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Read Aloud Choices for Year 4

Chosen by our experts for 8 and 9 year olds.

Last updated January 11th, 2024

Recommended books to read aloud in year 4 includes a wider range of longer fiction. Length is a consideration. While you will want to develop children’s abilities to maintain concentration and memory for more complex stories, books that are too long may not be finished, or will not allow for enough variety to be read through the year. As children’s knowledge of the world expands, so does the range of places where stories are set, including historical fiction

Humour remains a popular choice for its capacity to pull a class together and for its role in ensuring children’s well-being. And for the sheer fun and pleasure of reading.

Longer, more complex picture books should still be included, along with narrative nonfiction.

Throughout the year, you will want to read stories requested by the children, offer guided choices, and expand their reading horizons.

Our recommended poetry lists have plenty of suggestions for each year group too.

Roy Moss has written a useful blog about choosing read-alouds. for your class.

Find out which books our reviewers enjoy reading with their classes in this video, Choosing Books for the Classroom; Read Alouds.

Sonia Thompson and Ben Harris join Nikki Gamble to talk about why reading aloud to your class is so important and to advise on choosing books to read aloud

Our top picks from recent titles

The Treasure Hunters

By Lisa Thompson. Illustrated by Gemma Correll. Published by Scholastic.

Lisa Thompson’s books have worked successfully in our award-winning Reading Gladiators Book Club. Superb storytelling that addresses issues without them slowing down the story is key. Our reviewer Jane Atkin writes, ‘In The Treasure Hunters Lisa Thompson has created characters you believe in and want to succeed. Vincent’s dyspraxia is explored, but not in a preachy way, making it relatable for children. It is a heart-warming adventure story, exploring relationships at school and in the family. ‘ The Goldfish Boy and The Roller-Coaster Boy are also good read-aloud choices

Read the full review

Please Write Soon

By Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Michael Foreman. Published by Scholastic.

Inspired by a true family story, Michael Rosen presents an astonishing account of perseverance, love and hope in wartime. Beginning in 1939, young Solly in London exchanges letters with his teenage cousin, Bernie, in Poland. While Solly is evacuated and tries his best to adjust to life in the English countryside, Bernie’s parents know that as Jews, they’re not safe staying in Warsaw, so they send Bernie to the Russian-occupied side of the country in the hope that he’ll be safer there.

Our reviewer, Stephen Dilley, writes, ‘This would be a great book for parents or teachers to share and read with children aged seven upwards, while older primary children would enjoy reading this independently. It could also form the basis of an excellent history project as there are so many topics that children could explore further. Rosen’s use of his family history might also prompt some children to research their own.’

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The Boy, The Bird and the Coffin Maker

By Matilda woods. Illustrated by Anuska Allepuz. Published by Scholastic.

Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea, and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker, spending his quiet, solitary days creating the final resting places of Allora’s people. Until the day a mysterious boy and his magical bird arrive – flying from danger and searching for a safe haven. Tito is fearful, and suspicious of kindness, but as the winter days grow colder and darker, Alberto’s home grows warmer and brighter.

This whimsical fairy story has its roots in fairy tales. It has been one of the most popular choices in our award-winning Reading Gladiators. It works especially well as a read-aloud with the teachers helping to establish the narrative voice through expressive reading.

A Swallow in Winter

By Timothee de Fombelle, Sarah Ardizzone (trans). Illustrated by Thomas Campi. Published by Walker Books.

n a quiet Christmas night, a swallow takes flight from Africa, searching for something it cannot quite name. A disenchanted driver sits alone in his yellow truck, yearning to be home. This story is translated from French into English by Sarah Ardizzone. You can hear Timothee and Sarah talking about this book with Nikki Gamble on The Book Channel.

And a man walks through the snowy streets, feeling utterly alone. But when the three destinies meet, it seems their search for hope, belonging and kindness has finally ended. Our reviewer, Anne Thompson, writes,’ This is a story that would provide an alternative viewpoint to some media stories and could prompt thoughtful discussion in the classroom around the topics of migration and refugees. It would be excellent as a book for promoting empathy and understanding.

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By Radiya Hafiza. Illustrated by Rhaida El Touny. Published by Macmillan.

Radiya Hafiza’s enchanting and funny debut weaves together three stories, spinning the classic fairytale to show that anyone can be a hero. Our reviewer Rumena Aktar says,’This book, perfect for children aged 7+ is ideal to not only help children challenge stereotypes from an early age, but to also show Asian girls as heroes of their own stories.’

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Call Me Lion

By Camilla Chester. Published by Firefly Press.

Ten-year-old Leo dreams of performing in the West End. His love of dancing is getting him through the Luton heatwave, but his selective mutism is putting his spot in the end-of-summer dance show on the line. When chatty Richa moves in next door, Leo finds it easy to bond with her. She talks enough for both of them … at least to begin with. But when he learns her secret, it’s clear that Richa needs Leo’s support as much as he needs hers.

This book is an absolute treasure and works well when supported by a teacher and class discussion. Our reviewer, Kelly Ashley, writes, ‘Call me Lion is a stand-out middle-grade fiction novel with themes that will truly stretch the younger reader, the perfect title to springboard conversation and discussion.

Loki: A Bad God's Guide to Being Good

By Louie Stowell. Illustrated by Louie Stowell. Published by Walker Books.

Our laugh-out-loud choice for year 4 is Louise Stowell’s Loki. After one trick too many, Loki is banished to live on Earth as a “normal” school boy. Forbidden from using his AWESOME godly powers, Loki must show moral improvement. As he records his lies THE TRUTH in his magical (judgemental) diary, it becomes clear Loki hasn’t a clue how to tell good from evil, trust from tricks, or friends from enemies.

Our reviewer, Ros Steward writes, ‘The Norse mythology is deftly woven in, with enough explanations (and diagrams) that it would be understandable to someone completely new to it, but with plenty of references that will make those who do understand them chuckle. Apart from the mythological elements being fun, it’s also actually successful as a school story of a weird kid trying to make friends and grow a conscience.’

We recommend making sure the children can see the illustration, either in their own copies of the book or using a visualiser, or much of the humour will be lost.

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Song of the Dolphin Boy

By Elizabeth Laird. Published by Macmillan Children's Books.

Finn has always been different, and in the tiny fishing village of Stromhead he sticks out like a sore thumb. Always told to keep away from the water, he’s felt that something was missing until one day, he dives in and finds that swimming with the dolphins, he feels completely at home. But his new friends are in danger of being injured by the rubbish that floats out into the water – and now a supermarket is going to release thousands of balloons that could drift out to sea and cause even more damage.

Our reviewer, Sam Keeley, writes,’ This is an excellent read-aloud for junior classes. It links well to learning about environmental issues and could be supported by linking to the Authors 4 Oceans website. Song of the Dolphin Boy is included in Reading Gladiators for Year 4 because the engaging themes provide a rich resource for discussion.’

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By Nadia Shireen. Illustrated by Nadia Shireen. Published by Simon & Schuster.

Nadia Shireen’s fiction debut, Grimwood has been a favourite with our Reading Gladiator book groups and is a super book to share with a class. Our reviewer, Eve Bearne, writes, ‘Nadia Shireen writes with an energy that whisks readers through a series of mad adventures and encounters, wittily told. The story itself is absorbing and raises a smile on every page (and often more than one!) and her illustrations of the characters and their predicaments and occasional interspersed comments by Eric Dynamite, a woodlouse, add to the harum-scarum atmosphere. But there’s more to this book than its deliciously funny set-ups and near-catastrophes: moments of melancholy when Ted writes letters to his parents, asking when they will return, and when he reflects on how lonely he feels sometimes.

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By Gattaldo. Illustrated by Gattaldo. Published by Otter-Barry Books.

Daphne Caruana Galizia had a happy childhood with her family on the small island of Malta, loving books, stories and writing. When she succeeded in her ambition to become a journalist, she discovered that there was much to write about in her home country. She found that greedy and corrupt politicians were making themselves rich rather than working for the good of their people. Fearlessly, Daphne exposed criminal and dishonest activities. Her enemies responded with threats and insults to discourage her from revealing more. But nothing could dissuade Daphne from fighting for what she believed in.

A picture book biography to share with year 4

Teachers' Treasures

Classic and established favourites

Street Child

By Berlie Doherty. Published by HarperCollins.

ale of an orphan in Victorian London, based on the boy whose plight inspired Dr Barnardo to found his famous children’s homes. When his mother dies, Jim Jarvis is left all alone in London. He is sent to the workhouse but quickly escapes, choosing a hard life on the streets of the city over the confines of the workhouse walls. Struggling to survive, Jim finally finds some friends… only to be snatched away and made to work for the remorselessly cruel Grimy Nick, constantly guarded by his vicious dog, Snipe. Will Jim ever manage to be free?

Berlie Doherty is a writer that, in our opinion, all children should encounter. She is a wonderful wordsmith and storyteller. With it’s episodic structure, Street Child moves along at a pace, and is a good introduction to the Victorian era for year 4 children. we also recommend Children of Winter for this year group, but it is currently out of print, so look out for second hand copies.

Varjak Paw

By S F Said. Illustrated by Dave McKean. Published by Penguin Random House.

Varjak Paw is a Mesopotamian Blue kitten, who lives high up in an old house on a hill. He’s never left home, until he receives a mysterious visit from his grandfather, who tells him about The Way – a secret martial art for cats. Now Varjak must use the Way to survive in a city full of dangerous dogs, cat gangs and, strangest of all, the mysterious Vanishings.

So much more than an animal adventure! This book does for cats what Watership Down did for rabbits. A multi-layered adventure story, admired by teachers and loved by children.

I Was a Rat

By Philip Pullman. Illustrated by Peter Bailey. Published by Penguin Random House.

I was a Rat! Roger insists, and insists. . . In fact, when Bob the cobbler and his washerwoman wife, Joan, find the young boy abandoned on their doorstep, these are the only words he says. And he does have ratty behaviour, it’s true.Staying with Bob and Joan, however, Roger learns quickly to behave more like a human child. They try to find his parents, but the orphanage, police and hospital all have nothing on their records about a lost boy in the city. What is the truth? As more and more people find out about Roger the mysterious rat-boy he faces more and more danger.

One of our favourite stories by Philip Pullman. Perfect to read aloud to year 4 with lots of opportunities for discussion/

The Midnight Fox

By Betsy Byars. Published by Faber.

Tom, a town boy, is horrified when his parents tell him he has to stay on Aunt Millie’s farm while they are away. He finds country life every bit as strange and uncomfortable as he feared.But soon, he discovers a rare black fox with green eyes, living with her cubs in the forest. Suddenly, the summer is full of excitement. That is, until Uncle Fred decides to go after the fox – will Tom save her and her family in time?

An American classic. The themes of this emotional story speak to us as much today as when the book was first published in 1968.