15 Must-Read Books for 3rd Graders

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Keeping kids engaged in reading can be tough at times. There are so many distractions around today, and kids often prefer playing video games or scrolling on their phones rather than picking up a book. 

So now more than ever, it’s important to foster a love of reading in children from an early age, and luckily, there are some incredible books, both new and old, that will have your third grader hooked. 

This list features contemporary classics, engaging educational reads, and some incredible new releases; there’s something for every type of reader here. 

So without further ado, here’s my list of the top fifteen must-read books for third graders. 

1. Teacup by Rebecca Young and illustrated by Matt Ottley

Teacup by Rebecca Young and illustrated by Matt Ottley
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Teacup is a beautiful metaphorical story of a young boy who leaves behind everything he knows to embark on an adventure across the ocean. All he has with him is a bottle, a book, a blanket, and a teacup filled with earth from the place he used to call home. 

There are peaceful days where he enjoys the serenity of the open seas, and there are terrifying days where storms rage around him, and he’s certain his little boat will capsize. All the while, hope and strength build inside the little boy, until one day, he finally finds land. And when he does, he also finds the opportunity of a brand new life.

2. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba 

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba
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The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is the true story of William Kamkwamba, a fourteen year old boy whose village in Malawi is hit by a terrible drought. 

Crops are failing, and there isn’t enough food, water, or money to go around. With no school to go to, William spends much of his time at the library, where he begins to learn things for himself. 

With much perseverance, he learns how to bring much needed, lifesaving electricity to his small rural village. Using the knowledge he learned from books, he builds a windmill using scraps he finds at the junkyard. Against all odds, it works, and he becomes the hero who saved his local village, and changed his family and his neighbors lives forever.  

3. Flotsam by David Wiesner

Flotsam by David Wiesner
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This beautifully illustrated book has no words but still manages to tell a fascinating and imaginative story of a bright young scientist on a mission to collect flotsam, floating objects that have been washed ashore. But one day, among his usual finds, he discovers something he could never have expected; a hidden camera that could reveal the mysteries of the underwater world. 

Flotsam was awarded the Caldecott Medal after it was first published in 2006. It’s a unique and powerfully imaginative book that needs no words to convey a sense of wonder and adventure that kids will adore.

4. The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley
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Temple was a young girl when she was first diagnosed with autism. The doctors and her parents never even expected that she’d be able to talk, let alone become one of the most influential scientists the world has ever seen! 

But using her incredible ability to connect with animals as nobody else can, she becomes a pioneer in modern agricultural science, changing the future for farm animals and setting a new standard in animal welfare. 

This inspiring book is based on the true story of Mary Temple Grandin, an American scientist, and activist who has defied all odds and helped to shape a better future for livestock animals around the world.

5. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton 

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton
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Narwhal and his no-nonsense friend Jelly the Jellyfish seem like an odd couple, but they get on like a house on fire. Despite being different species, they love having incredible underwater adventures together, attending parties, and eating delicious waffles. 

This book teaches children the joys of friendship and that family is family, no matter how different you may look from one another. 

6. She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
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This is the perfect book for all the young feminists out there.  Written by Chelsea Clinton, She Persisted tells the tales of 13 extraordinary women who overcame adversity and refused to be silenced. 

It features well-known feminists, activists, and all-around powerful women such as Harriet Tubman, Nellie Bly, Oprah Winfrey, and Helen Keller, just to name a few. It’s a captivating read that inspires girls to follow their dreams, no matter what obstacles are thrown in their way.

7. Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web
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This classic tale by E.B White tells the story of Charlotte, a barn spider, and her friendship with an innocent livestock pig named Wildbur. This beautiful novel has captivated young readers for generations and continues to be at the top of third-grader reading lists around the country, and for a good reason. It’s a heartwarming tale of love, friendship, life, and death that still resonates today. 

8. Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery by David A. Adler and illustrated by Susanna Natti 

Cam Jansen: the Chocolate Fudge Mystery
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Cam Jansen is a young detective with incredible mystery solving skills and photographic memory. 

With the help of her best friend Eric Shelton, Cam must foil a criminal’s evil plans. There are countless books in the Cam Jansen series, all of which tell tales of mystery, intrigue, and adventure that will have young readers hooked. 

9. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Last Stop on Market Street
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Every week after they go to church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus home. This week, CJ has some questions for his grandma; why don’t they own a car like his friends at school, and how come they can’t afford expensive gadgets like the other boys on the bus? 

CJ’s grandmother answers each question by inviting CJ to see the beauty, fun, and adventure that’s all around him, proving that you don’t need a lot of money to experience wonder and joy in your life. 

This beautifully illustrated, heartwarming book won the 2016 Newbery Medal and was also nominated for the  2016 Caldecott Honor Book.  

10. Lon Po-Po: A Red Riding Hood Tale from China by Ed Young

Lon Po-Po: A Red Riding Hood Tale from China by Ed Young
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In this updated version of Little Red Riding Hood, three young girls at home alone open the front door to Mr Wolf. He blows the candles out and sneaks off inside the house. Now the girls must work together to survive. There are no adults and no handsome princes to come and save them, but they’ve got it covered.

11. Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

Dog Man
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Written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey, Dog Man is the story of a heroic young canine cop who (you guessed it!) is part dog and part man. He uses his natural curiosity and incredible sense of smell to sniff out criminals in the neighborhood. But will his doggy instincts distract him from his crime-fighting duties? This comedy graphic novel is the first in a series of nine so far, with a new one expected to be published soon. 

12. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr

Owl Moon
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Owl Moon is the story of a young girl and her devoted father, who set out on an owling adventure. 

Deep in the wintery forest, there’s not another sound to be heard as her father calls out for the majestic birds who hide up in the trees. The father-daughter duo needs no words as they walk silently through the natural world, absorbing the majesty of nature together. Owl Moon is a beautiful, tranquil story that’s perfect for bedtime reading with mom or dad. This well-loved classic tale won a Caldecott medal when it was first published in 1988.

13. The Water Horse by Dick King-Smith

The Water Horse by Dick King-Smith
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Kirstie is only eight years old when she finds a mysterious giant egg on the beach near her Scottish home. Such a curious object can’t be left, so she sneaks it back home with her and places it into the bathtub for safekeeping. 

But the next morning, she can’t believe her eyes; the egg has hatched, and there’s a bizarre creature sitting there. With a long, slender neck, a head that resembles a horse, slimy toad-like skin, and two flippers, Kirstie has never seen anything like it. Her brother calls it a monster, but her grandfather has a different idea. He tells Kirstie that her newfound creature is a kelpie, commonly known as a Water-Horse. 

Kirstie and her family keep the water horse and affectionately name it Crusoe. But Crusoe is growing at an alarming rate, and soon they can’t fit him in their house. Now he needs a new place to live, away from prying eyes. And so it is that Crusoe heads to Loch Ness to live out his true destiny. 

14. Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy

Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy
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Junie B Jones is looking forward to pet day at her school, but bizarrely enough, there are no dogs allowed. Junie doesn’t own any other animals, so what will she do? Her mother and father refuse to take her to the pet store, so she sets out on a mission to find one by herself.   

Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy is just one of a whole series of hilarious books starring the ‘World’s Funniest Kindergartner,’ who has been entertaining young readers for over 20 years. 

15. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan
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Ivan is a gorilla who, for the past 27 years, has lived an unconventional life in a shopping mall in Washington State. He has no problem when the humans come to gawp at him through the glass, and he barely thinks about his old life in the jungle at all. His concerns lie with his unusual group of friends; Stella the aging elephant, and Bob, the feral dog. 

Then one day, a new member of the animal kingdom joins their clan; Ruby is a baby elephant who has been kidnapped and taken away from her parents and her home in the jungle. Ivan starts to see their existence with fresh eyes, and he’s forced to reevaluate his life in the confines of the mall. 


The third grade is often a turning point for many young readers. It’s a time when many children begin to read independently for the first time, so it’s important to make sure they’ve got some great books at their disposal. These fantastic stories will help to inspire a love of reading that will last a lifetime.

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