Growing Reader

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Class Read-Alouds Teachers and Kids Will Adore

by Kari Ness Riedel

Photo credit: Hero Images, Hero Images Collection/Getty Images

For elementary school students, a class read-aloud can spark a love affair with books or introduce new interests and passions. For teachers, read-alouds can help support curriculum standards for social studies, language arts, and science; they can also be a powerful way to bring a class together over a shared experience. No matter what the reason for doing a class read-aloud, however, picking the right book is paramount.

Here are seven tried-and-true class read-alouds that have received rave reviews from third, fourth, and fifth graders on my site, Bookopolis.com. Many young reviewers have declared their favorites on this list to be the “best book ever.” Try them with your young readers and see if they agree!

  • Frindle

    by Andrew Clements

    A funny tale of a class troublemaker, Nick Allen, who realizes his own potential to shape the world when he’s given a vocabulary project by his no-nonsense teacher, Mrs. Granger. A great story about being persistent and the power of words. Bookopolis reviewer Henry, 9, says: “It is a very funny book for people who need a big laugh.” Recommended for 4th grade and up.

  • Because of Winn Dixie

    by Kate DiCamillo

    This charming and bittersweet Newbery-winning story has strong themes of friendship and family. It features ten-year-old Opal, whose summer in Florida is going pretty poorly until she finds a lost dog, Winn-Dixie, at the local grocery store. Suddenly wonderful things start happening to Opal — and it all seems to be the doing of Winn-Dixie. “Awesome! A really interesting book. It makes you keep on reading and reading,” says Abha, 10. Recommended for 3rd grade and up.

  • The One and Only Ivan

    by Katherine Applegate

    Another Newbery Medal-winning book about friendship found in the most unexpected places. This funny and sad story — based on real events — is told from the point of view of Ivan, a captive gorilla that lived in a shopping mall for 27 years, and Ruby, a new elephant taken from the wild to be displayed in the mall. Reviewer Kara, 9, raves: “Simply written, yet very powerful. Sad, funny, and hopeful. A great read-aloud, definitely a book to share. One of my favorites.” Recommended for 3rd grade and up.

  • Maniac Magee

    by Jerry Spinelli

    A young white orphan runs away from home and ventures into the black side of his racially divided city. Set during a time of intense bigotry in the United States, this adventure story is engaging and has deep insights into the power of one person to look past skin color and heal a divided town. Albert, 12, says: “It shows us not to judge people on their looks. I would recommend this to somebody who likes action-packed books.” Recommended for 4th grade and up.

  • Holes

    by Louis Sachar

    This Newbery-winning adventure story, laced with humor and valuable life lessons, is appealing to both boys and girls. The book chronicles the exploits of Stanley Yelnats, who is accused of stealing a pair of shoes and sent to Camp Green Lake, a center for delinquents where inmates must dig holes all day long. Stanley realizes there’s more to their labors than just busy work, and as the mystery unfolds, so do lessons about friendship and self-worth. Aya, 10, says: “This book was absolutely stunning. A total page turner!” Recommended for 5th grade and up.

  • Freak the Mighty

    by Rodman Philbrick

    A fantastic story about the friendship between two very different kids — one a tiny genius in leg braces, the other a giant everyone thinks is mentally slow. Freak the Mighty is full of adventure and important lessons about empathy, resilience, and appreciating our differences. Ryan, 11, sums it up: “This book is just great, with a lot of suspense and humor.” Recommended for 5th grade and up.

  • Wonder

    by R. J. Palacio

    “One of the greatest books of all time,” says Gabe, 10. This book makes kids laugh, cry, gasp in shock, and think deeply about how they treat people who are “different.” It tells the powerful story of Auggie, a fifth grader with a severe facial deformity who goes to a traditional school for the first time in his life and must deal with making friends, bullying, and the normal highs and lows of being a 10-year-old. Recommended for 4th grade and up.

What would you recommend for a read-aloud with 3rd, 4th, and/or 5th graders? Let us know in the comments below!

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