The 61 Best Chapter Books for 3rd Graders to Read

Finding engaging 3rd grade books that appeal to an entire classroom can be a challenge. Thankfully, we’ve cultivated a comprehensive list of books for 3rd graders that span multiple genres and interests. 

Are you looking for a story about finding a best friend at a new school? Maybe you have a young boy seeking something fresh and exciting. 

This list features everything from adventure stories to historical fiction books that are perfect for independent readers, reluctant readers, and even third grade read alouds. 

Fantasy and Adventure 

Let’s kick things off with some exciting entries that are sure to thrill and entertain third grade readers. Adventure and fantasy stories often overlap and entice the imagination, leading younger readers to create their own stories!

1. The Map to Everywhere

This series is an amazing story of an orphan and a schoolgirl caught up in a world of pirates, wizards, and ghosts. There’s a fair dose of humor thanks to a zany cast of characters as Fin seeks his mother and Marrill tries to find her way home.


2. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon infuses traditional Chinese folklore into the fantastical story of Minli as she searches for the Old Man on the Moon. Minli’s adventures lead to curious creatures, including a dragon who becomes her steadfast companion. 


3. The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates

This adventure series begins with Magic Marks the Spot and introduces 3rd graders to Hilary Westfield. 

Young Hilary’s dream of being a pirate seems impossible from her world at Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. With the help of a friendly gargoyle, Hilary hopes to change her destiny and become a pirate.


4. The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

Part history, part fantasy, and a whole lot of adventure make this widely celebrated book a must for third grade adventure seekers. It’s a collection of tales about three children who meet knights, kings, and even a farting dragon on their journey through France.


5. The Girl Who Drank the Moon

This heavily awarded book tells the tale of an extraordinary child named Luna who is raised by a witch in the deep woods between two villages. Luna leads an incredible life with some colorful friends and plenty of adventure.


6. His Dark Materials

The first book in The Golden Compass series tells the tale of Lyra who struggles to not only right a world gone wrong but also to save her friend. 

Lyra gets caught up in a world of lies and deception in this mystical fantasy world where humans are connected to creatures called daemons.


7. The Vengekeep Prophecies

This book is the first in a trilogy about Jaxter Grimjinx, a would-be thief. 

Thanks to his unusual clumsiness, Jaxter’s first heist falls apart at the seams, lands his family in jail, and sets him on an entirely new path. A curious prophecy names Jaxter a hero and pits him against monsters, thieves, and sorcerers in a thrilling fantasy-adventure tale.


8. Howl’s Moving Castle

Speaking of fantasy-adventure, Howl’s Moving Castle begins the curious tale of Sophie who is cursed by a witch and sets off to break the spell. The only trouble is that she has to find her answers in a constantly moving castle. 


9. Fortunately, the Milk

Neil Gaiman lends his master storytelling skills to this middle-grade tale about a boy and girl whose lives take an unexpected turn. When the siblings are left in their dad’s care while their Mom heads to a conference, things turn topsy-turvy in a heartbeat. 

Pirates, aliens, dancing elves, and a plethora of other curious creatures interject humor, excitement, and even a little danger. 


10. Dragons in a Bag

What happens when your mother sends you to stay with an old lady who turns out to be a witch? Jaxon can tell you in this middle-grade urban fantasy filled with wonder, adventure, friendship, and dragons! 


11. Fairest of All

The first book in the Whatever After series introduces us to siblings who fall into a magic mirror and wake up in Snow White’s world. 

After accidentally disrupting Snow White’s chance to meet her prince, the siblings have to fix everything to find a happy ending in this unique twist on the classic fairytale.


12. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Skip the movies and dive into the book that introduced the world to Oompa Loompas, the most wonderful chocolate factory in the world, and Willy Wonka. Follow Charlie Bucket’s journey through the candy-filled wonderland and learn about the power of honesty and integrity.


13. Matilda

Precocious Matilda loves to learn and wants nothing more than to go to school. Unfortunately, she ends up getting more than she bargained for with Miss Trunchbull. 

When she’s faced with the worst, Matilda uses her incredible brainpower, and some special powers, to create her own happy ending.


14. Cam Jansen

Cam Jansen is a detective with a photographic memory, but she’s still in fifth grade. This beloved series begins with a case of stolen diamonds that introduces young readers to a detective they can relate to and believe in. 

If students like what they read, there are over 30 more Cam Jansen books in the series with new adventures and mysteries to solve.


15. Nancy Clancy

Nancy Clancy is also a detective in these chapter books that center on the young sleuth’s mystery-solving skills. These short, fast books follow Nancy as she sorts out a series of clues to figure out whodunit and solve the mystery. 


16. The Phantom Tollbooth

This popular stand-alone was originally published 60 years ago, yet it remains a classic book for 3rd graders. It’s witty and entertaining, with fun wordplay and incredible animations telling the tale of Milo. 

When a tollbooth unexpectedly appears, he jumps to the island of Conclusions and embarks on an unforgettable quest.


17. Redwall

Animal lovers might prefer this classic adventure series that centers around Mossflower Wood, home to many intelligent mice. Unfortunately, the creatures learn that a horde of rats is set to conquer their beloved home. 

One young mouse sets out on a quest to find an ancient sword that’s rumored to save them all. 


Books About Friendship

Finding a best friend is one of the most important parts of childhood and one of the most relatable storylines for 3rd grade books. While many books address friendships, these books center on the power of finding true friends and being one in return.

18. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Some might argue that this book belongs among the fantasy stories, but the heart of this story is all about friendship. Many kids can relate to Harry’s plight as a young boy at a new school. He just happens to find out that he’s a famous wizard, too. 

Without a real family, Harry must rely on his friendships to survive against a powerful darkness. 


19. Spirit Animals

Fall into a world where children bond with spirit animals to save their world from ruin. Four children from starkly different backgrounds must work together with their spirit animals to discover what happened to their world and prevent it from happening again. 

The Spirit Animals series thrives on the friendships between the children and their creatures.


20. The One and Only Ivan 

It’s not easy to have a list of 3rd grade books without mentioning this one. Ivan is a captive gorilla who spends his life on display. He has friends, his painting, and his television. Then, a baby elephant arrives and changes everything Ivan believes about his world. 

This book is ideal for third grade read alouds or precocious readers seeking a challenge.


21. Amelia Bedelia

Amelia Bedelia has been a staple for many young readers for decades, but she now has a series of chapter books that will leave third graders in stitches. Silly situations and understandable misunderstandings challenge every friendship in Amelia Bedelia’s life. 

Kids soon learn that those friends embrace Amelia Bedelia and support her through everything!


23. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

After she’s struck by lightning, Lucy develops an uncanny ability with math that has her ready for college at age 12. 

There’s just one thing she has to do first. Lucy’s grandma insists that she attends middle school for a year, make a friend, read a non-math book, and participate in an activity. 

This book is ideal for a fun but conversation-provoking read-aloud or as a relatable book for advanced readers struggling to fit in. 


24. Short

Being short is never easy, but when Julia gets cast as a Munchkin in a production of The Wizard of Oz, she steps onto a path that changes her views on height forever. 

With the help of some unique adult role models and a circle of friends, Julia learns that there’s more to herself than height.


25. Wonder

This New York Times Bestseller made a splash and landed a spot as an instant classic. August’s facial difference has kept him at home for most of his life until he goes to mainstream school. 

This is one of those third grade books that offers powerful lessons on friendship, compassion, and empathy in a way that resonates with the kids.


26. Jada Jones Rock Star

Girl power takes on a whole new meaning in this five-book series about Jada Jones. In the first installment, Jada gets to shine when her teacher assigns a special class project. 

When her team doesn’t like her ideas, Jada must figure out how to put her passion on display, earn the grade, and maintain relationships with her teammates. 


Historical Fiction

This popular genre covers a range of topics that often bend with other genres. Centered on historical people, places, and events, these independent reading books for 3rd graders can develop reading skills and encourage interest in history.

27. Freedom’s School

Lizzie, her brother, and her parents are freed from slavery in the post-Civil War South, and her life changes almost overnight. She finally gets to go to school with a teacher who looks like her, but it’s not exactly easy. 

Lizzie and her brother walk a long way to school in even the worst weather, and they sometimes encounter unhappy, threatening white people. 


28. Countdown

The first installment in The Sixties Trilogy leads off Franny Chapman’s life in 1962. Set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Franny must make things right with her best friend, cope with family drama, and work through her feelings about a cute new kid. 

The follow-up books, Revolution and Anthem, follow two different kids through equally powerful events set in the 1960s.


29. I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912

There are several “I Survived It” books, but the Titanic version is one of the most popular 3rd grade books. Kids step into the world of George Calder, who tells about the events that led up to the sinking of the unsinkable ship and how he survived the incredible night.


30. The Prairie Adventures of Sarah and Annie, Blizzard Survivors

Set in 1888 in the middle of Nebraska, readers follow the story of Sarah and Annie, who must choose between two dangerous paths. 

When a blizzard unexpectedly strikes while they are at school and collapses the roof, the girls must stay put or brave the long walk home in the blowing snow.


31. The Princess Dolls

This beautifully written and illustrated book lightly touches on class and race issues. Set in 1942 in Vancouver, Esther and Michiko teach readers about the challenges of friendship at a time when Japanese Canadians were sent to internment camps. 

It’s a thought-provoking study of privilege and friendship that third graders can relate with.


32. Sarah, Plain and Tall

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a classic Newbery Medal winner that tells the tale of a woman who left her home in Maine to marry a farmer on the prairie. 

The book details life on the prairie during the late 19th century through the eyes of Anna as she awaits Sarah’s arrival and wonders how the woman will fill the shoes of her mother.


33. Ruby’s Wish

Ruby doesn’t want to be like the other girls in old China. She doesn’t want to marry and settle down; she wants to go to college like the men in her family. The story is based on the author’s grandmother and provides a look into a turn-of-the-century Chinese family.


34. Shadow Warrior: Based on the True Story of a Fearless Ninja and Her Network of Female

This book is all about female empowerment, and it’s based on the true story of Mochizuki Chiyome, who built a spy network in feudal Japan. It might not sound impressive, but every spy in the network was female. 

This colorful and inspiring story follows three lives, including Mochizuki Chiyome.


35. Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom

This book is perfect for young readers who are struggling because it’s picture-heavy with incredible illustrations. The story follows a fictitious family that escapes to freedom through the Underground Railroad. It beautifully captures the stealth and fear involved in finding freedom.


36. Riding Freedom

This book centers on a different type of freedom. It’s based on the story of Charlotte Parkhurst, who led an incredible life that forced her to pose as a man for long stretches of time. 

From working as a stable hand to running a farm out west, Parkhurst lived a life of bravery and heartbreak that is sure to impress any 3rd grade reader.


37. George Washington’s Spy

The second installment in a Time Travel Adventures series drops Matt Carlton and his friends into the middle of 1776 Boston. Surrounded by illness and redcoats, the boys end up as captives while the girls head to a wealthy family. 

Action, humor, and a healthy dose of history make this book a must-read.


38. The Hero Two Doors Down

What would you do if you found out that Jackie Robinson lived in your neighborhood? Stephen Satlow discovers the Dodgers legend is moving in, and he can’t wait to meet his hero. 

The book explores issues of race and religion in 1948 and asks if America’s pastime can bridge the gaps between neighbors.


39. Ranger in Time

This book series features a golden retriever who travels through time helping kids through various events. The first book is set in 1850, where Ranger helps Sam Abbott and his family navigate the Oregon Trail. 

Other books in the series explore ancient Rome, the South Pole, Pearl Harbor, and D-Day.


40. Brave Like My Brother

Charlie relies on his older brother for protection, but then Joe gets called to serve in World War II, and everything changes. The brothers’ connection is tested by distance and loneliness, but Joe writes of his exploits and teaches Charlie how to find courage when he needs it most. 

The book explores sibling relationships and World War II while embarking on a journey of self-discovery.


41. Henry’s Freedom Box

Henry is a slave who can’t tell you his age or even what day he was born. He’s separated from his family more than once and struggles through each day until an unexpected opportunity leads to his freedom. 

Henry’s journey isn’t easy, but he finally reaches freedom and adopts that day as his birthday.


Books for Creative Souls

These music and art academy books for 3rd graders might resonate with the artistic souls. From famous musicians to composers to artists, these books offer inspiration to those who need it most. 

42. Ish

Do you have a doodler like Ramon? This book might be the perfect option for storytime as Ramon and his siblings explore art and what it means to get things “right.” The graphics are fun, and the story is inspiring enough to spark the inner artist in any of us.


43. Jake Makes a World

This colorful book follows Jacob Lawrence on a quest to create art. Based in Harlem, Jacob is constantly surrounded by vibrant colors and music that set his creative juices on fire. He spends time at an art studio every day after school and loses himself in the journey to create.


44. Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children’s History of Art

Budding artists can take a walk through history with this gorgeous book that highlights major movements in human art. Starting with early cave paintings, the book dives into methods and the unique artists behind them. 

It’s part history, part art, and wholly entertaining for kids who need some creative connections in their stories.


45. Because

Mo Willems is a king in children’s literature, and this book is no exception. Illustrated by Amber Ren, this Willems book tells the tale of a young girl who becomes a composer. 

The story highlights artistic experimentation and influence as much as the amount of hard work it takes to achieve in the art world.


46. Elvis is King

This chapter book chronicles the life of Elvis, from his first cheeseburger to his first teenage performance. Kids get a glimpse into the legend and life of Elvis Presley and how he changed the world with rock and roll.


47. RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul

Speaking of music royalty, let’s take a look at this book about Ms. Aretha Franklin and her rise to fame. From her roots in gospel music to the Grammy Awards to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Aretha revolutionized the industry with her voice. 

Music wasn’t Aretha’s only passion, though. She also spoke out on social issues and participated in the civil rights movement.


Graphic Novels 

These stories are more than picture books, and nothing proves that more than these entries. Reluctant readers might gravitate toward these books for their colorful pictures and limited word counts, but graphic novels can improve language acquisition and develop reading skills. 

48. Big Nate

Big Nate is a massively popular series that resonates with kids everywhere. Nate is a troublemaker battling the everyday troubles that come with being eleven years old, but he does it with style and humor. 

The series investigates what it means to be a kid and how to find yourself. 


49. The 13-Story Treehouse

Andy and his best friend Terry, or is it the other way around, live in the most spectacular treehouse ever created. This hilarious series starts with thirteen stories of fun, including a marshmallow machine and a secret underground laboratory. 

Each book builds on the previous one as Andy and Terry navigate the expanding treehouse and surprising life events.


50. Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants is practically a cult classic. It centers on George and Harold, who fervently love practical jokes and comic books, especially their own creations. Captain Underpants is the hero of George and Harold’s books, but he somehow comes to life and upends their world.


51. Dog Man

George and Harold of Captain Underpants fame strike again with their new hero, Dog Man. The new creation has a human body but a dog head blending the natures of both species into a series of hilarious antics. It’s sure to leave kids wondering what the hero will do next.


52. Jedi Academy

Young Star Wars fans who aren’t quite ready for the traditional books might prefer meeting the universe through the eyes of a middle school student. The series centers on Roan, who receives an invitation to attend Jedi Academy with Yoda, sending him on an epic adventure. 


53. The Bad Guys

The creator of Captain Underpants and Dog Man is at it again with this fun series. Though they look like villains, these characters dream of being heroes, so they do good deeds whenever possible. The only problem is that not everyone wants their help.


54. The Gumazing Gum Girl

This series will amuse any kid who has ever been told that if they keep eating something, they will turn into it. Gabby Gomez chews so much bubble gum that she turns into Gum Girl. 

Unfortunately, it’s a secret Gabby has to keep to herself as she learns to master her new powers.


55. Lunch Lady

Three students find out that there’s far more to their friendly lunch ladies than meets the eye. The school staple and lunch-serving savior gets the superhero treatment in this hilarious series about a reserved lunch lady who also fights crime. 

Lunch Lady and Breakfast Bunch might be mild-mannered school employees by day, but they fight crime and save the world in their spare time. 


56. Magic Pickle

Just when you think you’ve seen everything, the Magic Pickle arrives to shake up your universe. JoJo Wigman finds Magic Pickle in her room, and her life changes forever in this funny, foodie adventure series. The Magic Pickle and JoJo pair up to prevent evil veggies from taking over.


57. Super Potato

What is it with living food? Super Potato is the story of a gorgeous superhero (Super Max) whose life is forever changed by a villain who miraculously succeeds in his dastardly plot. Doctor Malevolent turns his nemesis into a potato! 

Super Max might not be human anymore, but he realizes that Super Potato has plenty of powers and enough strength to fight for justice.


58. Bunny vs. Monkey

These cutesy graphics explore the battle of good versus evil in a funny and entertaining way. Bunny lives in harmony with his forest friends until Monkey arrives. 

Monkey is a scientific experiment gone wrong as he crash-lands in the forest and sends the formerly peaceful population into an uproar.


59. Dragonbreath

Danny is a dragon who can’t breathe fire, but that doesn’t hold him back. The adorable creature sets out on a series of adventures that involve sea serpents, ninja frogs, and bat monsters. 

Third graders are sure to appreciate the cute illustrations and hilarious hijinks of Danny and his best friend, Wendell.


60. The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America: A TOON Graphic

This gloriously illustrated novel reexamines several Latin American folktales. One woman marries a mouse, a man meets a thousand leaf cutter ants, and a maid fights a dragon in this unique collection. 

Each story highlights a legend but gives them a modern twist to help today’s kids relate to the characters and lessons. 


61. The Last Kids on Earth

Surviving a monster apocalypse isn’t easy, even for the fearless Jack Sullivan and his team of thirteen-year-olds. Holed up in a treehouse with catapults, a moat, and enough junk food to support an army, the motley crew faces off against an army of zombies and other vile creatures.


Final Thoughts

Finding appropriate 3rd grade books for a wide range of reading skills is never an easy task. 

Some young readers need reading tips to gain confidence and success, meaning that picture books and comic-book style titles might be the best option.

Advanced readers can be just as challenging because of the struggle to find age-appropriate content that’s difficult enough to help the child grow. 

Hopefully, this list of 61 books for 3rd graders can help you find something to support and entertain each kid in your classroom.

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Emily

Emily/ author of the article

Emily is an active mother of two and a dedicated elementary school teacher. She believes the latest technology has made a huge impact on the quality of early learning and has worked hard to upgrade her classroom and her own children’s learning experience through technology.
She created this blog to make it easier for other teachers to take advantage of some of the best devices out there to upgrade their classrooms without having to do the research themselves. She loves to hear your tech-based problems and share her extensive experience :)
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