Growing Reader

Tween

The Ultimate Elementary School Reads: A Perfect Book for Every Grade

by Tom Burns

As a parent, it can be hard to know what exactly your elementary schoolers should be reading. Do second-graders still read picture books? Is fourth grade too young for The Hunger Games? How can you tell what books will be interesting for kids in first grade, second grade, and so on?

Fortunately, some books have that information right in their titles! If you’re looking to match your kid up with the perfect book for their current school year, here are some grade-by-grade suggestions that all nicely capture the elementary school experience.

  • First Grade

  • The Night Before First Grade

    by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Deborah Zemke

    This charming picture book turns a fun riff on Clement C. Moore’s famous Christmas poem into a surprisingly practical resource for kids moving up from kindergarten. Wing introduces us to young Penny and invites us to follow along as Penny weathers her night-before jitters and encounters the strange, new realities of first grade. An ideal “what to expect” guide for anxious almost-first-graders.

  • Second Grade

  • The One and Only Stuey Lewis: Stories from the Second Grade

    by Jane Schoenberg, illustrated by Cambria Evans

    Stuey Lewis is a really funny kid. Despite all the indignities he’s forced to suffer as a second-grader (reading difficulties, over-protective parents, annoying older brother), he never loses his biting sense of humor, a quality that will instantly endear him to young readers. The format of The One and Only Stuey Lewis is just right for second grade readers as well — it’s an illustrated short-story collection that serves as an excellent transitional book for kids starting to pick up their first chapter books.

  • Third Grade

  • Third Grade Angels

    by Jerry Spinelli, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell

    Jerry Spinelli, perhaps best known for his Newbery Medal-winning novel Maniac Magee, is an expert at making the children in his books REALLY sound like actual children. In his chapter book, Third Grade Angels, Spinelli completely nails the “third grade voice” in his story of new third-graders bending over backwards to win the favor of their high-achieving teacher.

  • Fourth Grade

  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

    by Judy Blume

    Talk about a no-brainer. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing isn’t just a great book about fourth grade. It’s one of the best books about kids ever written. Children — and, particularly, fourth-graders — will absolutely see themselves in poor, exasperated Peter Hatcher as he struggles to make sense of grade school, getting older, friends, and (of course) Fudgie, the world’s worst younger brother. A total classic.

  • Sixth Grade

  • The Sixth Grade Nickname Game

    by Gordon Korman, illustrated by Mark Buehner

    Few things in life are more self-conscious than a sixth-grader getting ready to start middle school. Korman creates a fun narrative around that inherent “questing for identity” that arises in sixth grade through the story of two long-time friends, Wiley and Jeff, who find out that their talent for crafting cool, interesting nicknames that “stick” can have a powerful impact on the lives of their schoolmates.

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