Read aloud texts are vital at every age and support the creation of strong readers. By reading aloud to students, we help to foster strong literacy skills such as reading fluency, auditory comprehension, the usage of expression and tone, modeling thinking, text features, introduction to new vocabulary, and of course, we get to share our love of reading - which is contagious!
This is why choosing read aloud texts that are grade-level appropriate AND engaging, is important. When you choose a read aloud text, you should know your audience! In this case, we are looking for texts that are appropriate for the 5th grade level.
While the texts do not have to be at a 5th grade reading level, they should take into consideration the age and demographic of the group; this includes things such as background knowledge, an appropriate reading level so that students are introduced to new vocabulary, and engagement (interests, relatable characters, appealing illustrations, etc).
Here are a selection of wonderful books and diverse favorite read alouds that are suited for the 5th grade classroom.
1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
A novel about the Holocaust during WWII, it tells the story of the Danish Resistance against the Nazis through the point of view of a ten-year-old girl, Annemarie.
2. Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
A coming of age story and 2019 Newbery Medalwiner, tells the story of the confusion of middle school and the importance of family. Merci and her brother are scholarship students at a private school who need to navigate middle school, but also being different.
3. Bridge to Terabithia Kindle Edition by Katherine Paterson
A story of friendship and tragedy, but a must-read for 5th graders. It tells about two kids, Jess and Leslie, who create an imaginary land as an escape from their regular lives. One day, Leslie decides to go to Terabithia alone and has an accident. Jesse now is left to grieve with the support of his family, the strength Leslie has given him, and the help of their magical land.
4. Words on Fire Hardcover by Jennifer A. Nielsen
A great piece of historical fiction for 5th graders. It tells about Audra and her family in Lithuania during the occupation of Russia. It is a great book for teaching students about forced assimilation and the importance of resistance. It also makes a great book pairing with other books related to this theme.
5. Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
A great book for teaching elementary students about point of view - this novel has an intertwining pov between two boys and two girls. A story about unexpected friendship, it is a favorite on the 5th grade book list!
6. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
A great scary tale for any upper elementary classroom; especially those with reluctant readers. A spooky story, written as a Victorian ghost story, that keeps students engaged, but also has a moral about greed.
7. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
A wonderful book for upper elementary and middle school students about finding your identity. The book is written as a series of letters from the main character, Nisha, to her mother. Being half Hindu and half Muslin, she becomes a refugee after India and Pakistan become independent countries from British rule.
8. Fractions in Disguise: A Math Adventure by Edward Einhorn
A colorful, picture book that uses literacy to help teach math skills with fractions. Help George to crack the case by simplifying and reducing fractions!
9. North wind by Gary Paulsen
A true survival story, filled with adventure around each bend, this text is sure to engage 5th grade students. Not only a survival story but about finding one's truest self, Leif is forced to leave home after a plague reaches the fish camp where he lives.
10. Loser by Jerry Spinelli
A powerful story about the importance of failure, and that fitting in isn’t more important than having your own identity. The author uses humor to tell a story through realistic fiction that most kids can relate to.
11. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
A realistic fiction novel, it is a relatable story that tells of a middle grade student, David, who just wants to fit in with the “cool kids”. Against his better judgment, he joins them in some mischief, but not without consequences to his actions.
12. Holes by Louis Sachar
Another novel by Louis Sachar, this classic book can be used to teach about character traits. Stanley is under a curse, a family curse. He is at a camp that is supposed to work on character building by digging holes, but there’s much more happening.
13. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
A great chapter book for any 4th grader. It tells the story of the Pullman family and their son Auggie, who has a facial deformity. Auggie used to be homeschooled, but his parents decide to put him in public school, where he has to deal with bullying, but his friends help him through. A book about differences, empathy, and friendship - it is a sweet story that helps students recognize we are all special.
14. Auggie & Me by R.J. Palacio
If your students enjoyed wonder, add this 3 book set to your read aloud of 5th grade classroom library. It tells the story of Auggie Pullman, the amazing boy with a facial deformity, through the point of view of 3 other characters. It’s a great follow-up to Wonder and teaching P.O.V.!
15. The Wayside School Box Set by Louis Sachar
This series is the perfect collection for a 5th grade library. It includes all four books in the Wayside School series, which tell silly stories of what it’s like going to the whacky Wayside School.
16. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle is determined to find her missing mother. The novel is great for teaching 5th graders about themes, as it has many: dealing with grief, cultural identity, death, etc.
17. For Which We Stand: How the Government Works and Why It Matters by Jeff Foster
A great text for covering Social Studies standards related to government. Can easily be paired with a SS text and the organization of the book makes it easy to only use sections of the text.
18. The Unteachables by Gordon Korman
A wonderful middle grade novel, it tells the story of a class of misfits in room 117 who get an even worse teacher, or so it seems…A story about redemption that we can all relate to.
19. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
A work of historical fiction, it tells the survival story of a Native American girl who was left behind on the island. As she waits to be rescued, she must learn how to survive and learn a lot about herself too.
20. How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Conner
Not only does this novel tell the story of a young girl and her family who are homeless, and her desperation to help her family, but it is also connected to Common Core Standards.
21. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
This tells the story of three black children who were abandoned by their mothers. However, when they get the chance to go visit their mom, they end up learning much more about their family and country. A compelling story for 5th graders to learn more about racial equity.
22. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Based on a true story, it tells the story of two people - Nya who is fictional, though realistic, and Salva, who is real - living during different times, whose lives in Sudan intersect.
23. Restart by Gordon Korman
Chase falls from a roof and gets amnesia and can’t remember anything - friends, family, nothing…not even that he used to be the star football player and a big bully. After his amnesia, some treat him as a hero, others are scared of him. When Chase realizes who he used to be, he also sees that maybe being popular isn’t as important as being kind.
24. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
A wonderful fantasy fable that teaches about family and love, but also about judging others before we know them. A colorful story that will engage students and reluctant readers.
25. Pax by Sara Pennypacker
This novel teaches students about the power of relationships. It will work well for read aloud text but also does well for independent reading.
26. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Another novel is about survival with themes on courage and self-discovery. The main character is the only survivor of a plane crash, only armed with a will to live and a hatchet, he must figure out how to survive.
Read Aloud Tips for 5th Graders
Model Thinking Aloud
While you read aloud, when you come to an important part of the book, stop and pause. Then “think aloud” to your class. This models what a good reader should be doing - even when reading silently.
Reading with Purpose
Students should always be given a purpose for reading so they can develop good reading habits and understand that they don’t need to memorize everything in the text. Some purposes could be: reading to find important details or to answer a specific question.
While students read, they should be engaging with the text. One way to do this is to teach them how to annotate a text. You can use sticky notes or allow students to mark their book with symbols. Examples are: ! - for something exciting, ? - a question or confusion, V - unknown vocabulary word, * - for something important, etc.
Have Students Make Inferences
Throughout the text, create stopping points where students need to make an inference or prediction. You can have students do a quick “stop and jot” and have a few students with different guesses share out. Make sure that all students provide textual evidence as to why this is their prediction.
Turn and Talk
Part of good comprehension is also being able to explain what you have read to others. Using a simple “turn and talk” during read aloud allows students to get a chance to engage with peers and express what they have learned verbally.