There are so many possibilities here that we’re just going to scratch the surface. I want to share a few of my family’s favorites to read at Halloween. Books listed here can stretch from elementary school up through adult.
Often reading aloud a great excerpt from a chapter book can help interest the child in reading the entire book. Several of the Ramona books make great read-alouds in their entirety (like the two I list below); some, I think are better read independently because they move more slowly. If you’re not familiar with Ramona, she is the original Junie B. Jones; check her out! (And by the way, she appeals to both boys and girls, in my experience, like Junie B.)
Ramona the Pest, by Beverly Cleary, has a great Halloween-themed chapter, “The Baddest Witch in the World.” Kindergartner Ramona is excited for the school Halloween parade until she discovers many other girls have the same witch mask as her, begging the questions: What if no one knows it’s her under her costume? What if her own mother doesn’t know who she is? Then really, who is she? Read aloud with your child (about age 4-8) to find out how Ramona resolves the problem.
Ramona and Her Father has a chapter called “The Night of the Jack-O’-Lantern.” Ramona is a second-grader in this book, and the family is struggling because dad has lost his job; Ramona and big sister Beezus feel the stress even though their parents try to protect them from it. In this Halloween-related chapter, the family excitedly carves a pumpkin together; it gives them something to rally around despite the hard times they are going through. In the middle of the night, Ramona hears noises in the kitchen and calls to her family in a panic to find out if someone is in their house. The findings are a little sad, a little funny, and not at all scary. Read aloud with your child to experience what happens together. (Age 5-9 is probably the best fit.)
For about second grade to fifth, The Monster’s Ring by Bruce Coville, makes a fun, quick Halloween read aloud. Russell is a 5th grader, tormented by school bully Eddie, so when he stumbles upon a magic ring that can turn him into a monster and back again, he decides to have a little fun with it. But when Russell-as-a-monster sees Eddie himself being bullied by some older kids, will he help him out? Or let Eddie get a taste of his own medicine? I recommend reading this chapter book in its entirety, not just an excerpt.
On our shelf still to read is Barbara Robinson’s The
Worst Best Halloween Ever. I have not read this one yet but have high hopes for it being a good chapter book to read with my elementary age son. Robinson also wrote The Best Christmas Pageant Ever that so many people know. (You want that one on your Christmas read-aloud list with your elementary age child!) This one features the same Herdman children who will make you laugh and cry in the Christmas book.
For older kids (5th-9th), I want to share one of my favorite short story books, Richard Peck’s Past, Perfect, Present Tense. This book includes 13 short stories split into 3 categories: The Past (historical fiction); The Supernatural (fantasies/ghost stories); and The Present (fictional nowadays stories). I enjoy all these, but of course I’m honing in on the Supernatural section. My favorite here is “The Most Important Night of Melanie’s Life.” The other three in this section are good and creepy too (almost too creepy for me; you may want to preview if your child is 5-6 grade and make sure you think they won’t be too freaked out, but I am also a BIG WEENIE).
This time of year, I also enjoyed reading to my 5th-6th grade students the chapter book Missing by Catherine MacPhail. It’s a book about a young girl whose brother went missing and is believed dead, but then she starts getting mysterious phone calls from someone who claims to be him. Yes, I know that sounds creepy. To me, it is just the right amount of creepy and has a happy ending. It also deals with bullying.
One more for the middle school age group that I love is The Seer of Shadows, by Avi (powerhouse author for kids of all ages). This is a blend of historical fiction (set in 1872, NYC) and fantasy in which a young boy becomes an apprentice to an unethical photographer. The man preys on families who have lost loved ones by editing into his photos the image of the deceased person. However in the Von Macht family, the ghost of their deceased daughter has actually returned and the young boy has to try to protect them from her before it’s too late. I listened to this one as an audiobook and it seriously made me jump a few times near the end!
Last, I want to remind you of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving. This short story is my favorite thing to re-read each fall, to myself. Middle school kids through adult may enjoy it. If you haven’t read it in awhile, go get it, even if it’s just for yourself. Read on!