There’s a new year ahead and that always brings a thrill of excitement. I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the bright colors in a new pack of crayons, and the unlimited possibilities for decorating a brand new binder! Add to that, a great list of back to school books for 3rd – 5th grade.

3rd - 5th Grade Books for Back to School from The Miraculous Journey of Books at Image of books featured in this blog post: Frindle, Thank you Mr. Falker, Save Me a Seat, Adventures to school, Real Friends, and more.

With this newness, I love to get some good books into the hands of our children. I have created a list of books that take place in schools, many of them specifically about the first days of the new year. These books are meant to encourage and challenge our students to dare greatly! Here is our list for some of the best back to school books for 3rd – 5th grade available:

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Books in a Series for Back to School

At the start of a school year, I always choose a read-aloud that is the first book in a series. Reading the first book introduces kids to the characters and also familiarizes them to a setting. Once they have fallen in love with those characters and the world they live in, they can confidently tackle other books in the series and focus on other aspects of comprehending the story. The majority of students in my class who love books can tell me of a series they have read from start to finish!

Read the 7 Reasons to Read Books in a Series blog post to learn more about introducing a book series to your readers, and also find additional book series recommendations. Here are some of my favorite 3rd through 5th grade series books for back to school:

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
Wayside School by Louis Sachar
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsal
Wings of Fire by Tui T. Sutherland
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Green Ember by S.D. Smith
Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood

The following 3rd – 5th grade books for back to school take place in a school and are great for inspiring excitement for the new school year! In the comments, please let me know which ones you’ve read, which are your favorites, and if you’d add any books to this list.

Thank you, Mr. Falker
by Patricia Polacco

This book is perfect for back to school because of its message to persevere. Patricia Polacco tells her own story when she was a young girl who struggled to read. She believed that she had hidden this well until her teacher, Mr. Falker, confronted her one day.

Feeling defeated, she gave in and received his help. They worked diligently to teach her how to read, and her confidence slowly grew.

I always cry while reading the epilogue. This is where she reveals to readers that this is her personal story. She also shares that as an adult she was able to see Mr. Falker again and thank him for his patience in teaching her. When asked what she did for a living she could proudly respond that she writes books for children.

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say
by Angela Dominguez

As Stella Diaz goes back to school, she works hard to overcome some fears that many kids face in their first days. She struggles to meet new friends and worries that her best friend isn’t in her class. She gets nervous about giving a big presentations. And, she sometimes speaks Spanish instead of English, causing her to worry what the other kids might think of her. Stella Diaz Has Something to Say is a sweet story with some very encouraging characters!

Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing
by Judy Blume

This Judy Blume classic is a must read for students once they reach upper-elementary school age. There is nothing more hysterical than the antics of a little brother named Fudge. This is the first in a series of books. So, if your kiddos enjoy it you should definitely look into the other books. Keep them reading!

In this first book of the series, Peter is extremely frustrated with his three year-old brother who seems to get away with everything. Jude Blume tells the story in a way that you can’t help but laugh, all the while understanding Peter’s frustration.

While the story doesn’t take place at school, many kids can relate to the sibling rivalry that the two share, especially as a 4th grader trying their best to play things cool.

by Andrew Clements

Frindle is a story about a young boy named Nick is a constant troublemaker. He has invented a new word that people all over the country are beginning to use. It drives his teacher nuts because she is a stickler for using the English language properly.

They battle it out over whether or not a pen should be called a frindle. This book inspires a lot of creativity and fun for young kids. It’s a great one to read at the beginning of the year.

Maybe your students or children can think of a new word that they can reference on a regular basis throughout the school year. Such an idea would surely help make this unique year positively stick out in their memory for many years to come.

Honestly Elliott
by Gillian McDunn

Honestly Elliott has been highly praised and won several awards. It is also a Sunshine State Young Reader book, which makes it ideal for reading at the start of the school year. Struggling with ADHD and wanting to fit in at school, he does his best and finds an unlikely friend along the way. I also love the theme of cooking in the books; it’s a pastime that helps Elliott to relax and feel calm.

Save Me a Seat
by Gita Varadarajan and Sarah Weeks

This book is creatively told from two different points of view. Every other chapter is narrated by either Ravi or Joe. Both boys are extremely different on the outside, but it turns out that they have a lot more in common than you would expect.

Joe has suddenly become lonely after his best friend has moved away. He is starting a new school year without him. Ravi has recently moved to America from India with his family and he, too, feels it is difficult to fit in with these unfamiliar surroundings.

The thing I really like about Ravi is through his story you learn a lot about Indian culture including foods, the language (he hilariously shares a lot about people mispronouncing his name), and their typical family dynamics. I also enjoyed Ravi’s arrogance, or maybe you could call it his confidence, because he felt sure he was the smartest kid around. Several things happen that help to humble him. If you listen to the audiobook, his chapters are read by Vikas Adam who uses an accent fitting to Ravi’s native language.

In Save Me a Seat, Ravi and Joe deal with bullies and insecurities similar to many kids their age. They are able to find commonalities through these struggles and fill the void that each is missing.









The Boy at the Back of the Class
by Onjali Q. Rauf

I recently read this book and I have mixed feelings about it. There were a lot of things that I loved, but I do want to share that there were a couple of things that gave me pause.

The Boy at the Back of the Class is about a student who is a refugee from Syria and recently traveled to England. He doesn’t speak English, so he struggles to communicate with other students. However, there’s a group of very kind students who become his friend and, after learning his story, do some incredible things as activists in the refugee crisis.

At one point, they attempt to deliver a letter to the queen during a changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Their great feat is noted by the media and they are given a platform to share their concern in helping their friend find his family, as well as a safe place to live.

I enjoyed that the story was set in England. It was exciting to hear about monuments and characteristics unique to this country. I also like that it introduces a sensitive subject to kids in regards to refugees. This can be a weighty topic, but it is easier to take in because of the caring adults leading the kids.

The main thing I didn’t like was the voice of the main character. She was extremely naive and frequently misunderstood simple phrases. I felt it took away from the story. An example of this is she previously learned all about WWI in school, but had never heard of WWII. This doesn’t seem feasible.

Overall, I think this would be a great read for your child. It’s a good resource for learning about a great country, as well as a sensitive topic

Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

I know Wonder by R.J. Palacio received a lot of hype when it came out, but I enjoyed Fish in a Tree more! They are both feel-good stories with similar themes, but this book follows Ally who struggles with dyslexia. She becomes a trouble maker in class to hide the fact that she can’t read. Thankfully she has a caring teacher who patiently builds her trust and helps her grow in confidence.

A book like this is an excellent way to open up conversation between parents and kids about things the might struggle with that they are afraid to talk about. It’s also a great way to help your child to show compassion to kids in their own class who might act out because of their own hidden fears.

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom
by Louis Sachar

My personal preference for starting the fifth grade year off right is to read There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom.  This is a hysterical book about a notorious bully turned kind friend that my students reference all year long. It is the perfect book to teach the skill of character development because Bradley changes so drastically from the beginning to the end of the story.

Bradley could care less what others think of him. He is a pathological liar, he intentionally fails tests, and then cuts them up into tiny pieces. One day, a new student joins his class and befriends Bradley. With the help of the guidance counselor, Bradley learns what it means to be a good friend.

Along with character traits, this book also leads to great discussions about symbolism. Bradley has a collection of animal figurines that he talks to, and they represent his true feelings.

Listen. Just contact me if you plan to read this book with your kids. I’d love to talk to you about it.

I hope this list of 3rd – 5th grade books for back to school encourages you on your adventures these first few weeks of school. There is nothing like a good book to help settle your nerves and encourage you to persevere! This will be a year unlike any we have experienced!

Good luck to everyone on their first days! Work hard and remain positive. You will do great things!

Be sure to check out our other books for back to school reading lists:
Kindergarten, 1st, or 2nd grade
6th – 8th Grade

3rd - 5th Grade Books for Back to School from The Miraculous Journey of Books at Image of books featured in this blog post: Frindle, Thank you Mr. Falker, Save Me a Seat, Adventures to school, Real Friends, and more.