My Classroom Favorites
for Independent Reading
By Emily Kissner
Curate your own classroom library by selecting books that you love and with which you
feel a connection!
Picture Books for All Readers
Picture books are an excellent way to build reading engagement and background
knowledge for readers of all ages. If you’re worried that your older readers may take
advantage of picture books, you may use these as a “Sometimes” bin or as “Friday
Beautiful Oops: Barney Saltzberg. This book is a playful introduction
to turning mistakes into masterpieces. Even after a read-aloud, many
kids enjoy revisiting this book to explore the
Shortcut: Donald Crews. This quick read is a
compelling story with great pacing and
suspense. In addition to having it in my classroom library, I like to
use it for personal narrative mini-lessons. An inexpensive
addition to the classroom library!
Previously: Allan Ahlberg. This is an unusual book that looks
backwards at fairy tales. It’s another one that moves from
read-aloud to independent reading, because many students find
that one encounter is not enough.
Julia’s House for Lost Creatures: Ben
Hatke. Lots to explore in the
illustrations with this book! A nice way to build up interest
to read Hatke’s other books, Zita the Spacegirl and Mighty
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel: Kathryn
Gibbs Davis. This short biography outlines the events leading up to
the invention of the Ferris wheel. I like to read aloud the main text
and let students borrow the book for independent reading to read
the remaining captions.
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children: Jack Prelutsky. A classic
book of poems, this is a worthy investment for every classroom. Funny
poems, seasonal poems, rhyming, unrhyming...this collection has it all!
Cats vs. Dogs: Elizabeth Carney. This is a fun nonfiction book
comparing cats and dogs. There are many books in the National
Geographic series, and they are generally inexpensive and
Elephant and Piggie: Mo Willems. This fun series shows the adventures of
Elephant and Piggie, with lots of dialogue, humor, and friendship. Series
are a wonderfully supportive way to build early
Princess in Black: Shannon Hale. Princess Magnolia lives a double
life, switching between life as a proper princess and life as the
Princess in Black!
Who Would Win?: Jerry Pallotta. These
entertaining nonfiction books pit real-life animals
against each other in imaginary battles.
Diary of a Spider: Doreen Cronin. One of a series of
several books, this diary includes engrossing
illustrations and a diary format.
3-5: Many of these books will appeal to older readers as well!
Secret Coders: Gene Luen Yang. This series of graphic novels includes
coding mysteries and puzzles.
Amulet: Kazu Kibuishi. This engrossing graphic novel
series is a hit with readers! Collect all 7 books—-book 8 is
coming out in September of 2018!
Rocket and Groot: Keep on Truckin’! Tom Angleberger. A middle grade
Marvel book, this book might include the phrase “I am Groot” a time or
Wonder: R.J. Palacio. Told from multiple perspectives, this
book tells the story of Auggie’s foray into middle school. A
great choice for a book club or literature circle.
Space Dumplings: Craig Thompson. This sci-fi graphic
novel enchants readers with a galaxy-crossing story as
Violet must find a way to rescue her father.
Heroes in Training: Suzanne Williams and Joan Holub. This
series stars young Olympians as their adventures begin. A
great way to get kids interested in the world of Greek
Aru Shah and the End of Time: Roshani Chokshi. The first
book from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, this fantasy
introduces the fun-loving, irrepressible character of Aru,
who lights a lamp to impress her classmates and
accidentally awakens the Sleeper.
Sisters: Raina Telgemeier. This family-centered graphic novel explores the
relationship between sisters. Kids enjoy the technique of colored flashback
pages, helping them to keep track of the events in the story.
5-7: Don’t forget to look at the books on the earlier lists as well!
The Dumbest Idea Ever: Jimmy Gownley. A
Pennsylvania author, Jimmy tells the story of
creating his first comic in this graphic novel. Wide
appeal with many students, especially those who
enjoyed the Amelia Rules! series when they were
Bone series: Jeff Smith. One of the first graphic
novel series aimed at middle grade readers, assembling a complete set
of this series will be a task that will keep you working day and night.
But it’s worth it to see the delight it brings to readers.
The Graveyard Book: Neil Gaiman. I always talk with readers before I
hand them this book, because the first chapter is rather shocking, but
after that it explores what makes a family and what makes a home.
This book also has a two-volume graphic novel adaptation.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Shannon Hale and Dean
Hale. This quirky series finds new readers each year,
especially as they realize that Squirrel Girl is without a
doubt the best hero in the Marvel universe. It’s true.
All’s Faire in Middle School: Victoria Jamieson. This is a
fun realistic fiction graphic novel, combining
Renaissance Faire antics with the start of middle school.
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Rick Riordan. My
classroom has bins and bins full of Rick Riordan’s
different series, and they are in high demand. Try one as
a read aloud to build interest.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda: Tom Angleberger. This
realistic fiction series is lots of fun. Told from different
viewpoints, it chronicles the adventures of middle
schoolers and one very mysterious origami puppet.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Nathan Hale. Books in
this series tell about important events in world
history, with the help of Nathan Hale and...the
executioner? Students will devour these and then
bring up interesting tidbits of history that they have
The Boy on the Wooden Box: Leon Leyson. In this
autobiographical story, the author describes his
experiences as a small boy on Schindler’s List.
Moving, heartbreaking, and important for students.
The One and Only Ivan: Katherine Applegate. This book gets readers
every month. It is one of the most circulated books in my classroom
library of the last two years!