10 Chapter Books for Third Graders to Engage Young Readers

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Katie Moench


Katie Moench is a librarian, runner, and lover of baked goods. A school librarian in the Upper Midwest, Katie lives with her husband and dog and spends her free time drinking coffee, trying new recipes, and adding to her TBR.

I have such fond memories of my 3rd grade school year. I was lucky to have a wonderful teacher who was engaging and made us all curious to learn new things. Many of my great memories from that time come from the books we read together and the fact that I was getting more into reading chapter books for 3rd graders on my own. I can still picture circle reading time with The Cricket in Times Square, devouring the Beezus & Ramona books during independent reading, and diving into the mystery of The Westing Game. It seems that for many readers, independent reading really takes off in 3rd grade which makes it a wonderful time to be a parent or teacher of an emerging reader.

Some of the chapter books for 3rd graders here might be a little above the reading level of an average 3rd grader and might be better consumed as read-alouds or audiobooks, while others can be devoured independently. In addition to stand-alone titles, I’ve also included the first book in popular series for 3rd graders, since there’s nothing better than finding a series that you love. From fantasy to comedy, these reads are sure to delight the 3rd grade readers in your life and can be enjoyed by the adults around them as well!

Pages and Co book cover

Pages & Co.: The Bookwanderers by Anna James, Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Book lovers will love this series about 11-year-old Tilly Pages, whose mother is missing and who finds solace at her grandparent’s bookstore. One day, Tilly gets a huge surprise when characters from her favorite books start showing up in the shop and beckoning Tilly to follow them into their fictional worlds. Tilly realizes that some of her character friends may hold the key to finding out what happened to her mom, in this charming, literary story.

Cam Jansen Book #1 book cover

Cam Jansen By David A. Adler, Illustrated by Susanna Natti

For junior sleuths, the Cam Jansen book series has been a hit for years. Designed for readers making the transition to chapter books, Cam and her friends solve mysteries while having plenty of fun along the way. In the first installment of the series, Cam and her friend are hanging out at the mall when they see a jewelry store being robbed. Cam sees the thief, but the police arrest the wrong person! Can Cam crack the case and convince everyone of the real criminal?

cover of Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott; illustration of a young Black boy with a dragon in a bag

Dragons in a Bag By Zetta Elliott, Illustrated by Geneva B

This fun fantasy will delight early chapter book readers. Jaxon is upset when he has to spend the day with Ma, his grumpy grandma. However, he finds out that Ma is actually not his grandma — she is a witch! Ma is in charge of delivering baby dragons to a magical world and asks Jaxon and his friends to help. There are just two rules: don’t let the dragons out of the bag and don’t feed them anything sweet. But, of course, the bag gets open, and now Jaxon and his friends have to chase down baby dragons in Brooklyn.

Clean Getaway book cover

Clean Getaway By Nic Stone

This thoughtful book would make a great read-aloud for a 3rd grade class, especially one studying the Civil Rights Movement. This road trip novel follows Scoob and G’ma across the American South. Scoob is avoiding a school suspension and his father, back home, and G’ma has some things to take care of from her past. The book weaves in historical information and thoughtful dialogue for an engaging read.

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail book cover

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail By Richard Peck, Illustrated By Kelly Murphy

The littlest mouse in the Royal Mews has lots of questions, like what his name is, where his family went, and how he ended up in the royal household. He decides to go see Queen Victoria herself since he figures she’ll have the answers to his questions. His quest will take him through the halls of Buckingham Palace on an epic adventure for a small mouse!

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say cover

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say By Angela Dominguez

Stella Díaz loves spending time with her mom, brother, and her best friend Jenny. But Jenny’s in a different class this year and now the outgoing Stella has to make some new friends. Stella wants to show everyone how fun and friendly she is but sometimes she mixes up Spanish and English words and now she has to speak in front of the whole class. Stella knows that she’ll have to find a way to overcome her fears because she’s got a lot to say.

Odder book cover

Odder By Katherine Applegate, Illustrated by Charles Santoso

Katherine Applegate’s books are great choices for a 3rd grade chapter book read-aloud. In her newest story, we meet Odder, a sea otter who lives off the California coast and has the best swim moves of any of the otter pack. One tragic day, Odder has a run-in with a fearsome shark that forever changes her life. This novel in verse is based on a real program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I Survived the sinking of the titanic book cover

I Survived by Lauren Tarshis

For adventurers and fans of realistic, survival fiction, the I Survived books are a great choice. Each book features the story of a kid fighting to survive a disaster situation based on real-life events. Kids will devour these heart-pounding stories while also learning about disasters throughout history.

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel book cover

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel By Nikki Grimes, Illustrated By R. Gregory Christie

Dyamonde Daniel may be the new kid in school, but that’s not going to stop her from making a splash! Dyamonde has charmed her neighbors and made a great impression on her new friends at school, except for one, grumpy boy. But Dyamonde knows she can tackle any challenge and find a way to make him her friend. Third graders will instantly connect to her as a fun and lovable heroine.

Dog Days: The Carver Chronicles book cover

Dog Days: The Carver Chronicles by Karen English, Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Gavin was a cool kid at his old school but at Carver Elementary, he’s having trouble making friends. Just when he thinks he and his classmate Richard could be friends the two of them end up in trouble and now Gavin has to take care of his grouchy great-aunt Myrtle’s annoying dog. Can Gavin find a way to fit in with a barking Pomeranian tagging along?

Looking for more chapter books for kids? We have a round-up of chapter books for early readers, a list of transitional chapter books, and plenty of recommendations in our children’s books archives.