It’s not simple to construct an end-all list of chapter books for 4th graders, so I didn’t. Truthfully, 4th graders represent various interests and reading abilities that begin a tricky book recommendation era. Is your reader still most comfortable with familiar chapter book series like The Magic Tree House? Are they ready to make the jump into thicker middle grade novels? Do their interests outstrip their current reading ability? There is so much to take into account, especially if your goal is finding something to encourage pleasure reading.
Luckily, I am trained for this. Navigating the interests and abilities of young readers is my day job. In the past decade or so, (and thanks to the hard work of teachers, librarians, and booksellers) it is more understood that graphic novels, audiobooks, and being read to are all valid ways to comprehend stories and build a love of reading. These are important tools, especially if your reader has a lower reading ability but appreciates more involved stories. Audiobooks are the key to juicy plots and increased vocabulary and comprehension skills. Graphic novels tell stories with words and pictures, giving students who are working on their English reading skills a chance to use context and appreciate the layers of the story. Being read to is an amazing chance to bond and enjoy a book together.
In the list below, I worked to lay out suggestions that would work for the average 4th grader. However, when you’re perusing, keep in mind the variables above. Might I suggest starting at the library, so you can cycle through many titles in a low-risk environment? No matter which way you approach the task of finding chapter books for 4th graders, this list will get you started!
Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly and Isabel Roxas
Full disclosure, this is the book I chose for my rising 4th graders to read this summer. I am completely in love with the plot, the multiple points of view, and the audio performance. This story brings together four different kids with very different lives, dealing with classic middle school issues against a fresh and interesting plot. It’s a Newbury Award winner for a reason.
Holes by Louis Sachar
I read this book decades after it came out, and I was furious with myself for not reading it sooner. It translates wonderfully on audio and has an enchanting feel that breaks through even the bleak and uncomfortable setting. The main character is incarcerated in a juvenile prison camp where the inmates dig holes. Seemingly absurd details crystalize into an amazing backstory as the tale weaves together and becomes clear with perfect timing.
Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun
What kid doesn’t dream of a chance to reinvent themself? Pippa Park leaps at the chance when a basketball scholarship leads her to a school where no one knows her. As she struggles with the typical trappings of middle school (think crushes, grades, and bullies), she also finds herself dealing with anonymous social media messages that threaten to ruin everything. Can she make her new self stick, or will it all come crashing down?
Minecraft Woodsword Chronicles: The Complete Series by Nick Eliopulos
A lot of 4th graders love Minecraft, and these books are a hit across most of the elementary grade levels in my library. A group of students use the broken VR headsets at their school to actually enter the world of Minecraft! The plot of each book alternates between gameplay and the trials of the average school day. Different fonts and light illustrations draw interest and make this a great transition into the world of traditional novels.
Dactyl Hill Squad (Dactyl Hill Squad #1) by Daniel José Older
What if you read a book about plucky orphans helping fight in the Civil War, but the book took place in an alternate reality where dinosaurs never went extinct? You would be reading Dactyl Hill Squad, an amazing series starter with mystery, action, badass kids, and a dinosaur whisperer. This is all just the first few chapters! I’d love this book even without the body diversity on the cover.
Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
This book LASTS. It’s been out for 35 years and is still one of the favorites in my elementary library. A huge chunk of my students love scary books, and Mary Downing Hahn is the queen of elementary horror. I included the 1987 cover because it makes me feel 10 again, holding this book with trembling hands while I waited in line at my own elementary library. Several of Downing Hahn’s stories are being published as graphic novels, to open up her magic to even more readers.
I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980 by Lauren Tarshis
Here we have another classic series that has 3rd and 4th graders especially hooked. These novels cover historical events from the perspective of a fictitious child, ranging from Hurricane Katrina to Pompeii. There are currently 23 books in this series, but several titles have been converted to graphic novels, to the delight of many readers.
Rick by Alex Gino
Gino is famous for their previous novel, Melissa, and the titular characters meet up again in this companion piece. Rick is grappling with questions about personal interests and identity when he meets Melissa and learns about his school’s Rainbow Spectrum club. Middle school is a natural time to explore who you are, but it’s not easy! Can he confront his father and bully best friend to pursue a life that makes him feel more like himself?
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
The Vanderbeeker family is sweet, loving, amusing, and mischievous. Throughout the seven-book series, we learn more about the parents, kids, neighbors, and found family who populate their adventures. Following the children and their pets as they grow, explore, fall in love, and have endless adventures, I recommend this series to anyone who wants a dash of escapism with their family stories!
Bonus: Karina Yan Glaser is a Book Riot Contributing Editor and one of the writers of our kid lit newsletter, The Kids Are All Right!
Hopefully you’ve found some books to get you started! Looking for more chapter books for 4th graders? Check out this list by M. Lynx Qualey!