Book Recommendations By Age & Choosing “Just Right” Books

Keeping your classroom library updated with a variety of books to meet the interests and reading abilities of all your students can be challenging. We pulled children’s book recommendations by age and grade level from the top reviews on the Children’s Book Council (CBC) / International Literacy Association (ILA) 2016 Children’s Choices Reading List. The books were read and reviewed by children, meaning the suggestions have received the Kid Seal of Approval!

Book Recommendations for Ages 5- 8 / Grades K-2


Clark the Shark: Afraid of the Dark, Bruce Hale, Guy Francis

Will Clark the Shark overcome his fear of the dark and be able to enjoy this first sleepover? He can when he has his friends by his side.

The Little Shop of Monsters, R.L. Stine, Marc Brown

Have you visited the Little Shop of Monsters? Here you can choose your very own monster from the creepiest of them all— Bubble-Belly Billy, Yucky (or Mucky), and Squeezer. Choose your favorite before one chooses you.

Sick Simon, Dan Krall

A little cold won’t keep Simon away from school during the best week ever! Even if he does cough, sneeze, and share germs galore. Will Sick Simon learn to change his ways and help keep his friends healthy?

Stick and Stone, Beth Ferry, Tom Lichtenheld

This story shares a subtle anti-bullying message with young readers. After Stick helps Stone out of an unpleasant situation with a Pinecone, they become best friends. But will their friendship remain when Stick gets in a sticky situation of this own?

Book Recommendations for Ages 8-10 / Grades 3-4


Nnewts #1: Escape from the Lizzarks, Doug TenNapel

Herk is forced to flee his home after an attack by the reptile Lizzarks, leaving behind everything he knows. Now, all alone and on the run, Herk navigates a dangerous world filled with strange creatures and mysterious wonders.

Fort, Cynthia DeFelice

It was supposed to be the best summer ever, but in this thrilling story two boys learn about friendship, revenge, and standing up for yourself, even when you think you’re outmatched.

I’m Trying to Love Spiders, Bethany Barton

Forget your fears and learn to love spiders! With amazing arachnid facts, this book shows spiders in a whole new light. There’s heaps of information and lots of laughs.

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, Duncan Tonatiuh

The story of Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival and how the amusing calaveras— skeletons performing festive activities— came to be. This book is a Sibert Award Winner, Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Honor Book, New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015, and International Latino Book Award Finalist.

Book Recommendations for Ages 10-12 / Grades 5-6


Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth, Judd Winick

This is the first book in the hilarious, action-packed New York Times bestselling graphic novel series. D.J. and Gina are normal kids until they meet Hilo, who is anything but normal! Hilo doesn’t know where he came from or what he’s doing on Earth. Can they work together to unlock the secrets of Hilo’s past?

Roller Girl, Victoria Jamieson

Roller Girl is a Newbery Honor Award Winner, New York Times bestseller, and heartwarming graphic novel. When Astrid and her best friend suddenly develop separate interests, their friendship gets a little difficult. But through her love of roller derby, Astrid can survive junior high and handle just about anything.

The Terrible Two, Mac Barnett and Jory John, Kevin Cornell

In his old school, everyone knew Miles Murphy as the town’s best prankster. But when Miles moves to Yawnee Valley, he realizes they already have a really great prankster of their own. Can Yawnee Valley handle the Terrible Two?

The Worst Class Trip Ever, Dave Barry

On a class trip to Washington, DC, Wyatt and his friends from Culver Middle School find themselves in a fast-paced adventure. Against the backdrop of the national monuments, they try to escape danger, save the president from attack, and stay out of trouble with their teachers!

Tips to Help Students Choose a Book That’s “Just Right”

Finding a book that inspires a child to read is, of course, the ultimate goal, but sometimes you feel the need to steer a student away from reading Diary of Wimpy Kid for the 10th time (they must know the story by heart, right?), or guide a struggling reader away from tackling a long Percy Jackson novel (which can lead to more frustrations).

When making book recommendations by age or for a grade level, encourage students to think like Goldilocks. It’s important that young readers choose books that are not too easy and not too hard but are just right.

Too Easy Books

  • They have read the book many times before
  • They can retell the story without much effort
  • They know and understand almost every word
  • They can read aloud smoothly and fluently

Too Hard Books

  • After reading one page, there are five or more words they don’t recognize
  • They are confused about what is happening in the story
  • The story sounds choppy when read aloud
  • They need a lot of help when reading the book

Just Right Books

  • A “new to you” book about a topic that interests the reader
  • They can understand what’s happening during most of the story
  • They can retell the story
  • They recognize most of the words on the page but may need help with two or three
  • They can read the book independently with help on the tough spots

What books are big favorites in your classroom? Share your book recommendations!

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