I’m continuing my read-aloud book recommendations, this week is for 5th grade. (Fifth grade is ages 11-12.) Use these read aloud books to teach things like reading strategies, literary devices, character arc, and more. Also, you can integrate the historical and realistic fiction books on this list to with your current events and history content.
More Read Aloud Book Lists:
Read Aloud Books for 5th Grade
Realistic Read Alouds
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Hands-down this is one of the best, most life-changing books you’ll ever read. Narrated by Melody, we learn what it’s like for her to be trapped in a body with cerebral palsy that doesn’t allow her to speak or take care of herself. No one except her parents thinks that she’s smart. But she is smart. And one day, she gets a chance to prove it with adaptive technology. Not only that, she qualifies to be on the school’s quiz team but the team isn’t as welcome as you might think. Heartbreaking. Real. Inspiring. Beautifully written.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Aven Green is used to making up creative stories for why she doesn’t have any arms. Especially now in Arizona where her parents are the new managers a rundown theme park. She befriends a boy at school who, like her, feels different and isolated from the other kids. His name is Connor and he has Tourette Syndrome. Together, he, another new friend named Zion, and Aven investigate a mysterious storage shed at the theme park which leads them to Aven’s biological past. This story is about restorative friendship, facing your fears, and discovering your true potential. What’s more, the physical and mental diversity is shown with strength and compassion.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
BOOKS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS – OCD
My daughter and I love this book — it was her favorite of 2018. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is a thoughtful coming-of-age story about a girl genius with OCD whose grandma wants her to go to public middle school for three reasons: to make a friend, read a non-math book, and join a school activity. Although she’s reluctant to go, Lucy finds friends and connects with a rescue dog for a school project. In short, it’s a well-written, heart-warming story that will change your perspective of mental illness and give you hope for humanity.
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Harbor Me tackles very big issues including race, immigration, bullying, learning differences, friendship, and forgiveness. The story is about six diverse children with learning differences. They bond during a special group, kids-only time on Friday afternoons where they share their stories, many of which Haley records on a tape recorder. Even as she learns the others’ stories, Haley is reluctant to share how her own dad is in jail for the car accident killing her mother. Eventually, she shares and it’s beautiful to see how the other kids support her.
MORE Realistic Read Alouds
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
Luminous and heartfelt, 11-year-old Alex Petroski’s story will grab your heart and expand it. His dream is to launch a rocket into space with his iPod of recordings about life on earth. The story is a transcription of what Alex records on the iPod such as his solo journey to the rocket convention, the interesting people he befriends on the way and there, his trip Las Vegas to find information about his deceased father, as well as his unique, innocent perspective that tries to make sense of the world.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Basketball player and twin Josh narrates his life in quarters, just like the game he plays. He writes about missing his twin, Jordan who is distant now that he has a girlfriend, about getting in trouble when he hits Jordan in the face with a basketball, and about watching his father as his father’s heart fails. This is a relatable coming-of-age story. Plus, this sports-loving kids will love all the basketball.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Both “a meditation on kindness” and not judging people by how they look on the outside, but by their character. Wonder helps us see compassion, empathy, and acceptance from a variety of character’s points of view. Auggie, a boy with a facial difference, starts public school for the first time in 5th grade. His experience, though often difficult, shows his inner strength. In the end, kindness wins over bullying!
Unteachables by Gordon Korman
Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
I can’t recommend this book enough — it will make kids think deeply. Angry at the world, 15-year old Cole beats a classmate into a coma and subsequent brain damage. To avoid the jail time, Cole agrees to spend a year by himself on an island in Alaska, thinking he’ll escape as soon as possible. But after Cole almost dies trying to escape, he decides to give the year-long process a chance. As readers experience Cole’s pain and anger, it makes his healing and transformation that much more powerful.
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Historical Fiction Read Alouds
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when the London children are evacuated during WWII and go to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust but slowly the trust grows and all three regain something lost — hope and love. “I slipped my hand into hers. A strange and unfamiliar feeling rand through me. It felt like the ocean, like sunlight, like horses. Like love. I searched my mind and found the name for it. Joy.” I can’t recommend this book enough, it just touched my heart at such a deep level. Furthermore, the sequel, The War I Finally Won, is also an incredible, beautiful story.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Lowry does an excellent job at writing about WWII in a way that isn’t too scary or inappropriate for kids. Annemarie’s best friend hides Annemarie’s Jewish family. The tension is high as the Nazis are everywhere looking for Jews or Jewish sympathizers. It’s challenging to hide knowing that every day you could be caught and sent to a death camp. Finally, the family escapes to Sweden where they will be safe from the Nazis.
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Wow. This book is an eye-opening, timely book. Follow three distinct, alternating stories about being displaced from your country, on the run, and in danger. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba, only to be turned away from the Cuban port and sent back to Europe. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who, with her family and neighbors, flees in a homemade raft to the United States at great peril. Finally, is a story about a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. He and his family travel a great distance to find a country that will allow them shelter. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.
Chains, Forge, Ashes (Seeds of America) by Laurie Halse Anderson
Live the Civil War time period through the eyes of an African-American girl named Isabel and her friend, Cuzon. Enslaved, escaped, or enlisted, these two are determined survivors. The writing is amazing and the stories are captivating. I love and highly recommend these books; they’ll transport your 5th grade students back into this time in U.S. history. Boxed Set Here.
Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
It would be hard as an author not to vilify this country for sending thousands of Japanese Americans to prison camps. But this author doesn’t. She just skillfully shares the evocative story of 10-year old Manami of Washington State, who is sent with her family to a dusty camp, leaving behind her beloved dog, Yujiin, and everything else her family-owned. Devastated, Manami stops speaking. Her story is painful, sprinkled with hope, and all too real. Schools don’t always teach this shameful history — but they need to start.
Sci-Fi Read Alouds
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
I’ve read this book aloud so many times — and every time it’s just as fantastic. (That doesn’t always happen with books.) A Wrinkle in Time is a remarkable, well-written adventure in space that deals with the overarching theme of good vs. evil. Meg and her brother, Charles Wallace, and friend, Calvin, set off to find her missing scientist father who disappeared while researching tesseracts. They’ll be helped by three wise creatures, be tempted by evil, and eventually find that good does triumph over evil.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien
This is a classic, excellent Newbery winning book about highly intelligent lab rats and mice who escape from the lab and form their own community on a farm. When a field mouse named Mrs. Frisby encounters trouble with a sick son, she turns to the rats for help. That’s when she learns the truth about her husband’s previous life. In fact, this was always one of my fifth graders’ favorite read-aloud books.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Set in a dystopian society, this Newbery medal winner grabs your attention and keeps it until the end. What is going on in this community? When Jonas is assigned his job as “Receiver of Memory” he learns just how much his hidden and controlled. Ultimately, he’ll have to decide just what he’ll do with this horrifying information. Not only is this a thought-provoking story, but it will also introduce your 5th grade readers to dystopian fiction.