How do you pick which books to read with your class?
Consider your instructional purpose as well as cross-curricular themes in science, social studies, and writing. You can also use the books on this list to model and practice reading strategies and literacy skills. For each of the books, I’ve listed ideas for theme, author’s craft, and literacy skills.
HIGHER READING LEVEL
Generally, you’ll want to choose books at a higher reading level than your students can independently read. Listening to a more difficult text introduces new vocabulary to kids. As you know, knowing more words improves reading comprehension.
INTRODUCE A SERIES
Alternatively, you might choose a book to get kids excited about a series or author for independent reading. Your goal is to get them hooked on a series they can read themselves.
One way to do this is First Chapter Friday. Reading one chapter gives kids a taste of the book. (It works, too!) If you’re doing this at home, read until your kids get so into the story, that they have to keep reading even when you get “too busy.”
If you’re looking for recommended independent reading books, visit: The Best Books for 8-Year-Olds.
More Read Aloud Book Lists:
Recommended Read Aloud Books for 3rd Grade
Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki Lenz
THEME/TOPICS: bullying, family, friendship, kindness
SKILLS: making predictions, determining importance, making inferences, character arc/characterization
SYNOPSIS: This genuinely sweet story is about a girl who goes from a bully to a trying-to-do-better model citizen. It will make you laugh and warm your heart. When Bernice’s mom sends Bernice to live with her nun aunt, it’s a chance for this former bully without any friends except the town’s librarian, to reform her mean-spirited ways. Bernice does it — she makes a friend, becomes nicer, and finds an unexpected home with the nuns.
What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau
THEME/TOPICS: identity, culture, family, rural life, Spanish language, indigenous life, immigration, dreams, nature, stereotypes, magical realism
SKILLS: making predictions, determining importance, making inferences, analyzing word choice
SYNOPSIS: Mexican-American Clara Luna doesn’t know anything about her father’s Mexican heritage until she spends the summer with her grandparents in rural Mexico. There, she discovers the beauty of her grandparents’ life and culture and grows into her own identity. This is a beautiful, important book, one that I’ve read several times and highly recommend.
Holes by Louis Sachar
THEME/TOPICS: bullying, belonging, sense of self, family, loyalty, friendship, courage, growth mindset
SKILLS: making predictions, determining importance, making inferences, making sensory images, plot, characterization, sequence, cause/effect
SYNOPSIS: Poor Stanley. He’s got the worst luck of anyone — and is now sent to a youth detention camp in the desert where he has to dig holes all day long. All because of his no-good, pig-stealing great-great-grandfather. This was one of my students’ favorite books (mine, too)! You’ll love the crazy adventures as Stanley and his new friend figure out what’s really happening at this supposed detention camp. They escape and survive the desert by eating onions. Surprisingly, even the onions tie into the bigger story involving Stanley’s pig-stealing grandfather.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
THEME/TOPICS: animal cruelty, friendship, advocacy, family, home, empathy
SKILLS: predicting, determining importance, making mental images, making inferences, point of view, characterization
SYNOPSIS: Narrated by one gorilla named Ivan, this story will immediately grab your heart — it’s sad but keep reading, it’s an amazing story. Making it even more compelling, it’s true! Ivan is kept in a cage in a run-down mall for 27 years without seeing another gorilla. He’s friends with the stray dog, Bob, who sleeps with him, Stella who is a full-grown elephant, and Ruby, a newly purchased baby elephant. Due to maltreatment, Stella gets sick and dies. But before she does, she begs Ivan to help Ruby find a better life. Despite his fear, Ivan agrees and gets help from the janitor’s kind daughter.
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
THEME/TOPICS: bullying, self-acceptance, determination, storytelling, family
SKILLS: accessing background knowledge, determining importance, asking questions, making mental images, voice, figurative language, compare and contrast, plot, sequence, POV, vocabulary, making inferences, author’s purpose, characters, setting, word choice
SYNOPSIS: We love the message of this book, the fairy tale mash-up, the humor, . . . everything! More Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson tales await in the harrowing, hilarious adventure about Frog, Jack, and Jill on an adventure to seek a magic mirror.
The Wishing Spell (Land of Stories) by Chris Colfer
THEME/TOPICS: fairy tales, family, loyalty, good vs. evil, storytelling, hero’s journey
SKILLS: accessing background knowledge, making connections, determining importance, making inferences, synthesis, figurative language (alliteration, allusion, foreshadowing, personification, metaphor,) characterization, plot
SYNOPSIS: Fairy tales become very real when Alex and Conner (a brother and sister) find themselves taken to the fairy tale world through a book given to them by their grandmother. In the first story, their only way out of the Fairy Tale world is to find the ingredients for a Wishing Spell. Finding the items will be dangerous, mysterious,life-changing. The stories are non-stop adventures in magical, imaginative worlds. My kids couldn’t put these down. (Neither could I.)
The Year of the Book by Andrea Chang
THEME/TOPICS: culture, friendship, books, mean girls, heritage, growing up, family
SKILLS: connecting to background knowledge, character arc, making inferences
SYNOPSIS: Growing up is challenging and in the first novel, The Year of the Book, Anna turns to books for company while she learns how to make friendships in real life. The subsequent books in the series are just as realistic and well-written. I highly recommend this series for 3rd graders.
The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors
THEME/TOPICS: fantasy creatures, animals, kindness, friendship
SKILLS: asking questions, making inferences, determining importance, character traits, plot sequence, problem/solution, compare/contrast
SYNOPSIS: Ben doesn’t think his summer could be any more boring. Until he rescues a baby dragon. He and his new friend, Pearl Petal, learn the town has a secret veterinarian for imaginary creatures. That’s when they accidentally let a Sasquatch escape. Whoops. Now the pair must lure the big guy back to the veterinarian. (Which is easier said than done.) This series is a page-turner.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
THEME/TOPICS: friendship, courage, grief, love, perseverance, family, science vs, fairy tales
SKILLS: making connections, asking questions, character traits & development, making predictions, making inferences, problem/solution, story arc
SYNOPSIS: Stuck in a museum while her father works on a sword exhibit, Ophelia’s curiosity leads her to a locked room where a boy has been trapped for thousands of years. But Ophelia doesn’t believe in that kind of thing. Except– she kind of does. She remembers how her mother used to tell her those stories . . . This is a breathtaking journey of loss, acceptance, hope, and friendship. Go here to see my book club guide about this wonderful read aloud book.
Wild Robot by Peter Brown
THEME/TOPIC: family, kindness, inclusion, belonging, life, technology, nature (forest, predator/prey, habitat, etc,) STEM,
SKILLS: making connections, asking questions, predicting, character development, making mental images, cause/effect, compare/contrast, sequence of events, POV, dialogue, setting
SYNOPSIS: When a ship of robots crashes into an island, Roz is the only survivor. She observes her surroundings, trying to make friends with the animals who consider her a monster. When she adopts a gosling whose family she accidentally killed, everything changes. Roz gets help from other animals to raise her new son, Brightbill. Loudwing helps him learn to swim, the beavers build them a lodge, Tawny the deer helps with the garden. Throughout the months, Roz learns to be more wild and more kind, in the end making the ultimate sacrifice to protect her friends.
Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe
THEME/TOPIC: friendship, family, moving, growing up, dog training/owning
SYNOPSIS: Narrated by Fenway, a young Jack Russell terrier, Fenway isn’t happy that his best buddy, a human girl named Hattie, isn’t playing with him anymore. Fenway’s perspective is hilarious — and will encourage 3rd grade readers to make inferences to figure out what’s going on.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
THEME/TOPIC: teamwork, friendship, board games, libraries
SKILLS: making predictions, asking questions, making inferences, perspective, problem/solution, character traits, synthesizing information
SYNOPSIS: Kyle and a few classmates win a sleepover at the town’s newly created library developed by the rich game-creator Mr. Lemoncello. Once there, the kids have to solve the puzzles around the entire library to get out. Will the kids work together or will it be every person for themselves?
THEME/TOPIC: immigration, refugees, friendship, activism
SKILLS: prediction, asking questions, making inferences, perspective, character arc, problem / solution
More Recommended 3rd Grade Read Aloud Books
Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell
Rump: The Fairly True Tale of Rumplestiltskin by Liesel Shurtliff
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Poppy by Avi
Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
Rules by Cynthia Lord
The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman
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Best Read Alouds for 2nd Grade
The Best Book Series for 3rd Graders