The Best Grade School Books for Kids

by Save the Children

The Best Grade School Books for Kids

Grade-by-grade book recommendations from literary experts at Save the Children. Quick reader? Here’s some more great books to read with your kids

By Kevin Henkes
Grades: K-1

The main character Chrysanthemum cannot wait to begin her first day of school, but when the other children hear her unique and unusual name, they begin making her schools days absolutely dreadful. Henkes has a unique talent for creating true picture stories that children everywhere will easily relate to the main character’s struggle with wanting to feel accepted by her peers.


These book reviews were written by Karen Colville, Education Specialist for Save the Children. Karen is a former Reading Recovery-trained primary teacher who loves both children’s books and designing engaging activities for children in our afterschool and summer programs.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
By Jon Scieszka
Grades: K-2

This spin on the classic folktale “The Three Little Pigs” is told from the Wolf’s point of view. It’s a cleverly written story that will get kids thinking as they listen to a very convincing Wolf explain his side of the story.


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
By Judith Viorst
Grades: K-2

This classic story, published in 1972, continues to be a beloved favorite of both children and parents. Everyone has a bad day, but poor Alexander—his day goes from bad to worse. The book addresses issues all children often face, such as sibling jealousy, mood swings, and making mistakes. More important, children learn in this story that other people have bad days too.


The Story of Ruby Bridges
By Robert Coles
Grades: 1-3

This is the beautifully written story of Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old African-American girl known in history as the first child to attend an integrated school in New Orleans in the 1960s. This powerful, true story is a must-read at both home and school, teaching children the ugliness of racism and the power of forgiveness.


By Patricia Polacco
Grades: 2 and up

The hot topic of school cliques and bullying (online and off) is an issue children in schools across the globe often face. Polacco tackles these issues head-on in a story that is sure to spark intense but necessary discussions in both home and school.


OWEN & MZEE -The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
By Isabella & Craig Hatkoff
Grades: 2 and up

Through beautiful illustrations the creators of this nonfiction book lead us on an unlikely journey of friendship between an orphaned hippo and a 130-year-old tortoise. This inspirational story illustrates the importance of love and friendship, leaving children and adults with an important message:  true friendship knows no boundaries.

Fly Away Home
By Eve Bunting
Grades: 2-5

This story is one of a small boy and his father living in an airport because the dad is unable to pay rent. They move often from terminal to terminal, constantly in fear of discovery and eviction from the only place they now call home. The reader learns of the young boy’s loneliness, fears and anxiety through emotionally charged words such as, “Why do other people get to live in homes? What makes them so special?” This picture book brings to light homelessness and explores the real meaning of the word “home.”


Diary of a Wimpy Kid
By Jeff Kinney
Grades: 3-6

This first book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has quickly become a school reading favorite. Although written for 8-12 year olds, this story details the day-to-day life of a sixth grade student named Greg. Boys especially relate to the author’s use of humorous cartoon illustrations and the handwritten text used throughout the story.


Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing
By Judy Blume
Grades: 3-5

This Judy Blume classic continues to be a favorite among elementary children, especially those who have younger siblings. The short chapter book, the first in the series of “Fudge” books, tells the story of Peter and his little brother nicknamed Fudge, who always seems to cause his older brother grief. Blume’s witty humor and accurate recounts of the typical issues siblings face are what make these characters so likeable.


Where the Red Fern Grows
By Wilson Rawls
Grades: 3-6

This chapter book describes the adventures of two hunting dogs—Old Dan and Little Ann—and their young owner Billy who dreams of training the finest hunting team Cherokee County has ever seen. But this classic tale of loyalty, love and friendship is a real tear jerker, so have the tissues handy.