Ever struggle to find the best books for your 3rd graders? Whether you're planning for literature circles, read-aloud, or independent reading, it can be challenging to find quality novels with engaging plots that support deep conversation and critical thinking about the text. That's why I compiled this list of the 20 best books for third graders.
Whether you are preparing your classroom library or trying to find a great book for your own child, these 20 novels are amazing reads for your third-grade students.
To help you determine which books are the best fit for your class, I shared a short summary of the plot. I also shared links to the trifold novel study pack to help save you prep time.
I know your third graders will love these great stories!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. While it doesn't cost you any more to purchase books via the links provided, I earn a small commission from purchases.
What you'll find on this page:
My Favorite Novels to Read with 3rd Graders
1. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
The story of a boy who refuses to lose a bet, How to Eat Fried Worms is a novel sure to capture the attention of those reluctant readers in your class, especially the boys. This story offers so many opportunities to discuss important reading comprehension skills including cause and effect, problem and solution, and character change across time.
Teach with How to Eat Fried Worms
- Buy the book: How to Eat Fried Worms
- Novel Study & Lesson Materials: How to Eat Fried Worms Novel Study
2. Snot Stew by Bill Wallace
If you think this story is going to be about snot…guess again. Told from the point of view of a cat, this story is a unique and engaging view of the world from a non-human perspective.
Snot Stew is the tale of two stray kittens adopted into a family and how they acclimate to this new environment without their momma. As they become accustomed to their new home, their relationship undergoes dramatic changes until an emergency brings them back together.
Great for inferring, students love using the text clues to figure out what common household objects the feline narrator is describing. The story is also a great introduction to point of view and how it impacts the reader's understanding of the text.
An easy read from the author of A Dog Called Kitty, this book is excellent for the animal lovers in your class.
Teach with Snot Stew
3. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Styles Gannett
My Father's Dragon is a fantasy novel about a young boy who runs away to rescue a baby dragon. With vibrant details and some crazy adventures, this book captures the imagination of young readers and takes them along on Elmer's journey.
Danger, excitement, and heroic efforts are all important components of this story, which is presented as a story told to the narrator by his father many years ago. Using only everyday objects from his pack, Elmer single-handedly disarms the many dangerous animals of Wild Island on his quest.
The book has beautiful illustrations, which help readers visualize the events of the story, and your students will love reading about Elmer's brilliant ways of outsmarting the animals throughout. Perfect for teaching character traits and sequencing, this story is truly a gem that will stick with your readers for years to come.
Teach with My.Father's Dragon
4. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
I would be remiss if I didn't start with a little disclaimer for this one. Keep tissues close by near the end. You will cry…probably hard. It is truly one of the saddest third-grade books on this list.
That being said, Stone Fox is truly one of my favorite novels for third graders. It is a beautifully written story that enthralls readers in Little Willy's attempts to save his grandfather's farm along with some help from his faithful pup, Searchlight. Little Willy is such a likable character, and your students will be cheering him on as he attempts the impossible.
This novel is truly a literary gem, and it makes a fantastic winter read-aloud. I can read it over and over with students and (despite knowing the end) still be brought to tears each time by Gardiner's compelling story.
Perfect for inclusion in a cross-curricular unit about the Iditarod in March, you can make so many great connections to math and social studies with this book.
Teach with Stone Fox
5. The Littles by John Peterson
Imagine there were tiny people living in your house without you even knowing it. They used your things, borrowed your scraps, and made themselves right at home despite the numerous dangers the typical house presents when you're tiny. That is the plot of The Littles.
This fantasy novel is great for young readers because it is engaging and has a clear, well-developed plot. There are many opportunities to discuss problems and solutions as the Littles work to navigate the world at their size. Plus, it is a great novel for working through other critical comprehension skills, as well.
Considered by many to be a must-read classic, I've included it on my list because it is the first of a whole series of books about this miniature family. I love when there are multiple books because it means I've opened a whole new reading list for students just by introducing them to this one novel.
Teach with The Littles
6. Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
This is the first of a couple of Judy Blume books you'll find on this list. She's really got some great choices that are perfect for third-grade readers.
Freckle Juice is a hilarious realistic fiction novel about a boy, Andrew, who wants to have freckles just like his classmate. Andrew can think of so many reasons having freckles would make his life easier. For example, his mom would never even know if his neck was dirty! When Andrew asks Nicky where his freckles came from, a classmate overhears and offers a special freckle juice recipe…at the low cost of just 50 cents.
Of course, Andrew buys it and makes a batch of freckle juice for himself. I won't give away the whole story, but suffice to say things get extra hilarious from that point on.
Your students will love this totally relatable novel, and you'll love the numerous opportunities to teach skills like theme and problem & solution.
Teach with Freckle Juice
7. Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
This book was a favorite of mine as a child, and now I love sharing it with my students. This classic story of orphans on the run is guaranteed to capture the reader's attention.
Students will love reading about the adventures of Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny as they create a home for themselves in an old boxcar they discover in the woods. Trying hard to avoid being discovered by their grandfather (whom they've not met), the kids cook, clean, and work to earn money all on their own.
The book has a surprise ending, and as the first book in the series, it is a great opportunity to get your struggling or reluctant readers hooked on an easy-to-read series that will expose them to lots of great vocabulary. This book is truly a must-have in every third-grade classroom library.
Teach with Boxcar Children
8. Third Grade Angels by Jerry Spinelli
Jerry Spinelli is an amazing author, and this book is perfect for your third-grade students. A prequel to the popular story Fourth Grade Rats, this is the story of George's third-grade year. Nicknamed Suds, George is desperate to be the first to win his teacher's coveted behavior award.
George struggles with what it means to have good behavior and whether he has to behave ALL the time to earn the award. George's character and challenges are easily relatable to students.
A great fall read-aloud for third grade, this story is also perfect for book clubs or as an independent reading opportunity later in the school year.
Teach with Third Grade Angels
9. Fudge-a-mania by Judy Blume
After discovering his parents' plan to have their family spend summer vacation with his enemy, Sheila, Peter Hatcher is sure summer is ruined. His little brother, however, is elated.
Things take a turn for the better for Peter when his parents offer to let him bring his best friend with him, but it isn't long before he's spending more time with Shiela than him.
While the storyline is pretty tame, much like life most of the time, the relatable characters and situations are perfect for 3rd-grade readers. The students love predicting what will happen after discovering Sheila and Peter have become “stepcousins” by the end of the story.
Another fabulous novel by Judy Blume is the third book in the Fudge series. While all the books in the series are great, I really love this one. It is a great way to introduce the topic of protagonist vs. antagonist and how this isn't always the bad guy vs. the good guy.
Teach with Fudge-a-mania
10. Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe
Told from the perspective of the family dog, Harold, Bunnicula is the story of what happened after the family found a baby rabbit at the movie theater during a screening of Dracula.
When Chester (the family's cat) notices something strange about the new addition, he decides the rabbit must be a vampire and tries to alert the Monroe family.
Another really funny book, this novel is great for Halloween or any time. The engaging storyline and unique perspective of the narrator make it a perfect book for those students who are into vampires and other supernatural happenings.
The text offers a number of great opportunities to infer and draw conclusions, which is a challenging skill for many 3rd graders.
Teach with Bunnicula
11. The Chocolate Touch by Patrick Skene Catling
Imagine everything you touched turned to chocolate…
Sounds pretty awesome, right? That's what John Midas thought, too, until things started to go horribly wrong.
This delightful fantasy novel is a twist on the traditional story of the Midas touch. Even reluctant readers can't help but be pulled into the story as they connect with John and his transition from enjoyment to frustration with his newfound talent.
A great book for cause and effect and prediction, The Chocolate Touch is a well-loved novel for a reason. I guarantee your kids will be begging to get back to reading when you use this book in your novel study or book club.
Teach with The Chocolate Touch
12. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
There is so much great realistic fiction for third graders. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is the perfect example of a high-quality, engaging novel that allows students to connect with characters.
The story is focused around a girl named Ramona, who faces many of the same challenges with parents and peers your students might be facing in their lives. From bullying and the pressure to balancing the responsibilities of home life, this book covers it all.
The story is great for making text-to-self connections and comparing characters.
Teach with Ramona Quimby, Age 8
13. Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
My list wouldn't be complete without a graphic novel, and Flora & Ulysses is the perfect graphic novel for your third graders.
Written by award-winning author Kate DiCamillo, this is the story of the many zany adventures of a superhero squirrel and the girl who saved him.
Students love this silly adventure story, and it is a great introduction to Kate DiCamillo if students haven't read her work previously.
While ideal for reluctant readers due to the many detailed illustrations, even your advanced readers will enjoy this light, fun-to-read book.
Teach with Flora & Ulysses
14. Esio Trot by Roald Dahl
A love story with a twist, this is the story of Mr. Hoppy and his plans to win the adoration of Ms. Silver via her beloved tortoise (Alfie). After telling Mr. Hoppy she wished she knew how to help Alfie grow larger, he concocts a wacky plan to win her over. Your students will love discussing this hare-brained plot and predicting whether it will work. (Spoiler: It does!)
With vivid description and silliness that only Dahl can bring to a children's novel, this story is overall an easy read and fan favorite. There are so many great opportunities to discuss character traits and practice visualization, inferring, and more.
While the text has some made-up words (as do nearly all Dahl's books), the plotline draws readers in and encourages them to overcome these challenges because the story is just that good.
Teach with Esio Trot
15. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
After being flattened by a bulletin board, Stanley wakes up to discover he is FLAT! While this predicament has its downsides, the positive is he can be rolled up, easily mailed anywhere, and even used as a kite on a windy day. His situation also makes him a hero when he thwarts some art thieves.
This original Flat Stanley book is a quick, easy read that you can connect with so many cross-curricular projects.
Perfect for a beginning-of-year book club or a literature circle with your lower readers, this story offers opportunities to teach many important reading comprehension skills in an engaging format that lends itself to the discussion.
Teach with Flat Stanley: His Original Adventure
16. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This story is was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and is the semi-true adventure of her family's move to Wisconsin when she was a child. Throughout the story, Laura describes the work she does to help her Ma and Pa and how the family always finds time to play together.
From butchering their own meat to gathering wood for the fire, the Ingalls must do everything they need for survival. As the book works through each season, the work the family does changes. Planting, making butter, and more.
Students are often fascinated by life long before there were grocery stores everywhere. Great for comparing the past and present, which is a commonly studied social studies unit, this story goes into detail about life during the 1800s. This is the first of four books in the Little House series.
Teach with Little House in the Big Woods
- Buy the book: Little House in the Big Woods
- Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Little House in the Big Woods Novel Study
17. Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne
The Magic Tree House series is one of my favorites. We actually use it for a bedtime read-aloud with my 6-year old. However, it is truly a great series for independent readers in third grade, too.
The stories revolve around a sister and brother, Jack and Annie, and their travels in a magic tree house. In this first book, they travel back to the time of the dinosaurs on a mysterious quest. In addition to the great story, readers also learn lots of facts about dinosaurs through Jack's research during their travels.
Great for teaching facts and opinions and other great reading skills, this book is a gateway to a whole series of great reading for your students.
Teach with Little House in the Big Woods
- Buy the book: Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark
- Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Dinosaurs Before Dark Novel Study
18. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
What kid hasn't dreamed about their toys coming to life? The fact that this fantasy is so relatable is part of what makes this one of the great books for 3rd graders!
When Omri receives a cupboard for his birthday, he decides it is the perfect place to lock his plastic Indian toy. The next thing he knows his plastic toy is a walking, talking man. After finding out his name is Little Bear, Omri works to help him set up a place to live and food.
Of course, no story is complete without a little drama…and Omri's comes in the form of a cowboy named Boone. While the two don't get along at first, the men soon find their commonalities.
Ultimately, Omri gets an unfortunate surprise when the key that makes the magic cupboard work disappears. Will the cowboy and Indian ever be able to go back home?
Perfect for teaching comparing and contrasting, visualizing, and more.
Teach with The Indian in the Cupboard
- Buy the book: The Indian in the Cupboard
- Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Indian in the Cupboard Novel Study
19. Stuart Little by E.B. White
Many students have seen the movies that go along with this series, which makes the book the perfect transition to help students that struggle with comprehension.
Stuart is a mouse born into a human family. (Don't ask me how that happened…) His family lives in New York City, and the story chronicles his adventures around Manhattan and all the dangers of being small in a big, big world.
Their familiarity with the plotline makes digging deep into important reading strategies easier, and comparison between the book and movie helps students build real-world connections.
Vocabulary and context clues are also a great focus for this fabulous classic.
Teach with Stuart Little
20. The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson
Want a funny book for third graders to engage with? This is it!
The Best School Year Ever is the second in the series about the Herdman family, a group that regularly finds trouble no matter where they go. The narrator is a classmate of one of the Herdman children and shares all the rumors and legends that surround the family.
Throughout the school year, anything that goes wrong is blamed on one Herdman kid or another, but when the narrator is asked to write a compliment about each kid in class, it is discovered that maybe the Herdmans aren't so bad after all.
A great book for discussing finding the good in others, this story has lots of great humor and is such a fun read.
Teach with The Best School Year Ever
- Buy the book: The Best School Year Ever
- Novel Study & Lesson Materials: The Best School Year Ever Novel Study
Find the perfect novel for your third graders to enjoy!
While it can be challenging to find quality novels with engaging plots that support deep conversation and critical thinking about text that will appeal to a broad range of readers, my hope is that this list will help guide you in the right direction.
All twenty books on this comprehensive list are quality literature that your 3rd graders will love, whether you decide to use them as a read-aloud or incorporate them as you plan your next novel unit.
Not teaching third grade? Here are some additional articles to help you find great books your learners might enjoy: