5 Awesome Books and Authors for Upper Elementary Students

You'll definitely want to make room for these in your classroom library.

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Books For Upper Elementary

Every teacher has a list of favorite authors and books.

Maybe yours teach important life lessons, result in fantastic conversations, or are beloved titles from your own childhood. I’ve used the five authors and books below time and again with my fourth graders, but they can easily work for students in any of the upper elementary grades.

1. There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom by Louis Sachar

A large percentage of the elementary grades’ reading standards focus on developing the analytical skills needed to dissect characters' traits, motivations, struggles, and desires. Additionally, upper elementary reading lessons also dedicate a substantial amount of time to understanding themes.

There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom follows the incredible character development of a middle school boy named Bradley. He starts out as an insecure, crass, friendless bully, but eventually transforms into a beloved friend with an open heart and open eyes. This story humorously takes the reader through Bradley’s life while periodically offering insight into his behavior from the perspective of other characters. You and your students will laugh, cry, and learn by reading this book.

2. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

While this title is generally more appropriate for fourth graders and up, Walk Two Moons is my favorite book of all time. Not only does is the protagonist a very spunky girl, but it also considers the Native American perspective in a variety of ways.

This beautifully told story follows Salamanca Tree Hiddle and her hysterical grandparents as they embark upon a cross-country road trip while simultaneously exploring a plotline about Sal and her friend Phoebe. This book makes many of my students cry and does include some heavy topics—including miscarriage—(I recommend teachers give this title a re-read before assigning it to students) but the depth of conversation it inspires in my students is worth it! Sharon Creech does amazing work, and any of her books are ideal choices for upper elementary readers.

3. The works of Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant is one of my top three picture book authors for any elementary grade. Seamlessly blending beautiful imagery and prose, Rylant skillfully presents tricky topics in a way that is appropriate for young readers.

Her book An Angel for Solomon Singer follows a lonely man as he makes a new friend and finally finds a place he feels at home. Similarly, Spaghetti, a short text, focuses on a boy named Gabriel who rescues a small kitten that becomes his only companion.

Many of her books also focus on family dynamics—both the good and the bad. These books can be read during an interactive read aloud or can be individually analyzed during a writer’s workshop. For example, I have my fourth graders compare and contrast An Angel for Solomon Singer and Spaghetti, and the two texts work beautifully for that exercise.

4. The works of Eve Bunting

Eve Bunting is another stellar author who—similarly to Rylant—discusses heavy topics in ways that connect with elementary students. One of my favorite books of hers, Fly Away Home, is about a boy and his father who live in the airport because they have no home. The dad is extremely strong for his son, exemplifying a number of admirable character traits.

5. The works of Patricia Pollaco

Patricia Pollaco is the golden standard author for children’s picture books. She doesn't shy away from difficult topics, including her own experiences with dyslexia and childhood bullies, making her books an ultra-relatable choice for many kids. Always fleshed out with interesting details, Pollaco’s texts are wonderful for an extended read aloud or analysis activities with any grade. My favorite book of hers, Thank you, Mr. Falker, tells the story of her own childhood and how one teacher made a huge difference in her life.

With these suggestions in mind, go forth and read!


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Author Bio:

Lisa Koplik is a fourth-grade teacher at the Greenwood School in Wakefield, Massachusetts. She loves teaching math, reading intense read-aloud books that promote complaints when she has to stop reading, and figuring out educational games to play with her students. Check out her video series on classroom management!

Want more from this author? Check out Lisa's favorite classroom apps or her advice on creating meaningful classroom rules with your students.
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