January 31



Special needs students can be a tough crowd during read-aloud time. If the book doesn’t hold their interest, you can find yourself reading to…yourself. Sometimes you look up from the book you’re reading and see eyes on anything BUT what you are reading.

I think a lot of special education teachers abandon read-alouds because they feel that their students aren’t interested (and no one wants to read a book aloud with no one paying attention). We know that teacher read-alouds are important to model fluency and develop a love of reading for our general education students. I promise you it’s possible to achieve this with special needs students as well. There are only two things you need to do: pick engaging texts and don’t be afraid to get loud and silly when you read.

The following ten children’s books are tried and tested by me, special educator extraordinaire (not to mention my K-5 students with autism).  I promise there will be smiles and laughter (or at the very least, their eyes will be on the book). These books are all fiction, but it is my current quest to find quality non-fiction that isn’t too wordy.


interrupting chicken

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

I didn’t have high hopes for this book…I didn’t think my students would like it. THEY LOVED IT. It’s all in how you read it. Facial expression, gestures, and volume make this book so fun.


we are in a book

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

Mo Willems is magic. His simple drawings and sparse text elicit the most raucous laughter from my students. I have found beginning readers (even those with severe autism) picking up these books in the class library and reading them aloud.


The Mine-o-Saur

The Mine-o-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and David Clark

A great story about how not sharing equals no friends. It may be hard to find, but it’s worth it. Plus, dinosaurs!


I was so mad

I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayer

This is good for shared reading.  My students like to read along to the repetitive “I was just so mad!” It’s fun to make mad faces too.


I'm dirty

I’m Dirty by Kate and Jim McMullan

A garbage truck tells it like it is and there is an A-Z list of the gross things he eats up during the work day. All of my students are boys and this is what I use as a gateway book to getting them interested in reading.


chu's day

Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex

I bought this because Neil Gaiman. It was a pleasant surprise when I realized it’s a perfect read-aloud. Chu the panda goes “ah-choo” a lot, which is always a hit.


bark, george

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

This isn’t my favorite book, to be honest. But when the vet reaches deep, deep, deep, deep down in George the dog to find out why he’s not barking, children are loving it.


You Will Be My Friend Cover

You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown

Lucille the Bear really wants a friend, but she freaks out all the animals she wants to befriend. I like this for social skills.


z is for moose

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky

All of my students love alphabet themed books. ALL.OF.THEM. This one is particularly fun. I read the moose’s parts in a whiny voice because really, it isn’t fair that ‘M’ isn’t for moose.


there was an old lady who swallowed a bat

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat! By Lucille Colandro and Jared Lee

This one only works if you sing the words. There’s a book in this series for every season and holiday and they lend themselves so easily to props.


photo (35)Aimee Owens has taught special education for seven years. She teaches children with autism and behavioral issues in a self-contained setting at Findley Elementary School in Des Moines, IA. A lifelong reader, Aimee is passionate about sharing her love for reading with her students. If she could do read-alouds all day long, she most definitely would.