I had the great fortune to meet The Nerdy Book Club founders at a dinner for Anne Ursu hosted by Walden Pond Press to celebrate her latest chapter book, The Real Boy. (It’s wonderful. I put it on my Newbery 2014 Contenders list! And it just won a Middle Grade Fiction Nerdie).
Colby Sharp, one of The Nerdy Book Club founders, mentioned that he was teaching third grade this year, a move from years spent teaching fourth grade and I got very excited because I have a son in third grade! Quickly and not surprisingly, we started talking about perfect third grade read aloud books. And the weird thing is that my son’s teacher had read all three perfect third grade books that Colby mentioned! And in that exact order! Great minds think alike?!
- Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
- Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
- The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
So I asked my son’s 3rd grade teacher how she picked her read aloud chapter books. She said that the other two third grade teachers team teach with her — our teacher taught 5th grade in years past and only this year made the move to 3rd grade — and tell her what books they are reading. My two daughters each have had these other two 3rd grade teachers and they are wonderful teachers! (You can’t go wrong in third grade at my elementary school!)
To complete this list of 10 perfect 3rd grade read aloud books either for parents to read at home or for a classroom, I asked my girls what books their teachers read to them in third grade. My oldest had no recollection but PickyKidPix remembered a few. Their teachers also mentioned books to me in past years which I am including, trying as best as I can to channel them. (I’ll continue to add the read aloud books they choose as the school year progresses.)
The beauty of third grade read aloud books is that most kids are just starting to venture into “real” chapter book and hearing the books allows them to experience books at a higher level than what they can read independently. It’s also a big year for writing. At our elementary school, third graders are subjected to the Long Composition Standardized Test which takes the better part of the day for them to complete.
Giving them wonderful works of writing to emulate helps them think about things like setting, voice, character, plot and experiencing sensations through words. Good stuff! Nothing like giving them examples of well-written chapter books for them to model after!
The best part of a perfect read aloud, I think, is how mesmerized the children become. And how much they learn to love reading; not as a chore to fill out a reading log but as a story that they can not wait to hear the next installment. Other perfect read aloud books gently teach empathy by letting the reader see the world from a point of view they would not ordinarily experience.
What books did you love reading with your kids when they were in 3rd grade? I’d love your ideas and I’ll add them to this list. Thanks so much!!
1. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
My son’s school year started off with the wonderful classic Charlotte’s Web. In an era where school’s budgets are being slashed and creative arts are first to land on the chopping block, it’s nice to see that many of the books on this list have themes of a creative talent saving the day. In this case, it’s Charlotte’s artistry with web making as well as her knowledge of words!
My son said, “Charlotte’s Web is about how Fern’s pig Wilbur was going to be killed but then Charlotte (the spider) met Wilbur the day before he was going to be killed and made a plan to save Wilbur. I liked the book and my favorite character was the Gander goose.” (My son seems to love the minor characters as you’ll notice in his reviews!)
2. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
If you ask me what my favorite children’s book in the entire world is, I’ll always say this one. It’s a perfect chapter book in my mind where whole adds up to much more than the sum of the parts. Every character is memorable with a story to tell and somehow all these stories meld together into a satisfying ending with an uplifting message.
My son says, “Because of Winn Dixie was an extremely good book and when we read it, had everybody in the class wrapped inside the book. (not literally). When we watched the movie, I liked the book a lot better because I got to see my own vision of the story and my favorite character was Otis from Gertrude’s Pets.”
3. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
My oldest’s third grade teacher flagged me down two years ago to tell me how much she loved this chapter book. It then went on to win the Newbery. She said that what stood out for her was voice. She’s right. Ivan the Gorilla’s voice draws you right in. He’s like an old soul that you can’t help but befriend.
In some ways, this book reminds me of Charlotte’s Web so I like the pairing so kids can compare and contrast. Both books revolve around saving a friend using their artistic abilities!
My son says, “My class is still reading it but it is a very good book so far and everybody loves it. (I think). My favorite character is Bob, the dog, because he was so energetic and funny.”
4. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
What’s not to love about Wonder? The theme of Choose Kindness resonates throughout the book. I actually think it makes the reader into a kinder person just through the act of experiencing the story. It also is a great example of telling a story from different points of view. And every child can relate to being a new kid and trying to fit in. But I think kids, after reading Wonder, will realize that they can choose to be Summer, who doesn’t need to be coerced to be kind, or Jack, who will stand up for his friend even if it costs him his friends, or Julian, a bully.
My son says, “We are not reading it at school. We are reading it at home but it is one of the best books I’ve read. I am surprised it hasn’t won a Newbery award because it’s so good. At some parts, it is sad but overall it is a REALLY GOOD BOOK.” (Yes, he typed those caps himself.)
5. The BFG by Roald Dahl
PickyKidPix’s 3rd grade class had a love affair with Roald Dahl all year long. It’s funny but they didn’t choose Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or James and the Giant Peach. PickyKidPix said that it was because they knew the story from movies so the book was ruined for them. Instead, nearly every child in her class read The BFG or Matilda. I guess the movie Matilda was less popular!
We amassed a large Roald Dahl collection that year and PickyKidPix said that her favorites are George’s Marvelous Medicine, The Twits, and Esio Trot. It was my turn to parent volunteer to read to her class so I read them a chapter of my favorite Roald Dahl book, Danny The Champion of the World. It has a wonderful tie-in to The BFG which really delighted them.
I think The BFG is the perfect Dahl book to start with. It’s classic Dahl but not as scary as some (like The Witches which we weren’t able to get past the first chapter.) PickyKidPix even brought Dahl’s Revolting Recipes home from the school library and she and her friend Helena spent an afternoon delightedly making really disgusting concoctions.
6. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Grasshopper and Sensei’s third grade teacher recommended this easy chapter book to me for her and I ended up using it for her book club. Her teacher said that girl bullying tends to rear its ugly head in third grade and this book centers around the role of bystanders in bullying.
It’s a true story of what happened to Eleanor Estes when she was a child. In some ways, it’s Estes way of a “do over.” She didn’t act at the time the way she wanted to and it haunted her so she wrote this book when she was older.
Wonder is another “do over” story in which author R J Palacio was so upset by her reaction to a little girl with Treacher-Collins Syndrome at an ice cream store that she started writing her book that night on a post-it note.
The beauty of “do over” stories is that they are so visceral that they do, in fact, let the reader experience a situation with time to process how they would react if it ever happened to them in real life. We get the effect of a “do over” the first time.
As I read this book with my daughter, I got that deja vu feeling and realized that I had read a long time ago too! It’s a classic that continues to guide and teach!
7. Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Grasshopper and Sensei’s fifth grade teacher used this advanced picture book as a read aloud and all my daughter’s friends raved about it. I think it works equally well for third grade. Polacco’s shares her own dyslexia story in this picture book.
Polacco says, ”
THIS STORY IS TRULY AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL. IT IS ABOUT MY OWN STRUGGLE WITH NOT BEING ABLE TO READ.
THIS STORY HONORS THE TEACHER THAT TOOK TIME TO SEE A CHILD THAT WAS DROWNING AND NEEDED HELP. I AM A DYSLEXIC, DISNUMERIC AND DISGRAPHIC. CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO TRY AND LEARN ALONG WITH OTHER STUDENTS WHEN I NEEDED SPECIALIZED HELP…HELP THAT WASN’T AVAILABLE IN THOSE DAYS. I REMEMBER FEELING DUMB, THAT TERRIBLE FEELING ABOUT MYSELF WAS COMPOUNDED BY BEING TEASED BY A BULLY. THAT BOY CHANGED MY LIFE AND MADE ME FEEL SO UNSAFE AND SO SAD THAT I DIDN’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL ANYMORE. MR. FALKER, MY HERO, MY TEACHER, NOT ONLY STOPPED THIS BOY FROM TEASING ME, BUT HE ALSO NOTICED THAT I WASN’T READING WELL AND GOT A READING SPECIALIST TO HELP
TO THIS DAY, I REMEMBER THE FIRST DAY THAT WORDS ON A PAGE HAD MEANING TO ME…MR. FALKER HAD REACHED INTO THE MOST LONELY DARKNESS AND PULLED ME INTO BRIGHT SUNLIGHT AND SAT ME ON A SHOOTING STAR. I SHALL NEVER FORGET HIM…SO THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN BOTH TO HONOR MR. FALKER, BUT ALSO TO WARN YOUNG PEOPLE THAT MEAN WORDS HAVE A TERRIBLE POWER…AND THAT THEY SHOULD DO ALL THAT THEY CAN TO SEE THAT TEASING STOPS AT THEIR SCHOOL.
THANK YOU, MR. FALKER,”
8a. Mystery at the Club Sandwich by Doug Cushman
My son is going to meet Doug Cushman via a Skype author visit this year. His third grade teachers have used Cushman’s mystery picture books to lead off the mystery writing unit and have requested him! He’ll be Skyping in from Paris, France!! (Because there is a Paris, Texas!)
PickyKidPix said that these were her two favorite Doug Cushman mysteries that she read in third grade.
8b. The Mystery of the Monkey’s Maze (From the Casebook of Seymour Sleuth) by Doug Cushman
9. The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney
Simple Mom had suggested this in a Google + thread led by Doc Scholl. I had always loved this book but wondered and worried if it was too old-fashioned and slow paced to hold kids’ attention. I was thrilled that my kids’ friends talked about it and, when questioned, said that they liked it a lot.
It’s about finding the wonder in everyday life and discovering that the people in your community have amazing stories and experiences! Eben’s farming community that seems so sleepy and boring is a wonder of adventure and intrigue when he gets challenged by his father in a bet to find 7 wonders in his hometown of Sassafras Springs.
My son ended up doing a book project on The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs for rising 4th grade summer homework.
10. A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
This is one of my favorite chapter books but remains is lesser known than it deserves to be. Though it’s the first book in a series, the rest of the books are not nearly as good as this one.
Chester is a cricket from Connecticut that winds up in a picnic basket and ends up in New York City’s Times Square. He gets rescued by Mario, whose family runs a failing newsstand inside the Times Square subway station, and makes new friends including a street-smart mouse and a kindly cat (who inexplicably are friends). Chester and his friends plot to get him home but first they want to help their friend Mario. It just so happens that Chester’s extraordinary musical gift is the key to both.
My daughter, PickyKidPix, did a really fun book club on A Cricket in Times Square when she was in third grade.
Perfect Third Grade Read Aloud Chapter Book Honorable Mentions
The Mysterious Miss Slade by Dick King-Smith
My son said that they read this mystery chapter book for read aloud and he highly recommends it. It’s by the author of Babe: The Gallent Pig.
Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
My son’s class also had this 2014 Newbery winner read to them in class. It’s a wonderful example of strong voice in writing as well as just a really great read. There aren’t many Newbery winners that work for third grade and this would work fine for 2nd grade too.
The final Read Aloud book of the year was in preparation for a field trip to Plimoth Plantation. Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature has issues with how the Wampanoags are portrayed and her post is here. She would recommend instead Margaret Bruchac’s photo essay1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving.
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret Bruchac with Plimoth Plantation, photographs by Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson
Drawing on the research of scholars and the Wampanoag people themselves, this book is an effort by the Plimoth Plantation museum to reinterpret the people and events of the 1621 harvest feast from the mythology of peaceful settlers inviting Indians over for dinner to a more balanced account of what actually took place. Background information includes the Wampanoag’s history living for thousands of years in present-day Massachusetts prior to European settlement. Historically accurate recipes for Nasaump, a traditional Wampanoag dish, and Stewed Pompion, from the 1672 book New England Rarities Discovered, are included. [nonfiction picture book, ages 8 and up]
This would be great because their cousin was working at Plimoth Plantation when we visited and that would make for a rich discussion!
Debbie also recommends Guests by Michael Dorris.
Guests by Michael Dorris
Told from the perspective of a young boy, Moss, doesn’t understand why his father would invite outsiders to their harvest meal. He is grappling with growing up, impatient to become a man because he is tired of being treated like a boy. Still, after the coughing sickness, he is the only child who survived in his family. Trouble, a girl that understands him, has issues at home as well. When they return from an adventure in the woods, they join the strangers at their harvest meal who don’t speak their language but still manage to convey bad manners by not bringing gifts and asking for a second celebration at their location to be provided by Moss’s people. The stories told that night are incomprehensible to their guests but the theme is about ingratitude. After the meal, Moss wonders about who is he and what the future holds. [middle grade, ages 9 and up]
Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper
My son tells me that they started this chapter book about the Wampanoag Native Americans but will not have time to finish it before school ends. It corresponds nicely with their field trip to Plimoth Plantation*, and I LOVE Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series so I’m excited to finish this book at home this summer with my son.
p.s. A few more lists:
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