Best Books for Elementary Readers Grades K-5


It is hard to believe that we are approaching 4th of July Weekend, so how about a few of the best books for Elementary. These ideas are sure to fire up those readers who are joining you for summer school or who need a few ideas for at home.  I did a little research for newer book series options for each grade as well as books that seem to hit several summer reading lists. I love finding new options, and I hope you see a few that peak your interests too.

Best books for first and second grade

Students going into second grade will range typically between the primer level to the fourth grade level, so selecting the best books for this range depends greatly on the child. The books in my list are on a first to second grade level. Some have only been released in hardback, so you will have to locate them at the library. I have a few favorites from this list including the Fly Guy series (Kids love them!) and Diary of a Worm (Doreen Cronin). The “new to me” picks are Stick and Stone and Claude at the Beach. I also like the looks of The Chicken Squad series.

Writing Lessons from The Writing Fix

During summer school, teachers need to keep students writing too.  I absolutely love these titles for writing mentor texts.

  • Diary of a Worm
  • The Deep Blue Sea
  • The Summer My Father Turned Ten
  • Amos and Boris, and
  • Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach

best books for third grade

With the second to third grade list, I was looking for beginning chapter books and a variety of genres. My girls this year loved the books by Nikki Grimes. She was a speaker a few years ago at the VSRA conference, and our librarian purchased several to share with the kids after we returned.  They loved them and several more have been added. Another series from my collection that the kids love is the My Big Fat Goldfish series. They are longer and at the upper end of third, but they are funny. Finally, I thought the Guinea Pig Pet Detective series looks fun. I think this age group enjoys mysteries, so bringing out Nate the Great, The Haunted Library, or Cam Jansen’s would be fun.

Writing Lessons

For all students, keeping a daily journal is a great way to do “quick writes”.  These are timed writing sessions where you tell the student they have ten minutes to write about… It can be a picture or an oral prompt.  Here’s a photo from our trip to Busch Gardens as an example of a picture prompt.

Best books for fourth and fifth

Oh goodness!  I had difficulty limiting this list to ten. There are so many GREAT options, and by this point, students know their niche. They have strong reading preferences, so having a deep knowledge of writing styles and what I’d call Book Alikes.  You know, that’s what you’d call a book you should get if you like this book.  Anyway, these will give you a few to check out.

Out of the list, several have received wonderful reviews, but I want to point out, Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts.  Dr. Watts is from my community and is a professor in the education department at the University of Virginia. The book is about Kizzy’s first year in an integrated school in Lynchburg, Mississippi, and it too has received great reviews.

writing lessons:

For the upper grades, we expect much more detail and substance in written work, and for many divisions, we begin state assessments at this level.  Have no fear, there are lots of options for the upper grades too. Teachers can use excerpts of wonderful read alouds to model the Six Traits as well as the many picture book options from such greats as Patricia Palocco, Patricia MacLachlan, and Dav Pilkey. Below are a few of the options I love for summer.

Picture Books


chapter books


other posts featuring the best books:

Whether you are teaching summer school this summer or not, I hope I gave you a few options to check out, to recommend to your kids, or to add to your collections.  If you’d like printable book lists to send home with your students or book activities, check out these print and go resources or look at TPT HERE

Do you have titles that I should add?  I can’t wait to find out.  You can share them in the comments.



Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. What a great list of books! I was having a hard time narrowing my list down too! There are just too many great ones – old & new! I also love that you included teacher lessons with the writing fix links! I love that resource! Thanks!

  2. Isn't it a great site?? I'm amazed at the depth of the lessons and that I can easily implement their plan with all the apps and anchor papers.

  3. Great post! I love the widget. It allows for so many options! I love love love "Tough Boris." It is one of my favorites!!

  4. This post is packed with so many great ideas and resources. You've outdone yourself, Carla. Thanks for sharing your expertise! -Janiel
    P.S. Max and I just read Stick and Stone for the first time last night…we'll, then we read it again and again! Loved it. So many great books, so little time!

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