I chose a collection of some of my favorite chapter books and picture books for second grade read alouds. I researched lists from 2nd grade teachers and I wanted to warn you that my list leans a little towards chapter books and multicultural picture books to reflect their country studies. Set during the Reconstruction Era, freed slaves are finally able to go to school and Virgie, a girl, wants this privilege as well. In second grade at our elementary school, the students study three countries: China, Ghana and Mexico. My son said that it was a read aloud in third grade last year, but I remember reading this with my girls in second grade as their first introduction to historical fiction.
My son said that they read a few Roald Dahl books in 2nd grade including Matilda and Fantastic Mr. Another favorite Dahl book of mine that is lesser know but makes a great read aloud is Danny The Champion of the World. I am an Amazon affiliate which means if you buy anything through my blog, I get a very small kickback at no cost to you. If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Great list, personal fan of Jackie’s books and my oldest was a big fan of anything Dahl. 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. 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! 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. Giving them wonderful works of writing to emulate helps them think about things like setting, voice, character, plot and experiencing sensations through words.
The best part of a perfect read aloud, I think,  is how mesmerized the children become. My son says, “Because of Winn Dixie was a extremely good book and when we read it, had everybody in the class wrapped inside the book. My oldest’s third grade teacher flagged me down two years ago to tell me how much she loved this chapter book.
In some ways this book reminds me of Charlotte’s Web so I like the pairing so kids can compare and contrast. My son says, “My class is still reading it but it is a very good book so far and everybody loves it. 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. 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! THIS STORY HONORS THE TEACHER THAT TOOK TIME TO SEE A CHILD THAT WAS DROWNING AND NEEDED HELP.
PickyKidPix said that these were her two favorite Doug Cushman mysteries that she read in third grade.
It’s about finding the wonder in everyday life and discovering that the people in your community have amazing stories and experiences! My son ended up doing a book project on The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs for rising 4th grade summer homework. This is one of my favorite chapter books but remains is lesser known than it deserves to be.
Chester is a cricket from Connecticut that winds up in picnic basket and ends up in New York City’s Times Square. My son said that they read this mystery chapter book for read aloud and he highly recommends it. The final Read Aloud book of the year was in prepration for a field trip to Plimoth Plantation. This would be great because their cousin was working at Plimoth Plantation when we visited and that would make for a rich discussion!
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.
I love it when the movie is true to the book like Charlotte’s Web and equally fantastic! Right now, I really want to focus his mind on concentrating and understanding the story to another level. Hi Mia – to answer your question, I taught a combined classroom of grades 3-5 for three years, then one year of just first grade, and three more years of grades 1-2.
Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Rebecca Stead: From Attorney to Secret Writer to Newbery Winner! I really like this list – we read some of the books either together or separately, but I’d like to make sure that we will hang 10 on this list ?? Thanks for sharing with Afterschool! I polled my three kids to jog their memory of what the read aloud books were in first grade.
Grasshopper and Sensei is starting high school this year, but she remembered this funny poetry book that her first grade teacher introduced her to by way of read aloud.
There really was a real Miss Rumphius, who scattered Lupine seeds everywhere she went in Maine. Grasshopper and Sensei’s teacher used to sing and dance using a giant version of this book.
I think it’s important for kids to see themselves in books and to celebrate the different kinds of ethnic food that they might eat at home.
Not every day at school is a good one, but there’s always the next day which will be better. PickyKidPix generally never reads a book twice, but in this case, after her teacher read it aloud, she insisted on checking it out from the library.
All three of my kids enjoyed the My Father’s Dragon trilogy which they were read to at school. Exploring the woods at night with your dad to find owls was never more lyrically told but Jane Yolen has a special gift for this. Emily Arnold McCully’s picture books are all wonderful and this first book in the Mirette series is a great introduction to her work. A magic coin that grants half a wish sparks an adventure during an otherwise boring summer for vacationing cousins. I think I mostly read aloud to my kids in first grade … it’s such a big leap to independent reading that year! Thanks for a great list, it’s brilliant to see diverse books being championed, some of these will be great for me to read with my book-loving nieces. Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein are pretty much the only poetry books I can get my kids to read!
We have the Sendak one, and we also have a calendar to start learning days of the week and months of the year. Fourth grade at my elementary school marks a really interesting immigration unit that introduced my kids to their first group project experience. It seems that in fourth grade, kids are starting to really develop empathy skills so historical fiction about immigration or the mistreatment of dogs moves them deeply. My two girls loved Shiloh in 4th grade and I was excited to see that my son’s class is starting their read alouds with Shiloh right now! My son has finally strayed from his beloved Rick Riordan books and Frindle was the first book he read as a 4th grader. Grasshopper and Sensei read this book for her 4th grade immigration unit and loved it so much that she insisted I read it; even going to far as to borrow the book from her teacher for me.
Our babysitter that went on to become a 4th grade teacher recommended this book, telling us that every child in her NY classroom was riveted from this read aloud. PickyKidPix also wanted to note that this book can be a little high for 4th grade so she recommends it as a classroom read aloud towards the end of the school year.
Fourth grade is a year of introductions to authors that hopefully the kids will want to seek out and Judy Blume is at the top of my list with a 4th grade story that I loved when I was in elementary school. PickyKidPix loved her 4th grade book club based on Savvy, a story of the Beaumont family with a magical secret.
We live near Lowell, Massachusetts and the fourth graders will be visiting the Lowell Mills museum where they will learn about child labor and the Industrial Revolution. If you want picture books to explore the Industrial Revolution, I’d also recommend The Bobbin Girl by Emily Arnold McCully which is also set in Lowell, MA.
Narrated by Irish actor Gabriel Bryne, this is a SchoolTube video on the Irish Potato Famine. I was extremely fortunate to have the most amazing kindergarten teacher three times for each of my children. Our kindergarten teacher’s bookshelves were busting at the seams with piles and piles of every great picture book one could imagine. She also was sensitive to LGBT issues; often a child in her class would have two same-sex parents. Starting school makes most kids nervous and Kevin Henkes captures this anxiety in a way that kids can relate to, yet feel like they can overcome it just like Wemberly! When my oldest, Grasshopper and Sensei, was in kindergarten, she was befuddled that her classmate could have two moms. When I saw my kindergarten teacher at the school book fair and she asked me what I recommended, I said that this picture book is banned even though it’s a true story of two male penguins who raise a baby chick. The week my child was Star of the Week, a parent is allowed to visit the classroom to read a story to the class.
Halibut Jackson is so shy that he makes special ensembles that allow him to completely blend in with his surroundings.
Tess hopes the rain will come to bring relief to the hot, sticky day and when it finally does, it’s a street wide celebration with moms and kids. In the most gentle of inner city adventures, a little boy sets off with his dog after a massive snow dump capturing the joy of No School Snow Days and the pleasures it brings including snow angels, snow ball fights, fort building and simply dragging a stick through the snow. We love all of Tomie de Paola’s books and our love began with the first of the Strega Nona picture books.
I also love that Cocca-Leffler lets the kids solve problem and depicts the children as a rainbow of diversity. It’s tough when you are different from your neighbors whose gardens are brimming with beautiful flowers rather than wriggled, weird and unrecognizable vegetables. Getting on the wrong school bus was the young pig’s first error and the path through the forest is, unfortunately, inhabited by a wolf who grabs her and wants to make her into soup.
My middle child, PickyKidPix, has a hearing impaired child thoughout most of her elementary school years. I think there might be a kid who grows up to become an animal rights activist as the result of exposure to books like this.

A beautiful and haunting story about a Siberian girl who comes up with a plan to save hundreds of beluga whales trapped by ice.
When my oldest was in preschool, her teacher went to the beach and brought back kelp for the water table. I have this picture book on my Top 10 Best Latin American Books for Kids and my Undocumented Immigrants in Children’s Literature.
A true story about a boy whose family are itinerant farm workers and the kindness of a librarian who introduces him to a whole new world of books. Multicultural Children’s Book Day Jan 27thMulticultural Children's Book Day is January 27th! Holocaust is a heavy subject for fifth graders and my girls explored it in the most gentle of ways.
Of the almost 500 Jews deported to Theresienstadt, all but 51 survived due in large part to the Danish government’s intercession on their behalf.
There are so many wonderful Grace Lin chapter books for this age, but if you only read one, this is my pick. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon blends Chinese folk tales and mythology into a story of friendship, adventure and hope when a young girl, MinLi, must leave her poor and desolate rural village to improve her family’s fortune. Both my girls said that this was the only read aloud they can recall and it is also one of my favorite books as kid though I only had fuzzy pleasant memory of the book and couldn’t recall the exact plot. This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. My kids have a lot of special needs classmates and PickyKidPix in particular was drawn to stories about walking in those shoes.
Richard Peck is one of my favorite authors and I chose this one because it really stuck with me.
I’m a big fan of Sharon Creech, especially Walk Two Moons and Love that Dog which I read as read alouds in earlier grades! One of my favorite reads for 5th grade was The One and Only Ivan–I absolutely LOVE that book. That’s so great that you are doing school visits Nancy and clearly the kids are getting a lot out of them!
Truth be told, I don’t really remember exactly what books my kids were read to in the classroom during 2nd grade.
She’s starting seventh grade this fall, but she will still ask me to buy every new Clementine book that comes out. Piggle Wiggle as a child so I was so happy to see that other 2nd grade teachers also use this series as a read aloud! The adventures of an arrogant and cold-hearted beloved toy china rabbit as he learns about fear, humility, and ultimately love.
She actually wants to be there and she finds a way to connect education with what life is really like for the Athabascans in Alaska during 1948. Fox but I chose Matilda because almost every third grade kid in PickyKidPix’s class raved about it because they thought it was so funny! I plan on sharing it with my 2nd grade teachers (I am a principal) as well as my wife, also a 2nd grade teacher. My 6th grader, PickyKidPix, still wants to read every new Clementine as they come out as she still loves them!
I really loved What the Moon Saw; it just came out but it touches on so many different elements in one moving book! We just made our first trip to the library for this school year and had such a hard time picking books on my oldest’s 2nd grade level.
Quickly and not surprisingly, we started talking about perfect third grade read aloud books. 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.
It’s a perfect chapter book in my mind where whole adds up to much more than the sum of the parts. 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. FALKER HAD REACHED INTO THE MOST LONELY DARKNESS AND PULLED ME INTO BRIGHT SUNLIGHT AND SAT ME ON A SHOOTING STAR.
His third grade teachers have used Cushman’s mystery picture books to lead off the mystery writing unit and have requested him!
I had always loved this book but wondered and worried if it was too old fashioned and slow paced to hold kids’ attention. Though it’s the first book in a series, the rest of the books are not nearly as good as this one.
It’s a wonderful example of strong voice in writing as well as just a really great read. Debbie Reese of American Indians in Children’s Literature has issues with how the Wampanoags are portrayed and her post is here. There are so many great themes in the book to think about that relate to kids and friendships. Yes, this list is great for 3rd grade read aloud but kids in 4th and 5th grade would be able to read independently. We had one wonderful first grade teacher twice, and PickyKidPix was even able to loop with her for second grade too! But often, picture books have a richer vocabulary and a more interesting story so this list includes books that teach  about compassion, entertain and mesmerize. In One Green Apple, Farah, a young Muslim immigrant finds a way to connect with her classmates on a school field trip to an apple farm, even though she doesn’t realize that green apples are sour. This picture book shows a multi-generation household with the grandfather’s talent for eating Roti (an Indian flatbread) that makes him as strong as a tiger.
But her mother has a secret; her African-American hair is special and beautiful and can be styled in a myriad of ways.
She liked the story of the animals but bonus points for the rich vocabulary that Rylant sneaks into this chapter book.
Their adventures end up with real life changes as they stumble upon the perfect husband for their widowed mother. I bought the entire series of Nancy Drew when my oldest was very young because it was at Costco and very reasonable and I loved that series as a child but never owned any but sadly, my girls did not take to it. I have read many of these along with the little one and loved it ?? Thanks for sharing on KidLit BlogHop this week. I’ve included the books that my kids remember reading as part of a classroom assignment or as a read aloud in 4th grade and added a few of my favorites.
Can young Marty Preston do anything to help a young beagle he fell in love with from an abusive owner with a drinking problem, a gun and a temper? 5th grader Nick Allen wonders, as part of classroom diversion tactic, how new words get created; not just words to describe something new but to replace a well-known word.
It was Grasshopper and Sensei’s first taste of dystopian novels and she loved half the series and says this first one is the best and also recommends the second one, The People of Sparks, but did not enjoy the pre-Ember books after that. It’s the first of the Fudge series and I think it works especially well to draw in reluctant readers, particularly boys. They live in a rural area called Ruby Holler and as the four of them prepare for two big journeys, the magic of their environment takes over. I think it does when it is this kind of book: an unexpected point of view from a 10-year-old young girl. It’s interesting that he grew up in Ireland and still himself knew very little about the Irish Potato Famine. It’s a great story of compassion of how they reached out to help another suffering nation.
You’ve featured several of my favorites, including Inside Out and Back Again and anything by Deborah Wiles! I would like you to consider adding my book, The Crystal Navigator, to your recommended reading list, ages9-12. I’ve picked some of my favorites and hope you will share some of yours by leaving a comment! Certainly my kids don’t think twice about that so I love this picture book to set up the year realizing that life is different for kids around the world. His secret is special and wonderful surprise that he wants to divulge later that evening to his family (and has to do with literacy).
She immediately scooped it up and said that she has kids with same-sex parents and wanted to add it to her library (even though it was a hard cover picture book and a little expensive!). I chose two books; one funny and one for the really shy girl I noticed the first day of school. It’s a strategy that works pretty well at the library and the grocery store but one day he gets an invitation to a party and his special outfit does not take into account that it’s a GARDEN PARTY!
It’s a message about honesty and having the courage to make the decision to be honest, even when your peers seem to be doing something different! But when it’s time to harvest, the ugly Chinese vegetables become the most tantalizing and delicious soup and everyone in the neighborhood wants to trade to get some.
It resulted in her class learning some basic sign langauge including the alphabet and simple phrases. My kindergartener teacher has all kinds of class pets that include hatching chicks at the end of the school year which she uses as the base to teach all kinds of things including math! It’s a perfect marriage of words and illustrations depicting a gentle Great Depression story with an uplifting ending. She leaves her farm with a suitcase full of seeds to the big gray city when she keeps busy slowly transforming her space into a more cheerful atmosphere.
Her wonderful teacher wracks her brain to find a way to get the kids to be more accepting of raw fish and seaweed.
I like that you include big ideas and issues that kindergartners can relate to and several I haven’t seen and want to check out! I was so lucky to have the best kindergarten teacher three times and she had an extensive library. It’s the first step in a chain reaction that bring a community of diversity nationalities together.
Grasshopper and Sensei highly recommends this chapter book that shows the power of staying true to yourself in a feel great (not just good!) story where the underdog is actually the coolest kid at school.
I just remembered that it had an Alice in Wonderland fantasy feel to it but was much more entertaining. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth’s gates and begins a memorable journey. This is the sequel to A Long Way from Chicago which also shows up on many 5th grade reading lists, but Grandma Dowdel is the star of this chapter book and someone you’d want as your own, indomitable grandmother. I also recently read and liked The Boy on the Porch (though it felt more adult oriented) and The Great Unexpected.

It works well for a read aloud for younger kids too, but its publication happened to coincide with my daughter’s year in 5th.
My son and I are reading the final Rick Riordan book and I don’t know who is more excited: me or him! I love it when authors sneak in rich language such that my child has to puzzle out the word! There are so many great books out there that it was hard to choose just ten, but for various reasons these are definitely my top ten read alouds for 3rd grade. Clementine is spunky heroine who gets in a little bit of trouble despite herself, reminiscent of Ramona The Pest, but at an easier reading level. Sam gets lucky money for Chinese New Year from his grandparents and wants to spend it in Chinatown. By creating materials of her own, she finds a way to teach each and every one of the kids, including learning sign language to help a hearing impaired child. I think the length and the large amount of dialogue made it a challenge for some of my students. And the weird thing is that my son’s teacher had read all three perfect third grade books that Colby mentioned! My two daughters each have had these other two 3rd grade teachers and they are wonderful teachers! Their teachers also mentioned books to me in past years which I am including, trying as best as I can to channel them. 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.
Other perfect read aloud books gently teach empathy by letting reader see the world from a point of view they would not ordinarily experience.
In this case, it’s Charlotte’s artistry with web making as well as her knowledge of words! Every character is memorable with a story to tell and somehow all these stories meld together into a satisfying ending with an uplifting message. I actually think it makes the reader into a kinder person just through the act of experiencing the story. PickyKidPix said that it was because they knew the story from movies so the book was ruined for them.
I was thrilled that my kids’ friends talked about it and, when questioned, said that they liked it a lot. There aren’t many Newbery winners that work for third grade and this would work fine for 2nd grade too. If you want to do a book comparison, I’d recommend reading The One and Only Ivan next because there are very similar themes of friendship and saving your friend using your skills.
Learning about other cultures through picture books is a gift we can give to our kids and to the world as they grow older. Her classmates help out by making suggestions but in the end, everyone realizes how special her name is, just the way it is!
Each group chose a different country to emigrate from that included Poland, Ireland, Italy, China, Japan and more. My son just started 4th grade this year, so I will keep track of his classroom read alouds and will add them to this list all year. His stalling antic blossoms into an all out vocabulary revolution; can he get the word pencil replaced by a made up word?
When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. But then Mib’s father gets into a terrible accident and Mibs sneaks a ride on a bus to the hospital convinced that her soon-to-be savvy will help save her father. It also pairs nicely with The Watson Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. For any adult who ever considered becoming a foster parent, this book will tip you in that direction. Bonus points for its tie in to American History of the Choctaw Nation which can set up a comparison of what happened when new nations immigrated to America versus those who were already here. It’s a great 12 minute video and ties back into the history of conflict between England and Ireland. Lions of Little Rock is a Sunshine State book here in Florida this school year, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. His mothers suggested this book to help kids understand that families come in all different shapes and sizes. This picture book is a fun way for kids to get a sense of geography as a little girl travels from her house to the universe. When Strega Nona goes off over the mountain to visit Strega Amelia, her assistant, the bumbling Big Anthony thinks that he can conjure up magic with comedic results.
If he wants the soup to be delicious, she has some suggestions of ingredients for him to add. By the time her parents have found work and can send for her to return, she has a final surprise for her uncle.
She comes up with the idea for International Food Day where each child has to try EVERYTHING!
A sheet of stickers entitles them to the prize box but some days just don’t go well and my kids would come back without stickers either resolute in an outcome that they could live with though feeling like they were misunderstood or sometimes completely devastated. We met Sharon Draper that year too who was here on behalf of Understanding Our Differences. When she joins an academic competition school team, she’s the ringer that can help bring her team victory, but can they get past her special need and see her for who is really is? Mary Alice spends the year with her in this sleepy little town but there is a lot going on.
She loved it so much that she had her teacher do it as a read aloud for their Montessori class (combined 4th & 5th grade)! I thought The Great Unexpected was one of Sharon Creech’s best works and I was shocked that it didn’t wrack up a pile of awards! My kids never got into them but I LOVED them as a child and I worried that they were too old fashioned for kids these days!
Is it being popular, relating well to adults in charge, or being able to pull off a subversive act the trait of a true leader?
She and her friend Doon must decipher the message before the lights go out on Ember forever!
And for any child who never knew about such as thing as foster homes, this chapter book will help seal a deep love of Sharon Creech books. We have a Massachusetts Book Award list that is great; I always find great books from reading the list. There was a special chart with the highlighted words for each book that she kept up in the classroom. My daughter was very accepting of this idea but when she made a new friend in middle school, again she was confused when this girl had FOUR moms!
The visuals help to illustrate her place in the world as she travels higher and higher with a bird’s-eye view (or rocket ship view!). But beware of her Hog-Eye stare which will cause doom (and itchiness) to whoever crosses her! Whereas my kids might save money to buy a toy for themselves, Saruni is saving to buy something to help his mother. DeSoto won a Newbery honor is this really fun story of a husband and wife mice dental team that outwit a fox with a rotten bicuspid. But we all have those No Good Terrible Bad Days and Alexander’s version makes us all feel better that our day was not as bad as his! We weren’t allowed to read two of the stories at school so I found it at the public library and checked it out to read them.
The realistic ending makes the reader a champion for special needs kids and that is what makes this book so powerful. The backdrop is the Great Depression but the adventures that seem to find Grandma Dowdel and Mary Alice are laugh-out-loud funny.
It’s a perfect story to read aloud, taking the entire class on a journey along with thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle that is both a geographic and an emotional one. They were inspired by the fact that my Corgi, Wilbur, inspired the book, but they also were so enthusiastic about learning about art. From quiltmakers to wordsmiths, the Woodson women were indomitable, showing their family the way. THAT BOY CHANGED MY LIFE AND MADE ME FEEL SO UNSAFE AND SO SAD THAT I DIDN’T WANT TO GO TO SCHOOL ANYMORE.
All kids can relate to the ups and downs of a school day, even when they have a wonderful teacher like Mr.
What was most noticeable was how every, single group talked about the racism and prejudice they faced upon coming to America. Do troublemakers in school — those who always have big ideas and energy to pull them off — turn out to be great leaders as adults?
This stunning debut novel offers refreshingly clear writing and fascinating, original characters. I won’t spoil it for you, but both the grandmother and Ruby are grieving and the reason for this summer of separation becomes clear.
My oldest did a book club using Uglies but she didn’t seem to warm to the series but I hear it is a popular one. 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. Her coming of age journey also is not something that ties up neatly with a bow with a happy ending, but it is satisfying none the less and leaves the reader with a deeper insight and empathy for anyone who might speak English with an accent.
She’s currently almost done with The Giver series and it’s so hard to find books that she likes!

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