When I look back on my own elementary days (so very long ago), I can’t remember what books my teacher read out loud to us, with one exception: My fourth grade teacher, Mr. Watson. Mr. Watson read us the best books, and he always stopped at the most exciting part, with all of us begging for more. He read us The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and then I had to read the whole Narnia series. We traveled across the tundra with Julie, ran away from the the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Claudia, and learned lessons the hard way with JD and His Brother Tom. Looking back, I can see that Mr. Watson selected his books carefully. All were great literature, of course. But, in addition, most were part of a series, or at the very least from a prolific author so that we could find more to read. I am fairly sure that I have Mr. Watson to thank for my life-long love of reading.
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What can you read to delight and inspire your students?
So, this all leads to the question, what can you read to delight and inspire your students? I asked this question on Facebook and had over 80 responses! Here is a list of their suggestions (along with a few comments from me). To find out more, click on the book title to go to Amazon (please note that these are affiliate links, which means I make a few cents from anything you purchase, but the price is still the same for you whether you use my link or not).
You can also download this printable poster to hang in your classroom. It has a QR code that can be scanned to randomly choose one of the favorites!
Sideways Stories from the Wayside School by Louis Sachar
“I always start the year with my 3rd graders with Sideways Stories from Wayside School.” -Lynne Billiard
There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar
“Beginning of the year I always read, There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom; it lends itself to so many different discussion topics. I warn the kids from the get-go that I will cry, happens EVERY year.” -Stacy Hancock Barnett
“My 4th graders loved it. One of the characters does a major change in the story (from a bully to learning to get along with others). It was a great conversation piece for the kids.” -Betsy Steele
“I love to read There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom; I cry every time I read it because of the hope and believing in a child’s ability to change.” -Georgia Koepke
► I also am a huge fan of this book (and I also cry every time), so much so that I did an entire post on it, which you can read here.
Holes by Louis Sachar
“I also read Holes because I think it it’s one out they most brilliantly constructed books ever written for kids.” -Georgia Koepke”This is a great book to teach/model many reading strategies: inference, flashback, compare/contrast… It also has two unlikely heroes, which students love to read about and relate to.” -Brian Wiltgen
► If you read this and would like to compare it to the movie, you can find a free Book vs. Movie printable here.
Frindle by Andrew Clements
“Frindle…my college professor read it to our lit class when it first came out. It is still one of my favorite read alouds ever. Love Nicholas Allen!” -Angie Richter Lowry
“Frindle – kids can make a difference.” -Christina Allen
My third graders also went bananas for this book! We extended it by making up our own words.
No Talking by Andrew Clements
“No Talking by Andrew Clements. I read it to my 4th graders; they love the story of the most talkingest 5th grade class ever that one day goes silent as the students have a boys vs. girls no talking contest. It is great fun and opens interesting and important conversations about doing what’s right, apologizing when needed, and friendship.” -Brenda Ronnebaum
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and others) by Roald Dahl
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell
The Watsons go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
“The Watsons go to Birmingham is also fantastic! Great for using when discussing the civil rights movement.” -Leah Fick McCollum
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
“My 5th graders looooved it. Even my non-readers couldn’t put it down. It also leads to many great conversations.” -Leah Fick McCollum
After Hamelin by Bill Richardson
“In fifth grade, a little later in the year, I love After Hamelin by Bill Richardson. It continues the Pied Piper story, and is good for multiple time settings, inferences, and fun!” -Debbie Sauer
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O’Brien
“I teach 3rd and have many favorites – the one the kids love the most is Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I love when they start to connect things that are happening and beg me not to stop reading. I like that it describes things that are happening and the kids have to figure things out. I also like that it is an old book, and no kid in all my teaching has ever picked it out to read on their own. Every year the kids tell me it is their favorite.” -Sherie Malta
“Silver Crown by Robert O’Brien…wonderful characters, very suspenseful with a lot of twists…all my 5th graders say it was the best book of the year. Not sure I would go younger!” -Faith Siegrist
“I try to finish up the year with Because of Winn-Dixie. We love to create images and do so many other reading strategies with it.” -Jamie Walters
“Because of Winn-Dixie is one I read every year! It has great characters, and the students seem to always love the story. It’s a personal favorite of mine.” -Taliha Gipson
“There are so many themes, but the greatest one is about loneliness and making friends. Students can create their top 10 things about themselves or someone special in their lives. We usually watch the movie later in the year and use a Venn diagram to compare the book and the movie. I also ask students to compare how they pictured characters in their heads while reading with how they were portrayed in the movie. They love it!” -Joy Penner
“If you want to address bullying, Because of Mr. Terrupt is amazing. It is about a 4th grade class, but I used it in middle school. Also, anything by Peg Kehret because she is reader friendly, but intense. Firegirl is also great.” -Becky Askin
“AWESOME!!!! Mr. Terupt is a new teacher to the school and to the 5th grade class…his teaching techniques are unique but inspiring…there is a bully, geeks, quiet boy, one that hates school, then tragedy strikes…and the 5th graders have to use all that they have been learning from this teacher to get through this…Read it first…you need to know what happens before you read it aloud!!! One of the BEST books I have ever read…not even as a child’s book.” -Stacy Hindin Stark
Top Ten Ways to Ruin the First Day of School by Kenneth Derby
“The students love the adventures of TB as he tried to get on the David Letterman Show. It is full of laughs and an easy read.” -Janice Edgar
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
“I love to read Where the Red Fern Grows – I use it in the second semester as we are discussing figurative language. It is also good to use for teaching various emotions readers go through while reading the book. My fourth graders love it. We laugh and cry all the way through the book.” -Shannon Hickok Bell
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
“Number the Stars is my favorite book. We always start the year reading that book. I have a classroom set, though, so it may not exactly be a read aloud, because sometimes they read to me. It provides opportunities for class discussions. I am also able to incorporate quite a few different skills into our discussions (context clues, main idea, sequencing, etc.) For some reason each year it seems to be the favorite among the majority of my students. We read lots of historical fiction, but they seem to especially get into this time in history and all that was happening in different parts of the world. Without all the fabulous language arts skills I weave into it, the story is just an incredible story of bravery, courage, sacrifice, and friendship.” -Mindy Tripp
► This is also a favorite of mine, though I have used it for reading groups rather than read aloud.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
Storm Runners by Roland Smith
“I teach 5th grade. I began last year with the chapter book Storm Runners by Roland Smith. It is so exciting and really grabs the attention of my boy readers with its strong male character and my girls with its brave and confident female character. I love the book, and my students beg for me to continue the series (three total books). It’s a great way to introduce kids to a fabulous writer and start them with a thrilling series!” -Jen Kiger McElroy
“I always read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the beginning of the year. My 4th graders love the characters, especially Fudge and his antics!” -Marianna DiPietro Wentz
“I love reading Tales of Fourth Grade Nothing, just a funny read and the kids can always relate.” -Marla Rattner
“I’ve always read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to start the year with my fourth graders….this year I figured I would use this book to launch the reading workshop, reading response logs, etc. The kids love Fudge and his antics!” -Lesley Taylor
“The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. The main character is a china rabbit who learns to love. My 4th graders beg me to keep reading.” -Shannon Cassevah Smith
“The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Di Camillo is outstanding. Great for character study and how a character changes over time. Beautiful book!” -Sandy Bayha Bajczuk
“My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George. We would read this story before we went on our annual 4th grade camping trip. It’s a coming-of-age story about a boy who leaves his home to live and survive on his own in the mountains.” -Jennifer Cramer Armour
“The best book for boys is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. A real adventure with a beautiful ending.” -Olivia Wolfe
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
“This book is so beautifully written, with many characteristics woven through it, like trust, friendship, acceptance, and love. The author does a wonderful job!!” -Jody Lynne Billiard
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
“Charlotte’s Web. There’s no other book like it to teach my fourth graders about friendship.” -Liz Silva Luebke
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
“For sheer fun and fantasy, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone! Invariably, many of my students pick up the next books in the series after we read this one!” -Liz Silva Luebke
Starting School with an Enemy by Elisa Carbone
“Starting School with an Enemy – perfect for fifth graders, and it talks about how getting even can create even more trouble.” -Rebecca Cox
Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
“I love A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I have read it to third graders and fourth graders, and they are immediately hooked! It is written on a sixth or seventh grade level, but it has a lot of rich vocabulary and sophisticated humor. I model thinking aloud, introduce new words, and make predictions based on foreshadowing clues. I highly recommend the series!” -Jenifer Watson Stewart
Granny by Anthony Horowitz
I have read Granny by Anthony Horowitz to my 10-,11-, and 12-year-olds. They love it, and it has some excellent character description in it that I use as models when teaching character writing. Anything by Anthony Horowitz is great really.
Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
“Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco. This book lets kids know that anyone can overcome obstacles. I love that the teacher ‘saves’ the child and helps her value herself. Sometimes our students feel that they have to keep things hidden, but this book shows how others can help, when they know the problem.” -Edna Armstrong
Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli
“Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli. I use it at the beginning of the year to tie in with showing good character.” -Jamie Walters
“I love to read Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinneli. It has such a good theme, and the kids absolutely love it. It is something that every student can relate to in one way or another.” -Jill Burkhart Slocum
“Fourth Grade Rats by J. Spinelli because it gets the class laughing and sends a great message all at the same time!” -Chrissy Rene
Skeleton Creek by Patricia Carman
“I like to read Skeleton Creek to my class. They love, love, love the videos that go with the book. I chose this book because there are three more books in the series, and I like integration with technology, and so do my students.”
-Hazel Wiley Lochhaas
Island (series) by Gordon Korman
“I read the Gordon Korman series, Island, at the beginning of the year because it really grabs the kids, and it is perfect for character and author’s technique. There really is a purpose for each of the characters, and it opens up great discussions. :)” -Crystal Brooks Merrifield
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
“My kids love The Boxcar Children. It hooks them to the rest of the series. The look on their faces when THEY know about the grandfather and the children don’t yet is so precious.” -Debbi Wilson Watson
“The Phantom Tollbooth. The author uses language in the most interesting ways. I use it for discussion about language and for vocabulary.” -Missy Gaston
► If you have missed this classic book, be sure to give it a try…such a brilliant concept!
“It is a great story and a great springboard for talking about traditions, differences between families, and loss. The discussions based on the book are endless. The kids love it. I have made copies of specific text and events in the story to use during reading workshop for independent reading conferences. The kids are so familiar with the text that I recycle it all year long. After this we always read Flying Solo.” -Rande Siper
The 39 Clues Series by Rick Riordan
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
Skinnybones by Barbara Park
Danger in the Desert by T.S Fields
“Every chapter ends with them wanting more. It’s so exciting to see the kids get into the story.” -Stacy Ward
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Leon and the Spitting Image by Allen Kurzweil
Once by Morris Gleitzman
Walking with the Dead by LM Falcone
Niagara Falls, or Does It? by Henry Winkler
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
A Christmas Sonata by Gary Paulsen
The Day My Butt Went Psycho by Andy Griffiths
“I had a class that loved gross humor. So, we read some of The Day My Butt Went Psycho. I laughed so hard that I cried!” -Charlotte Tyson Jones
A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
“I love reiterating to my students that it is OK to be themselves no matter what others think. I even painted stripes on my face for Read Aloud Day.” – Demarian Hall
Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
“Because it also talks about words. Each of us has a bucket, and we fill ours if we do something nice, while filling another’s bucket. We also empty ours when we do something wrong.” -Denise Mazzarisi Dirlik
Here are some more you might want to check out:
“I recommend books by Eve Bunting – picture books with intermediate themes like: How Many Days to America? (immigration), Fly Away Home (living homeless in an airport), Smoky Night (LA riots), The Wall (Vietnam memorial), etc.” -Nancy Loberg Reinhiller
“Stone Fox is wonderful for 3rd grade. I also like to read an A to Z Mystery to introduce that series of books. Last year I read Earthquake Terror, and even though it was a bit scary, the kids really liked it.” -Monica Horn
“Great ‘everybody’ books for read aloud: Llama Llama Red Pajama, The Recess Queen, Fortunately, No Such Thing as Dragons, I Wish I was Sick, Too. My 4th graders have thoroughly enjoyed the short reads. Choose Your Own Adventure books make for good read alouds, as well as encouraging mutual decision making. Sisters Grimm series, Among the Hidden…or any Margaret Peterson Haddix book, for that matter! Beverly Cleary, Andrew Clements, Mo Willems, Lemony Snicket. The Graveyard Book, The Black Book of Secrets, Horns and Wrinkles, Catwings, BFG, Walk Two Moons, The Very Sad Story of Betty O’Dare, Stargirl, The Book of Story Beginnings, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, Bunnicula, Noisy Nora, Wait Till Helen Comes, Tikki Tikki Tembo, My Great Aunt Arizona, The Book Thief, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle …. So many wonderful books!” -April Dawn Davidson
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Do you have more to add? Please comment with your favorites.
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