It’s never too early to start a book club, whether it’s in the classroom, the library, home, or some other setting. I’ve found students in grades 2-5 to be some of the most enthusiastic book club participants. I usually meet with them every week or every other week, and expect them to read the whole book. This list includes books that have reading levels and page counts that make this possible for this age group, but also have stories that will lend themselves to discussion and exploration.
I’ve included whatever information I could find on Follett’s Titlewave about reading levels.
Just Harriet by Elana K. Arnold
Published by Walden Pond Press, 2022
Harriet gets an upsetting surprise on her last day of third grade: her pregnant mother has been ordered to go on bed rest until the baby arrives, and Harriet will be spending two months at her grandmother’s bed and breakfast on Marble Island. Harriet’s a realistic character who is upfront about her own shortcomings, and who grows and develops in a way that many readers will relate to. Rd Lvl 5.1, AR 4.9, 208 pages.
Too Small Tola by Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu
Published by Candlewick, 2021
Tola is the youngest and smallest member of her family, and works hard to prove that she is capable of more than people give her credit for. Any of three stories in this book, which all take place in Tola’s Lagos, Nigeria neighborhood, would work as a stand-alone if you’re looking for something shorter than a whole book to read with your club. Rd Lvl 3.7, AR 3.6, 96 pages.
Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine by Dusti Bowling, illustrated by Gina Perry
Published by Sterling Children’s Books, 2021
Aven Green may have been born with no arms, but she believes that “all of the cells that were supposed to make my arms went into making my brain instead”, which of course makes her a first-class detective. Kids ready to move on to longer chapter books will enjoy Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus and Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus, featuring an older Aven. Rd Lvl 4.0, LEX 690L, 128 pages.
The Ember Stone (The Last Firehawk, book 1) by Katarina Charman
Published by Scholastic, 2017
A surprisingly complex animal fantasy for the reading level, in which Tag the owl, Skyla the squirrel, and their somewhat mysterious young firehawk friend seek to save their forest home from the evil vulture Thorn. This series is at ten books and counting. Rd Lvl 3.1, AR 3.1, LEX560L, F&P O, 89 pages.
Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
Published by Joanne Cotler, 2018
Louie has experienced more than his share of loss in in his life, so when his dad brings home a sickly newborn donkey, Louie names it Winslow, and becomes determined not to let Winslow die. He’s helped by Nora, a neighbor–and maybe a friend–who has also experienced a great loss in her family. Rd Lvl 4.2, AR 4.2, LEX 690L, F&P S, 176 pages.
J.D. and the Great Barber Battle by J. Dillard, illustrated by Akeem S. Roberts
Published by Kokila, 2021
When J.D.’s mom gives him an embarrassing haircut, J.D. takes matters into his own hands, with surprisingly good results. Pretty soon he has his own business, which doesn’t make the town barber very happy. A final showdown has an unexpected ending and assures readers that book 2 is on its way. Rd Lvl 4.0, 128 pages.
Stella Díaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2018
Third-grader Stella is shy and sometimes stumbles over English words–yet also feels uncertain about her Spanish around her Mexican relatives. But family and friends help Stella, and by the end of the year, she feels much more confident about sharing what she has to say. There are two sequels, and all three books are available in both Spanish and English. Rd Lvl 4.2, AR 4.2, LEX 650L, F&P Q, 208 pages
Fox and Rabbit by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Gergely Dudás
Published by Amulet Books, 2020
As with so many literary pairings, easygoing Fox and anxious Rabbit seem like opposites, but enjoy a close friendship. In their first graphic novel, the friends have five adventures to explore their favorite things and learn to overcome some of their fears. There are two more books so far about Fox and Rabbit. Rd Lvl 1.6, AR 2.3, F&P L, 112 pages.
Flipping Forward Twisting Backward by Alma Fullerton
Published by Peachtree, 2022
Claire can master any skill in gymnastics but reading and writing are an entirely different matter. This novel in verse sympathetically portrays a character with dyslexia and is written in a font designed for beginning readers. Rd Lvl 4.3, 135 pages.
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes
Published by Greenwillow, 2013
Kevin Henkes captures the small moments of school and family life in his Newbery honor book The Year of Billy Miller, which covers Billy’s second-grade year and the sequel, Billy Miller Makes a Wish (2021), which is about Billy’s adventures in third grade. The Year of Billy Miller: Rd Lvl 4.2, AR 4.2, 240 pages; Billy Miller Makes a Wish: Rd Lvl 5.8, AR 4.1, 192 pages
The Great Pet Escape by Victoria Jamieson
Published by Henry Holt and Co., 2016
GW (hamster), Biter (guinea pig), and Barry (bunny) plan their escape from their lives as classroom pets in this funny and fast-paced graphic novel. Book 2 is The Great Art Caper. Rd Lvl 3.2, AR 2.8, 64 pages.
Harry vs. the First 100 Days of School by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Pete Oswald
Published by Anne Schwartz Books, 2021
Harry is super nervous on his first day of first grade: he worries about his too-short haircut, having a guinea pig in the classroom, strict teachers, and making friends. But by day 100, Harry considers himself a first-grade expert, with these words of wisdom: “Try to make new friends. Keep reading even when the words are hard. Speak up when something’s wrong. And help when someone’s sad.” Rd Lvl 3.9, AR 3.9, F&P L, 240 pages.
Knight of the Cape (Definitely Dominguita, book 1) by Terry Catasús Jennings, illustrated by Fátima Anaya
Published by Aladdin, 2021
Dominguita loves reading more than anything else, making her a perfect character for book club readers to get to know. She plays imaginative games based on the books she reads, and eventually learns that real-life friends are important too. There are three more books in this series. Rd Lvl 3.0, LEX 490L, F&P M, 144 pages.
Maybe, Maybe, Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly
Published by Greenwillow, 2021
Marisol’s imagination can be fun, like when it helps her think up names for inanimate objects (e.g. Buster Keaton, the refrigerator), but it also can make her scared, like when she imagines falling out of the tree in her backyard. Rd Lvl 4.9, AR 4.1, 160 pages.
The Used-to-Be Best Friend (Jo Jo Makoons, book 1) by Dawn Quigley, illustrated by Tara Audibert
Published by Heartdrum, 2021
The first book in this funny slice-of-life series featuring first-grader Jo Jo Makoons, who lives on an Ojibwe reservation. Rd Lvl 2.3, AR 3.5, 80 pages
Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Brian Floca
Published by Candlewick, 2017
Princess Cora wishes for a dog to spice up her boring life of lessons, but her fairy godmother gives her a crocodile instead. When Cora and the crocodile switch places, mayhem ensues, but everyone learns an important lesson or two. Rd Lvl 2.2, AR 4.1, LEX 590L, F&P O, 80 pages.
Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke
Published by Graphix, 2018
Mr. Wolf has his work cut out for him in this graphic novel, not only trying to do his best as a new teacher, but also dealing with a missing student on the first day. There are four books in this series so far, with a fifth one due out in February 2022. Rd Lvl 2.6, AR 2.1, LEX GN400L, F&P P, 160 pages.
A Long Road on a Short Day by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Published by Clarion Books, 2020
A great first historical fiction book about a boy and his father making a series of trades to ultimately get a cow so the new baby can have milk. The boy is involved with all the trades and must help his dad figure out what’s best for their family. Rd Lvl 3.2, AR 4.0, 64 pages.
Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Published by Algonquin Young Readers, 2020
When Skunk shows up on Badger’s doorstep, but animals discover they have a lot to learn about how to be friends and roommates. Book 2 is called Egg Marks the Spot. Rd Lvl 4.3, AR 4.2, 124 pages.
Weekends With Max and His Dad by Linda Urban, illustrated by Katie Kath
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016
When Max’s parents divorce, both he and his father learn to adjust to their new living arrangements in the three stories collected in this book. Max and his mom have a series of adventures while driving to a family reunion in Road Trip With Max and His Mom (2018). Weekends with Max and His Dad: Rd Lvl 4.1, AR 4.1, LEX 630L, 176 pages; Road Trip with Max and His Mom: Rd Lvl 4.5, AR 3.9, LEX 600L, 160 pages.
Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata
Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Book, 2020
Fourth-grader Ryan Hart bravely deals with family changes and the ups and downs of friendships in the first book in this series; the sequel, Ways to Grow Love (2021) takes place during the summer between fourth and fifth grades. Ways to Make Sunshine: Rd Lvl 4.8, AR 4.5, F&P P, 208 pages; Ways to Grow Love: RL 5.0, AR 4.7, 192 pages.