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35 Best 5th Grade Read Alouds: Books for Upper Elementary

Reading aloud to your fifth grade class is something you should try to do every day. It engages students in literature they might not try reading for themselves and introduces them to a wide range of genres, authors, and styles. It also creates a shared experience in the classroom, promoting discussion and sharing of ideas.

Reading aloud exposes students to diverse perspectives, cultures, and experiences. It can spark empathy, compassion, and understanding as students connect with the characters and their experiences.

Finally, reading aloud to your students can inspire their own creative storytelling.

5th Grade Read Alouds Your Whole Class Will Love

So what should you read to your fifth graders? Well almost anything! You probably have a lot of wonderful books in your classroom library that you can pull out for a read aloud. But there's always room for more, right?!!

In this blog post, I'll share a list of the best books (in my opinion) for the upper elementary classroom.

But first, here are a few tips:

BEFORE READING: Preview the book

Books written for upper elementary kids and pre-teens often touch on some serious topics and themes. This isn't a bad thing, but it’s a good idea to preview the book to make sure it’s appropriate for your students.

DURING READING: Let your students lead the discussion

Don't lead students down a path they wouldn't explore themselves. Ask open ended questions that allow your 5th graders to share their ideas and opinions. This builds critical thinking skills. Let them take in the story and see what thoughts and questions it generates.

AFTER READING: Give students time to write their own book reviews

Goodreads and Common Sense Media are both great sites where kids can share their own reviews about books. This is a great way for them to express their opinions and ideas, even if they aren't willing to share them with the whole class.

(Note: This post may contain affiliate links.)

Great Chapter Books to Read Aloud

There are so many amazing novels and chapter books that make perfect read alouds for 5th graders! Some of them are modern classics while others are lesser known. The genres range from historical fiction books to futuristic dystopian tales. Many feature a coming-of-age story or address thought-provoking topics that will lead to great discussions among your students.

I'll begin my list of books with a few of the better known titles enjoyed by my upper elementary students and then provide more detailed reviews of some books you might not be as familiar with.

Great Read-Aloud Books You Might Already Have in Your Library

  • Holes

  • Hatchet

  • Number the Stars

  • The Giver

  • Bridge to Terabithia

  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

  • Tuck Everlasting

  • Frindle

  • Wayside School books

Of these, my absolute favorite is The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Read more about it in this post:

➡️ The Best Winter Read Alouds for Upper Elementary Kids

Other Amazing Books to READ ALOUD IN 5TH GRADE

If you're looking to expand your collection of titles for your read-aloud time, you'll definitely want to check out this book list:

5th grade read alouds novels 1

The Night Gardener - Jonathan Auxier

This is a thrilling and mysterious book that keeps fifth graders on the edge of their seats. The story follows two orphaned siblings, Molly and Kip, who go to work at a creepy Victorian mansion and soon realize things are not what they seem. The children uncover the secrets of an ancient curse and a ghost who tends to a tree that can grant your every wish.

The book explores themes of courage, friendship, and the power of facing one's fears. Lots of adventure and suspense in this one, plus a moral at the end!

The War That Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Set during World War II, this story follows Ada, a young girl born with a club foot. Because of her disability, her cruel mother keeps her locked away in their apartment.

When Ada's brother is sent to the country to escape the war in London, Ada bravely decides to escape from her abusive home and join him. There, she discovers a new life filled with love and hope.

This book explores themes of resilience, strength, and family.

Fish in a Tree - Lynda Mullaly Hunt

This is a great read about a 6th grader named Ally trying to cope with undiagnosed dyslexia. She struggles in school and often feels misunderstood, leading to frustration and isolation. However, everything changes when a new teacher recognizes her potential and helps her discover her own strengths.

This book teaches great lessons about the power of friendship, empathy, and self-acceptance.

5th grade novels to read aloud

Bud, Not Buddy - Christopher Paul Curtis

Set during the Great Depression, this award-winning book (including the Newbery Medal and Corretta Scott King Award) follows the journey of a young orphan boy named Bud Caldwell. After the death of his mother, he is placed in foster care and then embarks on a quest to find his father.

This book addresses issues such as racism, forgiveness, and resilience from a young person's point of view. Despite these serious topics, the story is often humorous and lighthearted.

Echo Mountain - Lauren Wolk

This is another piece of historical fiction that takes place during the Great Depression. Ellie and her family are forced to move from their home in the city to Echo Mountain where they set up a homestead.

After a freak accident leaves Ellie's father in a coma, she tries to take over much of his work and attempts to use natural resources of the wilderness to save her dad. Then one day, Ellie discovers an old "witch" badly injured and living alone in a cabin on the mountaintop. It's a great story of determination and resourcefulness.

Out of My Mind - Sharon Draper

If your students like the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, you'll definitely want to introduce them to Out of My Mind.

The main character has a photographic memory and she's the smartest kid in her whole school - except no one knows it! You see, she has cerebral palsy and can't walk, talk, or write. Instead, she's locked inside her own head, feeling invisible and surrounded by people who think she can't learn.

Melody's refusal to be defined by her physical limitations and her determination to overcome them is inspiring. She is a character your students will remember for a long time.

5th grade read alouds novels 3

I must be drawn to books about the Great Depression because here's another good one that takes place during that time period. This one is about a brother and sister who leave Chicago for a week every summer to visit their grandmother who lives in a tiny town in the countryside.

The book is divided into sections, one for each summer trip and the hilarious things that Grandma does. She loves to tell ridiculous lies to the neighbors and plan outlandish escapades.

This is just a FUN book. I love how it's divided up into "episodes" making it easy to read a bit each day. The sequel to this book is A Year Down Yonder and it's just as good, if not better!

Ungifted - Gordan Korman

This very funny and entertaining story is told from alternating perspectives. The plot revolves around Donovan, a somewhat wild middle school student who is mistakenly placed in a gifted program instead of getting in trouble for one of his pranks. There, he finds himself in a new world of advanced classes and high expectations with people he can't related to.

Although the story somewhat stereotypes gifted kids as "nerds", it shows us that all kids, no matter what their IQ, are gifted in their own way, want to be accepted, and need someone to believe in them. Overall, it's a really funny book that will make your fifth graders laugh out loud.

Among the Hidden - Margaret Peterson Haddix

The is a dystopian novel (one of my favorite genres for middle grades) set in a future society where families are only allowed to have two children. Luke, a third child, lives hidden away in his family's farmhouse, unable to leave or interact with the outside world. However, his life changes when he discovers another hidden child and they join forces to challenge the oppressive regime.

I like dystopian fiction for fifth grade because they're a fun way to prompt discussions about societal issues and fighting injustice.

5th grade read alouds novels 4

Freak the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick

This story follows an unlikely bond between two fifth-grade boys - Kevin, who is brilliant but physically disabled, and Max, who is large and struggles with learning disabilities. Together, they build a remarkable friendship and recreate themselves as a duo called "Freak the Mighty."

Through their adventures, they navigate the challenges of school and bullies, finding strength and support in each other. I love how this book shows us the importance of looking beyond appearances and accepting others who may be different.

Wildfire: A Novel - Rodman Philbrick

This is a lesser-known book by the same author as Freak the Mighty, but it's quite exciting and suspenseful!

The main character, Sam, is at summer camp in Maine when wildfires break out, As the camp is evacuated, Sam runs back to get his phone and the bus leaves without him. Trapped in a forest that is rapidly being engulfed by the flames, he goes on the run to survive. Sam eventually encounters another camper who was left behind as well and they join together in a bid to survive.

This is a quick read at only 202 pages, but is action-packed the whole way through. I recommend it for a fun read-aloud that will have your 5th grade students eagerly anticipating the next chapter.

Esperanza Rising - Pam Muñoz Ryan

This is a fantastic book that transports readers to the time of the Great Depression. Through the eyes of Esperanza, a courageous young girl, we witness her journey from a life of luxury to one filled with hardships and resilience.

Esperanza is the only daughter of wealthy parents. But when her father is killed, Esperanza and her mother move to California to become farmworkers. There, they learn to work hard to survive. But when her mother falls ill, Esperanza must find a way to keep her family together.

It's a captivating story that teaches important lessons about empathy, determination, and the strength of family bonds.

5th grade read aloud novels 5

The One and Only Ivan - Katherine Applegate

This is a heartwarming tale with memorable characters and some valuable life lessons.

It tells the story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who lives in captivity in a shopping mall. The book explores Ivan's journey as he questions his existence and finds the strength to protect his friends. It is both funny and sad at times, and raises important questions about captivity, freedom, and human nature.

The story was inspired by a real gorilla who lived in a Washington shopping mall for 27 years making it extra meaningful for fifth grade students.

Unteachables - Gordon Korman

Like most of Korman's books, this one will get your class laughing. In this story, a group of students known as "The Unteachables" are placed in a classroom with the worst teacher in the whole school. The Unteachables never thought they'd find a teacher who had a worse attitude about school than theirs - and Mr. Kermit never thought he would actually care about teaching again.

This is a great book that shows that everyone has the potential to succeed, regardless of labels or perceptions. The unique and quirky characters are really relatable making this book very appealing to 5th graders.

Brother's Keeper by Julie Lee

Wow, what an amazing story this is! Set during the Korean War, it is the story of Sora and her brother's escape from their oppressive life in North Korea. This is a book that will keep everyone on the edge of their seats and begging to find out what happens next.

This survival story is about the characters' incredible courage and determination. It will generate discussions about political systems and human rights. Please be aware that there is some sensitive and graphic content about war, so definitely give this one a preview beforehand.

Picture Books to Read Aloud

All of these book recommendations so far have been for chapter books and novels. But don't forget about picture books!

You might think your fifth grade class is too old for picture books, but no way! I love to read picture books to older students because they often address relationships and social themes that resonate with middle grade kids. Fifth graders also still really enjoy seeing the illustrations, more than you can imagine.

Here are some of my personal favorites for this age range:

5th grade read alouds picture books 1

I Talk Like a River - Jordan Scott

This is a story about a young boy who struggles with stuttering. Every day, his words get stuck and his classmates make fun of him. However, a visit to a special place with his father changes everything. Inspired by a flowing river, the boy learns to embrace his stutter and find his own unique voice. Encourages empathy and understanding of our differences.

The Sweetest Fig - Chris Van Allsburg

This book, written by the author of The Polar Express, prompts students to think about the impact their actions can have on others and the importance of treating others with respect and compassion.

The story revolves around a wealthy and selfish dentist who finds two magical figs. He eats one of the figs and discovers that any wish he makes comes true. However, when his unkind and self-serving wishes backfire, he learns a valuable lesson about kindness.

Each Kindness - Jacqueline Woodson

What a bittersweet story this is! When a new girl, Maya, joins their class, Chloe and her friends tease and ignore her. Despite Maya's attempts to befriend them, the group continues to reject her.

One day, their teacher shares a lesson about kindness, emphasizing the importance of small acts that can create ripples of compassion. Chloe reflects on her own actions and realizes the opportunity for kindness she missed. However, it is too late to right the wrong as Maya never returns to their school.

I actually like that this story doesn't have a happy ending - because students need to know we don't always get a second chance to do the right thing.

picture books to read aloud to 5th graders

A Walk in the Words - Hudson Talbot

Inspired by the author's own childhood, this is the story of a boy with dyslexia and his struggles when reading long sentences. It demonstrates that we all learn in different ways and highlights the beauty of moving at your own pace. This is a good book for the beginning of the year to promote acceptance and compassion for those with learning differences.

Walter had a Best Friend - Deborah Underwood

5th grade friendships can be so touch and go with all the emotions and changes kids are going through.

This book tells the story of Walter who had a best friend until, over time, they just stopped being best friends. Walter is tremendously sad, but that's not the end. This is a story of friendship lost and how it hurts when someone you love chooses someone else. But most of all, it teaches us about healing and continuing on.

While the characters are animals and the illustrations appear to be suited to young children, the underlying theme of this book really resonates with 5th graders.

The Book of Mistakes - Corinna Luyken

I love this book for teaching growth mindset. It shows how one artist incorporates little mistakes and mishaps into her art, transforming them into something unexpected. The powerful lesson here is that mistakes are opportunities to learn and improve.

picture books for 5th grade

This is another good one for encouraging a growth mindset.

After falling from the wall, Humpty Dumpty is afraid of heights and no longer enjoys the things he used to love. He feels controlled and isolated by his fear. However, he finds the courage to face his fear and discovers that sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. It's a reminder that setbacks and failures are not the end of the story.

This is a very clever book with a real lesson to teach. It may be my favorite book in this list.

The story is illustrated with a wall on each page that separates a knight from everyone else. The knight believes the wall is keeping him safe from all the dangers on the other side. What the knight doesn’t realize is that rising water on his side is bringing a crocodile dangerously close. He soon discovers that the wall isn't keeping him safe after all.

This story is full of symbolism that can prompt discussions about the dangers of preconceived notions and the invisible walls we put up between ourselves and those who are different.

This interesting picture book tells the story of a young girl named Lucy who hears strange noises coming from the walls of her house. Even though her family dismisses her fears, Lucy is convinced that wolves are living in their home. As the story unfolds, Lucy's fears become validated when the wolves actually emerge from the walls. Lucy and her family must confront the wolves and find a way to reclaim their home.

picture book covers for 5th grade read alouds

The Junkyard Wonders - Patricia Polacco

Being a special education teacher, I have a hard time passing up books that promote acceptance and understanding of all learners.

This autobiographical story is about a girl named Trisha (Patricia, the author) who is placed in a special education class known as "The Junkyard" with children who are shunned for being weird and different. But their teacher, teaches Tricia and her classmates to believe in themselves, encouraging their dreams and individual talents.

The best part of this book is the epilogue at the end where the author reveals what happened to the other members of "The Junkyard" after their year together.

Emmanuel's Dream - Laurie Ann Thompson

This is a biographical picture book about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who was born with only one leg and considered to be cursed. Despite this, he went on to become an activist for the rights of disabled people, biking across Ghana to show that people with disabilities are capable of anything.

Wilma Unlimited - Kathleen Krull

This is true story of Wilma Rudolph, an incredible athlete who overcame tremendous obstacles to become an Olympic champion. The book follows Wilma's journey from her childhood in Tennessee, where she faced physical challenges caused by polio, to her rise as a record-breaking runner.

This book is about overcoming obstacles, pursuing your passion, and believing yourself.

Some of these books may be available to check out from your school's media center. But most of them are so good that you'll want to make them a permanent part of your classroom book collection! For a list of the best places to find children's books at very little cost see: Free and Cheap Ways to Get Books for Your Classroom Library


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