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30 Best Books for Elementary Readers (page 2)

30 Best Books for Elementary Readers

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based on 29 ratings
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Updated on Apr 17, 2014

Second Grade

Hint: A mix of picture books and short chapter books will help keep your new reader feeling confident!

  1. Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian (Houghton Mifflin, 1998) One man uses his dream of photographing snowflakes to create a gift for the world.  This picture book biography is rich with discussion points, and is a pleasure to share across the grade levels.
  2. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2004) A hilarious Zen guide to elementary education in the schoolhouse that was built thirty stories high.
  3. Rickshaw Girl by Matali Perkins (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2007) When Naima tries to maneuver her father's beautiful, newly-painted rickshaw, it appears she has brought rack and ruin to her family, possibly even causing her mother to sell a cherished bangle that has been passed down through generations. Dressed as a boy, she tries to create a new solution that will prevent further hardship. A wonderful example of modern multicultural children’s literature.
  4. The Empty Pot by Demi (Henry Holt and Co., 2007) An emperor announces a gardening contest to find his successor, but fraudulent foliage among the competitors is sprouting like weeds. The king has a trick up his sleeve to find the worthy winner.  This parable brings home the importance of honesty without being preachy.  Did you know this illustrator has been known to use a mouse’s whisker to paint these lovely, jeweled pictures?
  5. Poop by Nicola Davies (Candlewick Press, 2007) Every page flows over with absolutely fascinating fecal facts, from the double-dose of digesting power that pellets afford to rabbits or the tell-tale dumps of sloths, otters and hippos that speak (or stink) louder than words. Overall, a remarkably engaging and informative science book that rises far above its genre's foul beginnings, and will make a novice scientist out of your favorite fart-joke-teller (you know you have one).  I love this book so much, I keep a copy in my own bathroom.

Other Authors:  Jack Prelutsky, John Sciezka, Chris Van Allsburg, Ruth Stiles Gannett, Suzy Klin

Third Grade

Hint: Don’t fear series books!  Most lifelong readers have these on their reading menu as children.

  1. Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (Harpercollins, 1992) Ramona tries to be good, but the prospect of pulling Susan’s boing-boing curls proves a little too hard to resist.  Introduce kids to the series star Ramona, and you’ll be introducing them to a friend for life! (Readers who want a more contemporary protagonist will fall in love with Clementine by Sara Pennypacker).
  2. Frindle by Andrew Clements (Aladdin, 1998)A boy invents a new word and makes an adversary of his dictionary-devout teacher.  Could it be that teachers are real people, too?  This author is a master of stories set at school, with conflicts that kids will readily recognize.
  3. The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Willliams (Kingfisher, 2005) A toy ventures out into the wide world to seek his fortune and to help the man who made him.  This book is a sleeper that keeps listeners wide awake; I have shared it out loud with over a hundred children, and it never failed to delight. 
  4. Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Harcourt Trade Publishers, 2003) Though their crops may have withered, a seed was germinating in young Cesar Chavez, a child of migrants who would grow up to lead a 300-mile march for worker’s rights.  This is an extremely powerful book that underscores the bravery and resolve it takes to engage in non-violent protest, and rightly puts Chavez on the same scaffolding as Martin Luther King as a champion of peace.  Picture-book biographies like this one are a great way to get kids to find mentors outside of their own communities and experiences!
  5. Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng (Harper Collins Canada, 2004) It seems like Molly’s dreary world will never take an upward swing until she comes across a strange book in the library which introduces her to the mysterious and powerful world of hypnotism. She uses her power to do amazing things at a local talent show, and it seems like Molly will finally find the life she has been dreaming about. Little does Molly know that a criminal mastermind is hot on the trail of the precious volume that she holds in her hand. Fans of J.K. Rowling and Roald Dahl will love the snarky humor and suspense, and animal lovers will adore her pug companion.

Other Authors: Don Brown, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Patricia Polacco, Loreen Leedy, Roald Dahl

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