Top Ten MG Books to Use as Read Alouds Beginning of Year by Cassie Thomas

When students enter the classroom at the first of the year, a lot of schools are spending days/weeks on ensuring respect, understanding, and creating a classroom culture of family. To do this more effectively and spark conversation, I have learned that opening each year with a book that touches on character traits such as respecting and accepting one another, I have found that students refer back to that book/books the rest of the year. Here are my top ten middle grade books to do as read alouds in the first couple of weeks in grades 3-6.


A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner

A Whole New Ballgame is all about change and how that can be for the better. Rip & Red are experiencing major changes during their 5th grade year. New staff, new homeroom teacher, new coach… as much as changes can be for the worst, they learn that it can also be a very positive thing. AWNB can set the tone for teamwork and how important it is to work together as a class team. Great for 3rd/4th grade students!


Posted by John David Anderson

The whole school is turned upside down when cell phones are banned. A new girl comes and interrupts a tribe of 4 boys who have been close friends for years. Then sticky notes start to be the main source of communication amongst students, only to be banned later. This is a story of the importance of words and how imprinting the use of them can be, both positive and negative. This is the read aloud I plan for the beginning of 5th grade year to have discussions on how to choose our words wisely.


Sticks & Stones by Abby Cooper

Sticks & Stones puts a fantasy twist on a story about a girl who has words appear on her body when they are negatively said about her. The twist is that even if she thinks badly about herself, those words also appear on her skin… and they itch. Once again, this is a great novel to use for students to have discussions on the importance of positive self talk as well as positive remarks to others.


Stargirl by Jerry Spinnelli

When I was in middle school, Stargirl is the book that allowed me to understand that being different/weird is totally okay. This book saved me. Too many students, especially girls, seem to conform to what others want them to be, yet in Stargirl she has to learn and accept that being normal is being yourself.


Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

As a teacher, this book is something that I hope all students who have difficulties in anything academically read. Fish in a Tree is a fantastic novel about a young girl who has been able to “slide by” her teachers for many years until one teacher realizes that it’s not that she’s dumb or doesn’t understand, but that she has dyslexia, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Ally discovers there’s a lot more to yourself than just a label.


Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

This story is primarily for older middle grade students, but I think it would be a fantastic start for those who know they have students dealing with family issues that my feel alone. This opens eyes to those that what you see on the outside only graces the surface of someone.  This book not only will touch you deeply, but it will allow some intense deep thinking conversations amongst students.


Restart by Gordon Kormon

Restart is all about a young boy, Chase, who experiences an accident that leaves him in the hospital not remembering a single thing. Most of all, never remembering that HE was the bully. He doesn’t understand why some are afraid of him and why some people hate him. This is a book that really made me think even as a young adult about my actions that I may have been blind to. I think it’s a great start for 5th/6th graders who are starting to find their way but may need some understanding of bad ways that young kids can go.


Rules by Cynthia Lord

I feel like Rules is a classic in the acceptance department of books. Catherine in the story wants to be normal, but her life is far from normal. She has a brother with autism and her entire families lives revolve around him. She goes through the story developing friendships and finding acceptance and realizing that normal is not the same in everyone’s world.  Great for 4th-5th grade students.


Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Applegate’s newest novel is told from the tree’s point of view. It’s a great story about how actions and words mean so much, but so does being silent. In a world where the tree never speaks to humans, he finds himself in a predicament where he NEEDS to speak up. This is a great story for 3rd-5th graders to open up discussions on why speaking up for other’s is important and why staying silent can sometimes be the worse end of the stick.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio


Wonder. The book of the decade. In a world where everyone is focused on material things it seems, and how looks and self appearance really start to be a “thing” in middle grades, Wonder provides students comfort in knowing that there is no perfect way to look, and that differences are what make you who you are. All grades can’t go wrong with Wonder. There are so many conversations to be held reading this novel aloud.



Cassie Thomas is a 5th grade reading teacher and blogger who shares her love of reading for a living with students and blogs about her book recommendations to teachers at She lives in Cibolo, TX, with her husband and son and stacks of books in every room that need to find their own home on a shelf. She can be found on Twitter @mrs_cmt1489.