19 Great Books for 5th Graders: Top Picks for Young Readers

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 11/25/23 •  Classroom Resources

Reading is a great way to expand your child’s imagination and improve their cognitive abilities. However, picking the right book for your 5th grader can be overwhelming. There are so many options that knowing where to start can take a lot of work. We have compiled a list of the best books for 5th graders to keep them engaged and entertained while helping them develop critical reading skills.

From classics like ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis to modern favorites like ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ by J.K. Rowling, our list has something for every young reader. We will also suggest what to read after these books to keep your child’s love for reading going and how parents and teachers can influence reading choices.

Exploring the World of Books for 5th Graders

Reading at the 5th-grade level has numerous benefits for young readers and stage sets the foundation for lifelong learning and a lifelong love for books. Parents and educators (like you reading this) are crucial in guiding and supporting children in developing reading habits.

So, here are wide range of highly rated books that are good fit for 5th grade readers. They are both interesting, challenging while being age appropriate for your students.

‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar

‘Holes’ by Louis Sachar is a Newbery Medal-winning novel that follows Stanley Yelnats to Camp Green Lake. The story seamlessly weaves past and present, exploring family, loyalty, and friendship themes. Praised for its engaging plot and well-developed characters, ‘Holes’ has captivated readers of all ages.

This beloved book has even been adapted into a successful film and stage play. It is highly recommended for young readers who enjoy realistic fiction with elements of mystery and adventure.

‘Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

‘Number the Stars’ by Lois Lowry is a historical fiction novel set in Denmark during World War II. It tells the story of Annemarie, a 10-year-old girl, and her family’s brave efforts to help their Jewish neighbors escape persecution.

This book offers a unique perspective on the war, emphasizing bravery and compassion. ‘Number the Stars’ has received multiple awards and is considered a classic of children’s literature, making it an excellent choice for young readers interested in history and social justice issues.

‘Esperanza Rising’ by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan follows a young girl’s journey during the Great Depression as she moves from Mexico to California. The book deals with themes of family, perseverance, and social injustice. Written by award-winning author Pam Muñoz Ryan, it is known for its engaging plot and relatable characters.

As a Newbery Honor Book, Esperanza Rising appeals to fifth graders who enjoy historical fiction and want to explore different cultures and experiences. It’s a captivating choice for young readers seeking a diverse and culturally rich story.

‘Bridge to Terabithia’ by Katherine Paterson

‘Bridge to Terabithia’ by Katherine Paterson is a timeless classic that delves into friendship, imagination, and loss themes. Through the captivating story of Jess and Leslie, two unlikely friends, readers are transported into a magical world hidden in the woods.

This Newbery Medal-winning book has also been adapted into a movie and a play, further showcasing its enduring popularity. Perfect for 5th graders who love adventure, fantasy, and heartfelt stories, ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ entertains and encourages creativity and empathy towards others.

‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is a captivating tale that combines friendship, mystery, and adventure. This book is perfect for 5th graders due to its engaging plot, relatable characters, and vivid imagery. J.K. Rowling’s writing style keeps readers hooked from start to finish, and the story teaches important lessons about courage, friendship, and the power of love.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the ideal starting point for young readers embarking on an unforgettable literary journey with the boy wizard.

‘The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry’s ‘The Giver’ is a timeless dystopian novel that delves into themes of individuality and memory. Set in a seemingly perfect society, the story follows Jonas, a 12-year-old boy who begins to unravel the truth of his world.

Young readers are on a captivating and thought-provoking journey as he confronts difficult choices that challenge his beliefs. This award-winning book has been adapted into a film and stage play, cementing its status as a modern classic in children’s literature.

‘The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

‘The War that Saved My Life’ by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is a heartwarming story of courage and resilience. This Newbery Honor book is set during World War II and follows the journey of a young girl with a disability who finds hope and love.

It is recommended for readers aged 9-12 and has received rave reviews from parents and educators. This page-turner teaches kids about empathy, kindness, and overcoming adversity, making it a must-read for young readers looking for inspiring stories with relatable characters.

‘Frindle’ by Andrew Clements

‘Frindle’ by Andrew Clements is a beloved classic that follows a student who challenges authority by creating a new word. This engaging and accessible book teaches young readers vocabulary, creativity, and independent thinking skills.

With multiple awards and translations, ‘Frindle’ is an excellent choice for independent reading and classroom discussions. Its captivating storytelling and relatable characters make it a wonderful addition to any 5th grader’s reading list.

‘Bud, Not Buddy’ by Christopher Paul Curtis

In ‘Bud, Not Buddy’ by Christopher Paul Curtis, readers are taken on an adventurous journey during the Great Depression. This Newbery Medal-winning novel delves into themes of family, friendship, and perseverance.

Set in Flint, Michigan, author Curtis draws from his experiences, lending authenticity to the characters and setting. Highly praised for its engaging storytelling and historical accuracy, ‘Bud, Not Buddy’ is a must-read for young readers who enjoy stories that blend humor, heart, and history.

‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ by C.S. Lewis is a beloved and timeless classic that has enchanted young readers for generations. This magical tale takes readers on a thrilling adventure in a world filled with enchantment and unforgettable characters.

Through the story, young readers learn valuable lessons about friendship, courage, and the power of standing up for their beliefs. With its vivid descriptions and imagery, this book ignites the imagination of fifth graders and keeps them engaged from beginning to end. It is a must-read for any young reader seeking an exciting and thought-provoking book.

‘The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett is a timeless classic that is a must-read for young readers. It tells the story of a young girl who stumbles upon a secret garden and discovers healing and joy in nature. The book explores friendship, perseverance, and personal growth themes, offering valuable lessons to its young audience. Adapted to various films, TV shows, and stage productions, ‘The Secret Garden’ continues to captivate readers of all ages with its beautiful prose and vivid imagery.

‘A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle is a timeless classic that takes young readers on an unforgettable journey through time and space. This captivating science fiction novel delves into themes of family, love, and the eternal battle between good and evil.

With its imaginative world-building and relatable characters, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has been celebrated with numerous awards and has even been adapted into a movie and graphic novel. It’s a perfect choice for young readers who enjoy adventure, mystery, and fantasy, making it a beloved favorite for all ages.

‘Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’ by Scott O’Dell is a timeless classic that draws inspiration from events. This captivating novel takes readers on a journey with a young girl who is left to fend for herself after being stranded on an island. She learns valuable lessons about self-reliance, compassion, and survival through determination and resilience.

With its thrilling adventure and deep connection to nature, ‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’ is an excellent choice for young readers who crave excitement and love exploring the wonders of the natural world. Not only has this book garnered multiple awards, but it has also been translated into over 20 languages, making it widely accessible to readers around the globe.

‘Walk Two Moons’ by Sharon Creech

‘Walk Two Moons’ by Sharon Creech is a heartwarming tale of self-discovery, friendship, and family. The novel follows Salamanca Hiddle, a 13-year-old girl embarking on a cross-country journey to visit her mother. Salamanca navigates the complexities of loss, love, and identity throughout the trip.

With its engaging storyline and relatable protagonist, ‘Walk Two Moons’ has won multiple accolades, including the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1995. This realistic fiction novel is a must-read for young readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories with depth and emotional resonance.

‘Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

‘Freak the Mighty’ by Rodman Philbrick is a heartwarming novel that tells the story of two unlikely friends joining forces to overcome challenges. This book explores friendship, courage, and triumph over adversity.

It has gained popularity as a choice for classroom reading and has even won several awards. ‘Freak the Mighty’ is highly recommended for fifth graders as it introduces them to complex emotions and societal issues in an engaging storytelling style. Young readers will be captivated by this poignant and inspiring tale.

“Matilda” by Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl’s books are known for their whimsical and imaginative storytelling. “Matilda” is the story of a young girl with extraordinary intelligence and telekinetic powers who overcomes adversity at home and school.

As Matilda discovers her telekinetic powers, she decides to use them for good, particularly to stand up against the injustices inflicted by Miss Trunchbull. The story unfolds with Matilda’s clever and sometimes mischievous efforts to make the world a better place for herself and her friends.

“The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan

The first book in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, “The Lightning Thief” combines Greek mythology with modern-day settings. It follows Percy Jackson, a demigod, as he embarks on a quest to prevent a war among the gods.

The novel explores themes of friendship, bravery, self-discovery, and the importance of accepting one’s identity. It introduces young readers to Greek mythology in an engaging and accessible way, blending ancient stories with a modern-day setting.

“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio:

“Wonder” tells the story of August Pullman, a fifth-grader with a facial deformity who enters mainstream school for the first time. The novel explores themes of kindness, acceptance, and empathy. It’s a powerful and heartwarming tale that encourages readers to look beyond appearances and appreciate the uniqueness in each person.

“The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo:

Another Newbery Medal-winning novel follows the adventures of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse with big ears and an even bigger heart. Despereaux embarks on a quest to rescue a princess and discovers his own courage along the way. The book is beautifully written and explores themes of bravery, love, and the power of storytelling.

    Factors to Consider When Picking Books for 5th Graders

    When picking books for 5th graders, several factors should be considered:

    1. It is essential to choose age-appropriate content that is suitable for 9-11-year-olds.
    2. The books should challenge young readers without overwhelming them, ensuring they are at an appropriate reading level. It is also crucial to consider the child’s interests and expose them to diverse genres. Selecting books with themes that teach valuable lessons and offer positive role models is also beneficial.
    3. Utilizing reviews and recommendations from online resources, teachers, and librarians can guide the book selection process.

    Final words

    To wrap up, these top recommendations for books for 5th graders offer a diverse range of genres and themes that will captivate young readers and foster a love for reading. Whether it’s the thrilling adventures of “Holes” or the enchanting fantasy of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” there is something for every young reader on this list.

    Parents and teachers play a crucial role in encouraging and influencing reading choices, so take the time to engage with your child or student about their interests and help guide them toward books that align with their preferences.

    Once they’ve finished these books, countless other fantastic options are waiting to be discovered. So keep exploring the world of books and watch as young readers embark on unforgettable literary journeys.

    Editorial Staff

    I'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.

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