This year I didn’t do as great of a job on keeping track of all the books we read aloud as I did in 2nd grade, but I’ve still got a great list of wonderful books to share with you. These books are a great fit for reading aloud to 3rd graders. I know because I read them aloud to my 3rd graders!
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum – You already know what this one’s about, so I’m going to take a second to recommend the Anne Hathaway-narrated audiobook of this classic. We listened to it in the car and were completely mesmerized and soothed by the warmth and charm in Anne’s voice.
2. The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell – The talented author of How to Train Your Dragon presents a story full of witches, wizards, warriors, and adventure. This is a great pick for young fantasy and adventure fans.
3. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood – This book was reminiscent of Jane Eyre for me, which is a very good thing since the gothic, mysterious orphan story of Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite books. The Incorrigable children were discovered in the woods and behave like wild animals. Amidst layers of mystery, governess Penelope Lumley does her best to help them.
4. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Hostile Hospital) by Lemony Snicket – If you haven’t already read the earlier books in the Unfortunate Events series, don’t start here – start with the first book in the series (The Bad Beginning). We started this series when the kids were in 2nd grade, and it’s no exaggeration to say that this series has been one of the most magical reading experiences in our family’s reading life. The darkly funny story of the woes of the Baudelaire orphans kept my kids begging for just one more chapter, and watching the Netflix episodes that corresponded to the books as we finished them made for some fantastic family movie nights. *Sigh* I really wish we could discover this series all over again. If you haven’t started it yet, you are truly in for a treat.
5. Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate – Jackson’s family lives on the brink of homelessness, and I don’t have to tell you that living in that constant state of insecurity is hard on a kid. Crenshaw, Jackson’s old imaginary friend, steps back in to Jackson’s life to help him muddle his way through. If you’re looking for a book to help develop empathy and understanding of sociological issues, you can’t go wrong here.
6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling – Of course, you should start with the first book of the Harry Potter series if you haven’t already read the series (I highly recommend the beautiful illustrated editions). I was a little worried about going deeper into the series because, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you know that the series gets progressively darker as the characters age. This book was another magical reading experience for us, though, and not as dark or scary for my kids as I had feared.
7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – After we worked our way through this sci-fi classic about a brother and sister who must journey through dimensions to find their father, we enjoyed a family movie night with the recent Oprah/Mindy Kaling/Reese Witherspoon adaptation. I love it when a book turns into a special family event.
8. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill – Maybe more than any other middle grade book I’ve read, this book stands out as incredibly lyrical. The descriptions and the language are absolutely poetic and make for the perfect reading rhythm for bedtime. Part dystopian lit and part fantasy, The Girl Who Drank the Moon shifts perspectives among a kind old witch, a madwoman, and a village boy. All of the stories converge near the end in this story about the power of love.
9. Wicked Bugs (Young Readers Edition) by Amy Stewart – If you have a bug lover or naturalist at your house, give this book a try. We read this collection of profiles of venomous, dangerous, history-making, and headline-making creepy-crawlies during our daily morning time, one cringe-worthy but relatively short chapter at a time. I did find myself wishing for more photos and illustrations, but all of us, even those of us who aren’t bug lovers, enjoyed this read.
10. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House was a huge part of my childhood, so I was eager to share the story of Laura’s pioneer family with my children. While my kids were captivated by the story almost as much as I was, I have to say that this reading went down a little differently than it did back when I read it the first time in the 80’s. We paused our reading many times to talk about the historical realities of westward expansion, racism, sexism, and the treatment of native people. While my fond memories of Pa and the Ingalls’ pioneer life won’t be the same, I’m grateful for the opportunity this book gave us to discuss perspective.
11. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – We continued on to the third book in the series (skipping Farmer Boy). After reading this book, we had some great family tv nights watching episodes of the old tv show.
12. Upside Down Magic (#5 – Weather or Not) by Mlynowski, Myracle, and Jenkins – We started this series about Nory and her friends with “upside-down” magic last year. I love the metaphor about learning differences, and I love the messaging about how differences are really gifts. If you have a Harry Potter or Worst Witch fan, definitely give this series a try.
13. Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare – After a friend shared that Sign of the Beaver was her little boy’s favorite readaloud ever, I knew I had to give this one a try. And there’s a lot here for adventurous kids to love as a young boy has to learn to fend for himself in the American West of the 1700’s. Matt isn’t all alone, though, after all, and his burgeoning friendship with Attean, a boy from the Beaver clan, reveals truths about the relationship between early settlers and Native Americans. If you’re learning about the Westward Expansion period of American history, this book is a fantastic companion to that unit.
14. Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier – I absolutely loved Jonathan’s Auxier’s The Night Gardener, so I was eager to read Sweep with my kids. Be warned that Sweep is a fairly dark account of the life of Nan, a child climber working under a wicked chimney sweep master in Victorian London. Nan’s life isn’t without love, though, and her relationships with those around her are a thing of beauty. Part historical fiction, part magical realism, I read this book through tears at times, but it’s so worth it to come to an appreciation of what it took to begin to end child labor.
15. Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks – In this first installment of the Tuesday McGillycuddy series, Tuesday and her sweet little dog Baxter venture into a land of stories in search of Serendipity, Tuesday’s famous mother, who happens to be the author of some of the characters living in the realm of stories. It’s the perfect amount of adventure for third graders. There’s a little bit of danger and a lot of imagination involved, but nothing ever feels too scary. Try this one if you’re reading to storytellers, aspiring writers, or fantasy and adventure fans.
16. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate – Okay, this book’s narrator is a tree. But hang with me. This book’s author is Katherine Applegate, the same author who gave us The One and Only Ivan, and she’s got the chops to pull it off. Our hero tree, Red, has a special role in the community, and when bullies threaten a young Muslim girl and her family, Red makes a plan to help.
Books We Started and Abandoned (But Maybe They’re Right for You)
- Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk – We hardly made it through any of this book before my kids were complaining of boredom. Ugh. But I’m not sure we gave it a fair shot, and I definitely want to give this multi-award winning book another shot one day. A book that’s drawn comparison’s to the themes and storytelling of To Kill a Mockingbird has to be pretty good, right?
2. Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – Okay, this one is kind of long, but otherwise, I’m not sure why my kids didn’t want to finish this one. Maybe it was the lurking sense of danger that pervades the story of this team of genius children tasked with saving the world.
3. Nightbooks by J.A. White – We had to stop this one because the kids were having nightmares. That said, I loved reading it until they convinced me we had to stop. Alex is kidnapped by a witch in his apartment building. She’s letting him live as long as he keeps her entertained with his stories. (Reading the witch’s voice was so fun.)