The world of third grade is a fascinating one. It's a phase where readers are blossoming, ready to delve deeper into literature's treasures. Their appetites for compelling narratives are growing, and they're on the brink of exploring more intricate plots and character dynamics. However, any educator, parent, or guardian knows the challenge: finding the right books for 3rd graders that hit the sweet spot between engaging and age-appropriate.
Have you ever found yourself overwhelmed, combing through the endless recommendations, trying to pinpoint the best chapter books for 3rd graders? The hunt can seem daunting. Choose a book too rudimentary, and they're uninterested; select something overly intricate, which might overshadow their budding reading confidence.
But here's the good news: your quest just became more navigable. After countless hours in library aisles, coupled with the invaluable feedback of young literature enthusiasts, I've created this curated guide. This list isn't just a random assortment; it's a carefully chosen collection of top-notch chapter books for 3rd graders, complemented by captivating graphic novels tailored for the vibrant and curious minds of 8- and 9-year-olds.
So, without further ado, let's delve into this handpicked selection of books for 3rd graders. These tales are more than just stories; they're gateways to worlds of wonder, challenges, and growth.
My Favorite Novels & Chapter Books for 3rd Graders
Whether you are a first-time teacher preparing your classroom library or trying to find a great book for your child, these 23 novels are amazing for your third-grade students. To help you determine which books best fit your class, I shared a short summary of the plot. I also shared links to the novel study to help save you prep time. I know your third graders will love these great stories!
Realistic Fiction for Third Graders
1. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
This popular book tells 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. However, when he gets stuck trying to eat more than a dozen worms, he realizes there has to be a better way! This leads him to learn various cooking methods to make his task a little less disgusting…maybe.
As a teacher, I love that this story offers so many opportunities to discuss important reading comprehension skills, including cause and effect, problem and solution, and character change across time.
Learn more about the novel study: How to Eat Fried Worms Novel Study
2. The Best School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson
Looking for funny books for your learner to engage with? Look no further!
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 surrounding 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 great humor and is such a fun read.
3. 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 face. This book covers everything from bullying and the pressure to balancing the responsibilities of home life.
The story is great for making text-to-self connections and comparing characters. I highly recommend you add it to your 3rd grade reading list.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 Novel Study
4. 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 book for third grade, this story is also perfect for book clubs or as an independent reading opportunity later in the school year.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Third Grade Angels Novel Study
5. 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.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Fudge-a-mania Novel Study
Fantasy Books for 3rd Graders
6. Snot Stew by Bill Wallace
If you think this story will be about snot…guess again. Told from a cat's first-person point of view, 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 changes dramatically until an emergency brings them back together.
Great for inferring, students love using text clues to figure out what common household objects the feline narrator describes. The story is also a great introduction to point of view and how it impacts the reader's understanding of the text.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Snot Stew Novel Study
7. 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 a gem that will stick with your readers for years.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: My Father's Dragon Novel Study
8. The Littles by John Peterson
Imagine tiny people were 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.
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.
9. 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.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Flora & Ulysses Novel Study
10. 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 beg to get back to reading when you use this book in your novel study or book club.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: The Chocolate Touch Novel Study
11. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
If your students are looking for a funny book to read, consider Louis Sachar's Sideways Stories from Wayside School.
The book is a collection of short stories that all take place in the same wacky school where things never seem to go right. From a teacher who turns students into apples to a boy who gets sent home early for saving the day and being a good friend, your students will be laughing at the silly situations the characters find themselves in.
Each story can be read as a stand-alone or part of the larger collection. This book is perfect for a classroom read-aloud or for independent reading. This was always the first story I read to my own class.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Sideways Stories from Wayside School Novel Study
12. Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne
The Magic Tree House series is one of my favorites. It has so many great books for 3rd graders to enjoy and learn from. We actually use it for a bedtime read-aloud with my 6-year old. However, it is a great series for third-grade independent readers, 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 series of great reading for your students.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Dinosaurs Before Dark Novel Study
13. 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 discovering 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 initially, the men soon find commonalities.
Ultimately, Omri is surprised when the magic cupboard's key disappears. Will the cowboy and Indian ever be able to go back home?
This is one of my favorite books for 3rd graders when teaching comparing and contrasting or visualizing.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Indian in the Cupboard Novel Study
14. Stuart Little by E.B. White
Many students have seen the movies that accompany this series, making the book the perfect transition to help students who 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 comparing the book and movie helps students build real-world connections.
Vocabulary and context clues are also a great focus for this fabulous classic.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Stuart Little Novel Study
Historical Fiction Books for Third Graders
15. 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. However, this classic book remains one of my favorite novels for third graders.
Stone Fox 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 cheer him on as he attempts the impossible.
This novel is a literary gem, making a fantastic winter read-aloud. I can read it repeatedly 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. Alternatively, you might use this book in conjunction with the true story of Balto.
16. 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 will 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.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: The Boxcar Children Novel Study
17. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This story was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and is the semi-true adventure of her family's move to Wisconsin when she was a young girl. Throughout the story, Laura describes her work to help her Ma and Pa and how the family always finds time to play together.
From butchering their meat to gathering wood for the fire, the Ingalls must do everything they need to survive. As the book works through each season, the family's work 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, a commonly studied social studies unit, this story details life during the 1800s. This is the first of four books in the Little House series.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Little House in the Big Woods Novel Study
More books for 3rd graders
18. Geronimo Stilton #1: Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye
Unlike many of the other books on this list, the Geronimo Stilton series is a bit less text-heavy. However, don't let that deter you from giving them a try! These books are packed with adventure, humor, and interesting facts.
In the first book, Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye, readers follow Geronimo as he tries to solve the mystery of a missing treasure. Full of twists and turns, this book is perfect for reluctant readers or those who are looking for a fast-paced read with lots of visuals.
This series is full of adventure stories, so if your students enjoy this book, be sure to check out the rest of the chapter book series!
19. 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 like his classmate. Andrew can think of many reasons why 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 it to say, things get extra hilarious from then on.
Your students will love this totally relatable novel, and you'll love the numerous opportunities to teach skills like theme and problem & solution. This makes it one of the great books for 3rd graders to enjoy during book clubs or lit circles.
20. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
The book is a collection of short stories about the title character, an eccentric woman who knows how to deal with children's bad habits. From kids who won't take baths to those who are always losing their temper, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has a cure for everything.
Your students will love hearing about the wild antics that take place in each story, and you can use the book as a springboard for discussing character traits, problem-solving, and more.
If you're looking for a feel-good read, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is a good choice!
21. 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 narrator's engaging storyline and unique perspective make it a perfect book for 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.
22. 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 among books for 3rd graders. There are 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.
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: Esio Trot Novel Study
23. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Your animal-loving students with The Wild Robot!
After a shipwreck, Roz the robot washes ashore on an uninhabited island. At first, she is only concerned with her survival, but as time passes, she starts to feel lonely. When a family of creatures finds her, Roz begins to learn about companionship with your animal-loving students with The Wild Robot!
A former Global Read Aloud book, The Wild Robot is a good book to discuss character traits, emotions, and more with your third-grade class.
Don't forget to check out the corresponding lesson plans and materials for the book!
Novel Study & Lesson Materials: The Wild Robot 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.
I hope this list has sparked some ideas for adding books to your classroom library and your next novel unit. While you're here, grab my free novel study planning roadmap to get step-by-step support to plan a high-quality literature unit for your third-grade students, whether you're in the classroom or homeschooling.