors is a lyrical picture book that advocates for the protection of the Earth’s water resources.

It tells the story of a young girl who must take a stand to defend the world from a snake that threatens to poison a water resource.


2. Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away By Meg Medina

Recognized as an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away is a great read-aloud picture book that tells the bittersweet story of Evelyn and Daniela, two kids who must learn to say goodbye to each other and come to terms with a major change in their lives.


3. I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

This CBC 2021 Kid’s Book Choice Award finalist is an empowering picture book about being about proud of who you are. This is an inspiring choice for 2nd-grade read-alouds. Have your students repeat after you and tell them that they should love who they are too no matter what.

I Am Every Good Thing‘s black narrator talks about his big plans and how he is not fazed by failure and missteps.


4. I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott

This New York Times Best Children’s Book of the Year awardee can spark conversation in your class about inclusivity and how to deal with personal struggles.

I Talk Like a River tells the tale of a young boy with a stutter who feels lost and unable to fit in. His father takes him for a walk and helps him see his challenges in a new light.


5. The Babysitter from Another Planet by Stephen Savage

This CBC 2020 Kid’s Book Choice Awards finalist is a great book for emerging readers who love fun adventures!

The Babysitter from Another Planet tells the tale of two siblings who were left at home with an alien babysitter who can make mundane activities fun!

This E.T. meets Mary Poppins story is one-of-a-kind.

6. Mr. Posey’s New Glasses by Ted Kooser

Another CBC 2020 Kid’s Book Choice Awards finalist,Mr. Posey’s New Glasses tells the charming tale of Mr. Posey, a gloomy, elderly man who goes to a thrift shop with his young neighbor to buy new eyeglasses.

He tries on different glasses that turn out to be magical, opening his eyes to a brighter and more exciting world.


7. Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson

Add this to your list of books to read to your 2nd graders to help them see the value of kindness and giving grace.

Ways to Make Sunshine tells the story of Ryan Hart, a girl who always tries to see the best in others.

She spreads cheer and sunshine in whatever situation, good or bad. This book also won the CBC Kid’s Book Choice Awards in 2021.


8. The Karate Kid by John G. Avildsen and Robert Mark Kamen

This book is the picture book version of the timeless classic movie of the same name. It’s the perfect book to add to your collection of fun interactive read-aloud books for your 2nd-grade students, for they will surely have fun trying to copy the karate moves from the book!

The Karate Kid tells the story of an unlikely friendship that developed between a bullied boy and a Japanese maintenance man who eventually became his Karate teacher. This book was also a finalist at the CBC 2020 Kid’s Book Choice Awards.


9. The Seekers by Hari & Deepti

Second-graders love stories that involve fantasy and adventures. I’m sure this read-aloud book will be a classroom hit with its stunning visuals and exciting storyline.

The Seekers tells the story of brave adventurers who embark on an epic journey to save their village from ruin.

This great story will remind your second-graders of the importance of home while still making an effort to expand one’s horizons through adventures and discovery. This book was part of the International Literacy Association’s 2020 Children’s Choices Reading List.


10. The BFG by Roald Dahl

This classic tale by Roald Dahl is a must-add to your list of read-alouds for 2nd grade. It won the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Award in 1982.

The BFG is a heartwarming story about a big, friendly giant who developed a unique friendship with Sophie, a strong-hearted orphan girl.

The BFG’s lines are naturally funny and quirky, for sure you and your second-graders will both have fun reading this together!

11. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Considered The New York Public Library’s 4th “Top Check Outs of All Time”, Where the Wild Things Are tells the tale of a young boy Max who travels to an island where wild, beastly creatures live.

These wild things make him king and he leads them to do some fun, crazy, wild things.


12. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeanette Winter

Named Best Book of the Year by the Boston Globe, The Watcher is a moving portrait of an extraordinary woman- Jane Goodall, a great observer and protector of chimpanzees.

The book talks about her childhood and her journey to become the world’s foremost expert on chimps.


13. Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker

Clementine is a series of chapter books that follow the story of an eight-year-old girl of the same name who is both artistic and impulsive. Her imperfections often get her into trouble at school.

You won’t regret adding this funny and relatable book to your list of books to read to second-graders. They might get addicted too and become new chapter book readers. This chapter book is a New York Times Best Seller for a reason!


14. My Weird School Series by Dan Gutman

If you’re looking for some hilarious adventure to add to your list, one of the My Weird School series chapter books will do the trick. This series of 21 chapter books tell the story of A.J. and his gang’s strange but fun experiences at Ella Mentry School.

From a green leprechaun wreaking havoc at the school, a principal who loves pigs way too much, to a teacher who dons clothes made of kitchen pot holders, the gang has had some quirky adventures. I’m sure this book is going to be entertaining to read aloud.


15. A Narwhal and Jelly Book Series by Ben Clanton

This 2017 Best Publication for Early Readers Eisner Awardee is perfect for young readers.

A Narwhal and Jelly is a series of seven early chapter books that follow the journey of a laid-back narwhal and a no-nonsense jellyfish.

The two may have lots of differences, but they both love parties, waffles, and adventures. This will teach your second-grade class the joys of working together and the power of imagination.


16. The Chicken Squad by Doreen Kronin

This series of read-aloud chapter books are great for second-grade students as well.The Chicken Squad tells the story of a group of chicks who are definitely not “chicken”. They’re brave and adventurous and are always busy solving mysteries and fighting crimes.


17. The Adventures of Pug Series by Laura James

This series of four read-aloud chapter books are all about wild adventures.The Adventures of Pug tells the story of the lovable and charming dog Pug and his best friend Lady Miranda. These picture books show Pug becoming a captain, a cowboy pirate, and even a safari pug!


18. Books That Drive Kids Crazy by Beck Stanton and Matt Stanton

This series of three read-aloud chapter books are intended to make your 2nd-grade students wonder and laugh.Books That Drive Kids Crazy will make learners wonder, “What is up with this nonsense?” while howling with laughter.

This 2018 CBC Kid’s Choice Book Awards finalist is the perfect book for reluctant, emerging readers because of its simple text and art.


19. Manjhi Moves a Mountain by Nancy Churnin

Manjhi Moves a Mountain tells the true story of Dashrath Manjhi, a laborer who used his hammer, chisel, grit, and endurance to carve a path connecting his poor village to schools, markets, and a hospital.

This beautiful story can teach your 2nd grades students how having a big heart can make great changes.


20. Stuart Little by E. B. White

Stuart Little is about a shy and thoughtful New Yorker, who’s actually a mouse.

Born to a family of humans, Stuart’s world turns upside down when his bird best friend disappears. Now he must leave home for the first time to track her down.


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

First published in 1950, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is part of the popular Narnia series and a Newberry Medal winner.

This picture book version tells the story of four siblings who discover a portal to a magical, cursed land called Narnia. They must help Aslan, a great lion, to reverse the evil witch’s curse on the land.


22. Heidi by Johanna Spyri

Another well-known classic from 1881, Heidi tells the story of a five-year-old orphan who lives on her grandfather’s farm. She loves the mountain life, her best friend, and her grandpa but she’s eventually forced to move away to the city.

This picture book shows how Heidi makes friends and wins the hearts of those around her.


23. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

This Caldecott Medal winner will teach your 2nd-grade students how to be brave and practice self-control. Owl Moon tells the story of a father who takes his child to look for owls in the woods on a winter night and the bond that grows between them along the way.

This is a great read-aloud book to pair with a nighttime outdoor excursion or a camping trip.


24. Beezus and Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary

Your 2nd-grade students who have siblings will surely relate to this book.Beezus and Ramona is a funny portrayal of the ups and downs of having siblings.

This story, which is part of a critically-acclaimed series, is told by 9-year-old Beezus as she tries to deal with her younger sister’s wild imagination and appetite for chaos.


25. Bugs In My Hair! by David Shannon

This 2014 CBC Kid’s Choice Book Awards winner funny book will be a great addition to your classroom library of read-alouds.Bugs In My Hair! promises to make readers laugh and itchy!

This story tells the hilarious story of some unwelcome hair lice and a mom that attacks them with anti-lice weapons.


26. I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton

This non-fiction picture book is going to make your 2nd-grade students see arachnids in a positive light.

I’m Trying to Love Spiders builds the case that spiders actually have cool superpowers and are not as dangerous as they may seem. This book won the 2016 CBC Kid’s Book Choice Awards.


27. Kali’s Story by Jennifer Keats Curtis

Kali’s Story is a nonfiction picture book that follows the story of the rescued polar bear Kali and his journey to the Alaska Zoo where he grows and learns new skills.

This CBC winner is a great 2nd-grade read-aloud before or after a zoo school trip.

Related Questions:

What are the qualities of a great book for read-alouds?

A great book for read-alouds should be relatable to the students. The storyline should be simple enough to understand but filled with rich language. It would also be great if it deals with an emotional or mature topic that children may struggle to tackle alone.

How can I keep my students engaged during read-alouds?

Make it interactive! Involve them in the story by asking questions or asking them to do a physical activity, like a clap or a thumbs up, when they hear a certain word or rhyme.

How can I use read-alouds to expand my students’ vocabulary?

Use diverse books to get them exposed to different words. You can also reread the pages that have your target words and ask your students to use them in new contexts beyond the story.

Final Thoughts

Always choose books that are from recommended book lists of high-quality literature and those that serve as models for good writing as much as possible.

I hope the award-winning books on this list can help expand not only your students’ literacy skills but also their way of thinking and feeling.

As a final tip, remember to choose a variety of genres for your read-alouds. This way, students will be exposed to more opportunities for new learning.

Last Updated on May 18, 2022 by Emily

Emily/ author of the article

Emily is an active mother of two and a dedicated elementary school teacher. She believes the latest technology has made a huge impact on the quality of early learning and has worked hard to upgrade her classroom and her own children’s learning experience through technology.
She created this blog to make it easier for other teachers to take advantage of some of the best devices out there to upgrade their classrooms without having to do the research themselves. She loves to hear your tech-based problems and share her extensive experience :)

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