50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

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Welcome to Amy’s Bookshelf! Here, teachers will find carefully curated book lists for each grade level from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Moving forward, new lists filled with book recommendations will be published weekly. Sometimes, these lists will be organized around a specific theme, like a holiday or seasonal event. Other times, they will feature rockstar books – books practically guaranteed to get your students reading. 

Before jumping into reading recommendations, a few words about how books are selected.

First, it is so important that teachers prioritize reading interest over reading level. Students will often choose to read well above or below their reading level if they are particularly interested in a book or topic. Teachers only hurt students by limiting them to a specific selection of titles grouped according to an arbitrary number or level. Think of the books on these lists as starting places for you and your students, but if a student wants to read up (or down), that is a-ok.

Also, please note that these lists lean heavily toward modern selections as opposed to the classics many teachers are familiar with. A true renaissance is happening in children’s literature today, and the books coming out are truly exciting. One of the factors that makes this such an exciting time for kid lit is how diverse the selections are in terms of genre, characters and subject matter. These lists will feature fiction and nonfiction selection as well as graphic novels, novels written in verse, and more.

Any book list or classroom library worth its salt includes books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, racially diverse characters, characters with disabilities, characters in the foster care system, characters from a wide variety of socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, and so on. Importantly, the diversity of the characters doesn’t always need to be the focus of the literature – in other words, a book featuring a black character or gay character doesn’t need to be about those individuals exploring their blackness or their gayness; those characters can have kid problems that apply to all children regardless of their race or sexual orientation. Similarly, students should be encouraged to read stories featuring people of diversity all year long – not just during a month set aside to celebrate a specific heritage.

One final note: today’s children’s literature does not shy away from frank discussions of gender, race, sex, sexuality, abuse, mental illness, and more – nor should it. I will not censor books from these lists based on these controversial areas. What books you recommend will depend on the specific district you work in and your clientele. I encourage you and your students to read widely without fear.

Third grade

These third-grade books assume children are reading fairly independently and have graduated from easy readers. The list still contains picture books, as research shows that reading aloud helps children of all ages, but there are more chapter books included than in previous lists.

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1. Love

by Matt de la Peña,illustrated by Loren Long

Love written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Loren Long cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

This soft picture book explores the various ways love enters our lives in a way easily understood by children. It contains one of the most beautiful descriptions of grief imaginable.

2. Last Stop on Market Street

by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson cover_ 50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Last Stop on Market Street won the 2016 Newbery Medal and was a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book as well. This is the story of a grandmother and her grandson riding the bus home after church. When the child questions why they ride a bus instead of drive home, the grandmother helps him see the unique beauty in his world, regardless of circumstances.

3. She Persisted

by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

She Persisted  cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Chelsea Clinton writes about 13 women who refuse to compromise their beliefs in the face of adversity. Subjects include well-known American women such as Helen Keller, Nelly Bly and Harriet Tubman.

4. Esperanza Rising

by Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Esperanza and Mama are forced to leave Mexico for a California work camp, uprooting the life Esperanza had planned for herself. Her new circumstances prove to be difficult, especially when Mama becomes sick, forcing Esperanza to rise above adversity. 

5. Teacup

by Rebecca Young and illustrated by Matt Ottley

Teacup cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Teacup is an allegorical story for children experiencing change in the form of a big move or a change in family circumstances. In this story, a young, unnamed boy leaves his home to sail for a new land – but before he does, he brings a scoopful of earth in a teacup with him. He nurtures the earth until it can be planted in his new home.

6. The Blacker the Berry

by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

The Blacker the Berry cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

The Blacker the Berry is a poetry collection celebrating the beauty of the many forms of black. This is a book that explores diversity and encourages children to love their own skin.

7. This Day in June

by Gayle E. Pitman and illustrated by Kristyna Litten

This Day in June cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

This is an age-appropriate exploration of the LGBTQIA+ community as readers are invited inside a Pride Parade. The book includes a parent guide helpful when addressing sexual orientation with elementary-aged children.

8. Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea

by Joyce Carol Oates and illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Poet Joyce Carol Thomas takes readers inside the African American home and family in this collection of poems.

9. Flotsam

by David Wiesner

Flotsam by David Wiesner cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

In this wordless picture book, a boy goes to the beach to explore the flotsam that has washed ashore. He finds an underwater camera and uses it to document his day of discovery.

10. Lon Po-Po: A Red Riding Hood Tale from China

by Ed Young

Lon Po-Po: A Red Riding Hood Tale from China cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

As the title suggests, Lon Po-Po is a version of Little Red Riding Hood, albiet with different angles than the American tale. In this story, three girls left at home open the door to a trickster wolf. The wolf blows out the candles and disappears inside the house. The girls collectively use their wits to survive – no woodsman needed to rescue them.

11. Owl Moon

by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr

Owl Moon cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

A father and his daughter take a quiet, contemplative walk through the woods in search of owls. Owl Moon won the 1988 Caldecott Medal.

12. Charlotte’s Web

by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Charlotte’s Web was published in 1952 and was selected as a Newbery Honor Book. It has endured as a classic of children’s literature. This is the story of a pig named Wilbur who befriends Charlotte the spider. Charlotte, with the help of Templeton the rat, saves Wilbur from Papa’s axe.

13. The Water Horse

by Dick King-Smith

The Water Horse cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Kirstie hatches a strange egg she finds, and what comes out is a strange creature her grandfather calls a water horse. Inevitably, the water horse grows and grows, and Kirstie must find a safe home for it.

14. The One and Only Ivan

by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

At the center of this story is Ivan, a real gorilla who spent 27 years living in a shopping mall in Washington state. This story is told from Ivan’s perspective in a first-person narration and it won the Newbery Medal.

15. The End of the Beginning

by Avi

The End of the Beginning by Avi cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Avon the snail and Edward the ant set out to have an adventure in this short chapter book. The friends learn the importance of seizing the day in this simple fable.

16. Ginger Pye

by Eleanor Estes

Ginger Pye cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

The Pye family has a dog named Ginger who is the smartest and most beloved dog in the whole town. One day, Ginger is stolen and the Pye children must get him back!

17. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

by Robert C. O’Brien

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Mrs. Frisby must move her family immediately, but her youngest son is ill and cannot be moved. Luckily, the rats of NIMH come to her rescue. This classic story won the Newbery Medal.

18. The Wall

by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Ronald Himler

The Wall cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

A boy and his father visit the Vietnam Memorial and search for a relative’s name on the wall.

19. Blue Sky, White Stars

by Sarvinder Naberhaus and illustrated Kadir Nelson 

Blue Sky, White Stars cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Blue Sky, White Stars celebrates America and its imagery. This book tells the story of our icons, from the American flag to fans watching a baseball game. It’s a book that is American as apple pie and is a great tool to teach readers about what it means to be an American.

20. The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

The true story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, the nine-year-old girl arrested during the Freedom Marches in Birmingham, Alabama in the summer of 1963. It’s an empowering read that teaches readers that even children can have a voice.

21. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism as a young girl. Her mind connects with animals in a unique way and thus she has become one of the biggest voices in animal welfare today. This is a strong picture book biography that is written in engaging, rhyming text.

22. The Lorax

by Dr. Seuss

The Lorax cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

This story is narrated by the Once-ler, a man who cut down all the trees and polluted the earth to produce his products. He was warned by a creature known as the Lorax who “speaks for the trees” but did not heed the warning. Now, the Once-ler urges readers to learn from his mistakes and take care of the planet.

23. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

In real life, Miss Rumphius was known as the Lupin Lady and she planted lupin seeds all along the coast of Maine. Visitors today can still see the blooming lupins that are her legacy.

24. The Way Things Work Now

by David Macaulay

The Way Things Work Now cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

This is an updated version of the bestselling book The Way Things Work. It walks readers through modern technology with the help of a woolly mammoth sidekick. A helpful glossary helps explain technical jargon.

25. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

by William Joyce

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

Get it HERE.

After Morris Lessmore’s personal library is destroyed by a storm, he finds an abandoned library and cares for it. A message about the importance of story runs deep. This book was written after a short film of the same name won the Oscar for short film.

26. Moonshot

by Brian Floca

Moonshot by Brian Floca cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Author/illustrator Brian Floca is well-known for his ability to take readers on a journey, as he demonstrated in his book Locomotive (also well-worth checking out). In Moonshot, Floca takes readers through the successful Apollo 11 moon mission in stunning detail.

27. The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever

by  H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McLemurry

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Katherine Olivia Sessions, or Kate, is the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a science degree. She takes a job teaching in the dry desert of San Diego and soon misses the trees she grew up with. Gardeners from all over the world sent her seeds, and she planted them, transforming San Diego. Her city gardens thrive to this day.

28. The Day Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors

by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tony Persiani

The Day Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Two brothers experiment with a blacklight and invent flourescent color to enhance a magic act. Their work is all around us, as flourescent colors permeate our everyday world, as this book demonstrates quite well.

29. Diary of a Wimpy Kid

by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Greg Heffley tries to navigate middle school life. His friend, Rowley, is always by his side. This book is the first in a series of novel-comic books that feature Greg’s mishaps and adventures. Young readers who start this series early may very well keep reading it through their own middle school years.

30. Shiloh

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Shiloh cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Shiloh is the story of a stray dog who shows up at Marty’s house. Marty quickly finds out the dog belongs to his neighbor, who regularly abuses Shiloh. Marty must figure out what to do.

31. Cleared for Takeoff: The Ultimate Book of Flight

by Rowland White

Cleared for Takeoff: The Ultimate Book of Flight cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Like the title promises, this book covers every imaginable element of flight, from the Wright brothers to the space shuttle. It even includes information to fold your own paper airplanes.

32. The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters

by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Henrik Drescher

The Gruesome Guide to World Monsters cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

This book details 60-plus monsters from all over the world. Some are as close to home as the Midwest and others are from as far away as Japan and Russia. Each monster comes with a handy “gruesomeness rating.”  

33. How Much is a Million

by David M. Schwartz and illustrated by Steven Kellogg

How Much is a Million cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Marvelosissimo the mathematical magician helps young readers visualize just how big abstract numbers like one millon and one billion really are.

34. Because of Winn-Dixie

by Kate DiCamillo

Because of Winn-Dixie cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Because of Winn-Dixie is a simple yet profound story about a stray dog who changes a young girl’s life. Its power is in its simplicity.

35. The Phantom Tollbooth

by Norton Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer

The Phantom Tollbooth cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

A tollbooth suddenly appears in Milo’s room and he drives through mostly because he’s bored. On the other side, he finds a fantastical land and learns that life isn’t so boring after all.

36. The Jumbies

by Tracy Baptiste

The Jumbies cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Corinne thinks the legends of the jumbies are just scary stories the Haitian parents tell their children to keep them from misbehaving. But that all changes one All Hallow’s Eve.

37. Captain Underpants

by Dav Pilkey

Captain Underpants cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Two fourth grade class clowns love to create their own comic books, and they come up with their own superhero who happens to be Captain Underpants. This is the first book in a long series that is sure to hook kids and keep them reading.

38. Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper

by Kazu Kibuishi

Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

This is an incredibly popular graphic novel series about two children who move into an old family home that proves to be mysterious…and a bit dangerous.

39. Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

by Chris Grabenstein

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Kyle wins a spot as one of 12 children invited to a sleepover at the new town library – a library that just so happens to have been designed by Luigi Lemoncello, Kyle’s hero and the most famous game designer in the world. The kids must solve riddles to find Lemoncello’s secrets.

40. As Brave As You Are

by Jason Reynolds

As Brave As You Are cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Brothers Genie and Ernie are leaving New York City and spending the summer with their grandparents in the country. This coming-of-age story explores themes of masculinity, bravery, and what it means to grow up.

41. Ramona Quimbly, Age 8

by Beverly Cleary

Ramona Quimbly, Age 8 cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Ramona Quimbly is in third grade, and as a third grader, her parents trust her to act more responsibly than ever before. The trouble is, Ramona is not quite sure she’s ready for the extra responsibility.

42. Myth-o-mania: Get to Work, Hercules!

by Kate McMullan

Myth-o-mania: Get to Work, Hercules! cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

The myth-o-mania series dramatizes classic Greek myths to introduce them to young readers in chapter book format. In this particular title, readers learn all about the hero Hercules.

43. The Boxcar Children

by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Boxcar Children cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

The Boxcar Children is a book series many of today’s teachers and parents grew up with, but it remains a good choice for children’s chapter books. Four tight-knit children are orphaned and taken in by their grandfather. Together, they solve mysteries. The boxcar series contains well over a hundred titles.

44. The Wild Robot

by Peter Brown

The Wild Robot cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

A robot named Roz finds herself on a deserted island and must learn from the animal inhabitants to adapt and survive.

45. Drawn Together

by Minh Le and illustrated by Dave Santat

Drawn Together cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

At first, a language barrier separates a young boy from his grandfather, but soon enough they discover the common language (and their shared love) of art. Thai language appears throughout the story.

46. In the Past: From Trilobites to Dinosaurs to Mammoths in More Than 500 Million Years

by David Elliott and illustrated by Matthew Trueman

In the Past: From Trilobites to Dinosaurs to Mammoths in More Than 500 Million Years cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

This is a nonfiction picture book in verse that tells the tale of the earth’s natural history, epoch by epoch. Readers learn about everything from dinosaurs to saber-toothed tigers in this fact-filled palentology journey.

47. Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen

by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Based on a true story, Strongheart is the tale of a German shepherd police dog who is “discovered” by Hollywood and turned into a movie star. This chapter book has lots of illustrations which makes it a quick read.

48. Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K. G. Campbell

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Ten-year-old Flora’s best friend is a squirrel named Ulysses with some special powers. This is the story of their adventures. Flora and Ulysses is a hybrid novel that combines prose and graphic novel elements.

49. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

This is a companion book to Starry River of the Sky, but the two books can be read in any order. This is a Chinese folktale about a girl who consults with the Man in the Moon to change her family’s luck.

50. The Secret Zoo

by Bryan Chick

The Secret Zoo cover_50 Must-Read Books For Third Graders

Get it HERE.

Four children live next door to a zoo. When one of the children disappear, the other kids decide it’s up to them to find her. They sneak into the zoo to follow clues and solve the mystery.

Other book lists from Amy’s bookshelf you’ll love: 

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AuthorAmy

Veteran Member

I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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