Looking for a good book for fifth grade, ages 10 and 11? Use these read aloud book ideas 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
Mia and her parents have struggled ever since moving to America from China. When her parents take a new live-in job at a motel, they end up working around the clock for very little pay. Mia helps out by working at the front desk. She befriends the weekly tenants and uses her English skills to write letters advocating other people in tough spots— like her uncle whose sweatshop boss has taken his passport and weekly, Hank, who needs a letter of recommendation to get a job. This book is more than a memorable coming-of-age immigrant story, it’s also about tolerance, determination, and diversity.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Okay, wow! This book is brilliantly written for so many reasons. First of all, because it addresses the very real issue of police violence against black children but it does not vilify or stereotype. Second of all, the author shows us the complexity of issues and the humanity of a police officer from the perspective of his daughter. After Jerome is unjustly shot, he becomes a ghost. Sarah, the police officer’s daughter, is the only one who can see and talk to him except for the other ghost boys who were also killed in racially motivated violence. It’s a well-written, fast-paced read about important current issues.
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
Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh
I can’t recommend this book enough!! Marsh writes a stunning novel about two young boys from very different backgrounds — one is a refugee from Syria while the other is an American who has just moved to Belgium. Interwoven in this timely, poignant story are the big issues of refugees, prejudice, fear, friendship, and kindness. To avoid the overcrowded refugee centers, Ahmed hides in the basement of the house where Max lives with his family. When he’s discovered by Max, the boys develop a friendship, enrolls in school, and continues hiding. And it works. But it can’t last forever. Because a local policeman suspects something…
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
Funny, sensitive, well-written, brilliantly paced, relatable, and poignant. The middle school assigns the worst teacher, Mr. Kermit, to the so-called worst kids –the class known as the unteachables. It’s clear to the students in this class that Mr. Kermit does not care even a little bit about teaching. Or disciplining. Or any of them. As we get to know the kids in this small class, something surprising happens. The teacher next door, the daughter of Mr. Kermit’s former fiance, gets Mr. Kermit to start caring. And that opens the doors to important classroom changes including the class’ unexpected and transformative field trips.
Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya
Each Tiny Spark is one of the best books about learning differences that I’ve ever read that also tackles PTSD and prejudice in a beautiful, important story. Emilia is a Cuban-America girl whose ADHD makes focusing on school and school work a challenge. Her mom helps her stay on top of her assignments but her mom leaves for a work trip, leaving Emilia on her own. During this time, the community proposes to redraw the school district’s boundary lines, exposing prejudice and ongoing injustice. Emilia initially doesn’t want to see her friend Clarissa’s racism but her best friend Gus helps her see the truth about what’s going on. She becomes a passionate activist against injustice. Meanwhile, Emilia’s father’s return from the Marine’s is different than before; he’s quiet and distant this time. When he invites Emilia to work on a vintage car, teaching Emilia to weld, it helps rebuild their relationship, too.
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
This is the story of sisters and brothers and resiliency and courage. Set in India, Viji writes this story as letters to you, her little sister Rukku who has intellectual disabilities. Viji tells how the two of them ran away from an abusive father to the big city where they met two friendly brothers and lived with them under a bridge, scrabbling to survive by collecting trash. Their lives are hard but made easier by the two boys, their new “brothers.” When Rukku gets a terrible cough and fever, so does one of the brothers. And what happens next almost destroys Viji. She wonders how prayers and faith can coexist with misery and pain. Ultimately, it is the kindness of her new “family” that helps her to see more than misery in the world. It’s an honest, eye-opening story that reveals the plight of many homeless children in India and yet, finds a way to be hopeful, too.
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Amal’s life is turned upside down when she offends a regional Pakistani overlord. She is forced to leave her home and school in order to work for the overlord in his home as a servant — indefinitely. Amal finds her inner strength and fights back, freeing herself and the other household slaves. The author skillfully sets the scene of rural Pakistan making you feel transported. In addition, you’ll feel the injustice and cheer for Amal’s bravery.
Wink by Rob Harrell
I highly recommend this funny, standout cancer story based on the author’s life for readers who like humorous but emotion-filled stories. When Ross is diagnosed with a rare kind of tumor, he immediately starts radiation treatment. School becomes pretty challenging because his eye is goopy, he has to wear a hat, and his hair starts falling out in clumps– among other things made funny with his cartoon drawings. A goofy, kind-hearted radiation tech gets Ross interested in alternative punk music, and in order to impress a girl, Ross asks the tech for guitar lessons. Turns out, the guitar and his new music, help Ross both express his frustrations and find his joy, leading to some surprising results — like a new, unexpected friend. (Note: Contains a few bad words.)
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.
Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell
Indian No More is an emotional, important story about when the U.S. government arbitrarily made certain Native American tribes no longer tribes without reservations or legal rights. It also shows the historical landscape of prejudice and stereotypes towards people of color. But it also shows, and I love, a close-knit, loving family based on the author’s own life, a family who values each other and their survival. This book is a must-read and must-own for all schools and libraries and would make an excellent book club selection.
Also on: OwnVoices Historical Fiction Chapter Books
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
This is the amazing & powerful biography of a boy with courage and hope who walked across Africa to find a better life. We also learn the story of an African village for whom water is a two-hour walk, and how the boy, now a man, builds a well for the village.
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.
The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman
This story that explores what happens after Chernobyl explodes in 1986; it’s about Russia, friendship, family, and prejudice. When Jewish Valentina and her enemy Oksana are forced to leave town together after the meltdown, we learn why Oksana acts the way she does, because of fear and abuse from her father. Once she gets away, she starts tamzn.to/2eeiiwUo think for herself and finds that Jews are not bad but actually very kind. The girls end up in Leningrad with Valentina’s grandmother and the months there are a healing time with unconditional love. Interspersed with this story is another story of a Jewish girl named Rifka who flees her home when the German army arrives in 1941. Heartwarming, insightful, and beautiful, this book is impossible to put down with wise life lessons.
Chains (Seeds of America) by Laurie Halse Anderson
Live the Revolutionary 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.
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