21 Books for Story Time
In honor of back-to-school season, I want to share a list of books that would work well to read aloud in a classroom setting. They have strong plots and would captivate even the non-readers. The grade levels are approximate, and most of the books could be read to students older or younger than suggested. One year I taught seven students in five different grades, ranging from first to tenth. Story books were a challenge to find, but older ones can enjoy a well-written story for younger children, and younger children can understand books intended for much older ones if the plot is explained occasionally and unfamiliar words defined.
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgiesh – Jonathan has always been told there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain, but when his mom asks him to go fetch the soup pot from his aunt who lives on the other side of the mountain, he has a chance to discover for himself if there really are bears on Hemlock Mountain. Grades 1-3
My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett – Elmer sails on a ship to the island of Tangerina where he tries to rescue a baby dragon that was enslaved by wild animals. Grades 1-3
Markie and the Hammond Cousins by Wanda Yoder – Markie has Downs Syndrome, and his cousins learn a lot about love and acceptance through relating to him. Grades 2-4
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner – Grandfather refuses to get out of bed or talk so it’s up to Little Willie to save the farm. The only way he can do that is if he wins the dog sled race. But he isn’t the only one who wants to win. Grades 2-4
Treasures of the Snow by Patricia M. St. John – Annette’s brother Danny is crippled after the bully Lucien’s teasing went wrong. She is determined to somehow get revenge. Grades 3-5
Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop – A Catholic school in France is asked if they will hide ten Jewish children during the German occupation. The French children are glad to share their rations with their guests until the day the soldiers started walking up the hill toward the school and Sister Gabrielle is away. Grades 3-5
Lantern in the Window by Aileen Fischer – There are lots of strange things going on at Uncle Eb’s farm—a lantern in the attic window, a skiff being rowed across the river, and talk of parcels being delivered. What does it all mean? Grades 3-5
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls – Some monkeys have escaped from the circus and Jay Berry Lee is determined to catch them. It proves to be a little harder than he first thought. Grades 3-5.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – Brian is traveling in a small plane across the Canadian wilderness when the pilot has a heart attack and dies. The plane crashes into a lake, Brian gets out, and now he needs to survive with the aid of one tool—the hatchet on his belt. Grades 4-6
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink – Caddie loves the outdoors—she’d rather hunt, plow, swim, or ride than cook, embroider, or sew. She is always up to some adventure with her brothers, much to the horror of her mother and sister. Grades 4-6
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park – Set in Sudan, this book follows two children, Nya who has to walk several hours a day to get water for her family, and Salva, a refugee forced to flee to find safety. Grades 4-6
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes – Wanda comes to school every day in the same faded blue dress, but she insists that at home she has 100 dresses all lined up. The other girls have a lot of fun teasing her about it. A powerful story about bullying. Grades 5-7
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park – Tree-ear wants to prove himself to the Master Potter. He is put to the test when he is asked to take a sample piece of pottery to the royal court. Grades 5-7
The Cay by Theodore Taylor – Philip and his mother are escaping from the Caribbean island where they’ve been living when their ship is attacked by German submarines. Philip ends up in a raft with Timothy, an old island resident, and they need to survive together on the island where they land. Grades 5-7
The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare – Daniel hates the Romans and wants to see them sent out of Israel. He considers joining a rebel who is plotting revenge against the Romans, and then he meets Jesus, the traveling Carpenter. Grades 6-8
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen – Gerta’s family is split in half when the Berlin wall goes up overnight. One day she sees her father across the wall and it seems as if he is telling her to dig. What is he trying to say? Grades 6-8
The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill. Big trucks are clogging NYC’s streets, and the pushcart vendors are angry. They decide to go to war, armed with pea shooters. Grades 6-8
Safely Home by Randy Alcorn – An American businessman travels to China and decides to visit a friend from college where he encounters the underground church and persecution, changing him forever. Grades 7-12
Peace Child by Don Richardson – Don and his wife move to New Guinea and live among a cannibal tribe where they search for a way to effectively share the gospel with these people. Grades 7-12 Note: Some of the cultural practices are a bit explicit. Proofread before sharing with students.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck – A poor fisherman finds a valuable pearl which promises to bring them enough to live comfortably, but instead it brings the opposite. Grades 7-12 Warning: there is some violence in this book. Proofread before sharing with students.
The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall – Jason Stevens is to inherit a large sum of money from his uncle, but first he needs to receive ten more important gifts. Grades 7-12
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