Building Your Classroom Library: Book Recommendations for K–12
Building Your Classroom Library: Book Recommendations for K–12
With the new school year right around the corner, now is a good time to start, or continue, building your classroom library! With so many great books to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming to choose the best books for your students. I hope, among your vast library, you have some of the classics like the Junie B. Jones series, Charlotte’s Web, The Hunger Games series, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby (and if you don’t, this is your call to add them!).
While familiar favorites are great for student’s imaginations and education, we want to highlight some amazing reads that might be lesser known but are equally as impactful. Building a well-rounded library can be a hefty task, so we have complied some of our favorite books for your classroom, no matter the grade span!
Elementary School (K–5)
1. Our Class Is a Family by Shannon Olsen
In this book, students learn that their classroom is a place where it's safe to be themselves, it's OK to make mistakes, and it's important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.
2. The Magical Yet by Angel DiTerlizzi
The Magical Yet is the perfect tool for parents and educators to turn a negative into a positive when helping children cope with the inevitable difficult learning moments we all face. This encouraging and uplifting book reminds us all—children and adults alike—that we have things we haven't learned—yet! This book explores not knowing something and welcoming the “yet.”
3. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
Vashti’s art teacher encourages her to make a mark to see where it takes her. Despite having no drawing talent, that one little dot marks the beginning of her journey of surprise and self-discovery. That special moment is the core of Peter H. Reynolds’ delicate fable about the creative spirit in all of us.
4. You Matter by Christian Robinson
In this full, bright, and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored—including a pair of birdwatchers and the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way to see how everyone is connected and to find that everyone matters.
5. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
This story of CJ’s weekly bus ride with his grandma across town is an inclusive ode to kindness, empathy, gratitude, and finding joy in unexpected places. It celebrates the special bond between a curious young boy and his loving grandmother.
6. We’re All Wonders by R. Palacio
Inspired by the author’s own book for older ages, Wonder (which was adapted into a popular movie), We’re All Wonders is Auggie’s story from his point of view, and it taps into all children’s longing to belong and to be seen for who they truly are. It’s the perfect way for families and educators to talk about empathy and kindness with young children.
7. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
Beatrice Bottomwell had never made a mistake, but one day, the inevitable happens: Beatrice makes a huge mistake in front of everyone. The perfect introduction to growth mindset, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes is a book about accepting that mistakes happen, learning to move past them, and avoiding unnecessary worry.
Middle School (6–8)
1. The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School by Kristin Mahoney
Discover the ins and outs of middle school in this guide from an older sister to her younger sister, covering such tips as tackling a new building and meeting new people and things like the assistant principal, the class pet, the Huggers, the renegade, the tomato kid, your old best friend's new best friend. This is a must-read for everyone starting middle school.
2. Tight by Torrey Maldonado
Bryan's friend Mike pressures him with ideas of fun that are crazy risky. At first, it's a rush following Mike, hopping turnstiles, subway surfing, and getting into all kinds of trouble. But Bryan never really feels right acting so wrong, and drama really isn't him. So, which way will he go? Bryan’s favorite comic book superheroes help remind him that he has the power to choose a different life.
3. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
This emotional and uplifting story of friendship and unconventional intelligence explores Ally, who doesn’t fit in because she won’t tell anyone that she cannot read. She is smart enough to fool people, but she learns through her new teacher that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of.
4. The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
After committing an act of anger, Arthur T. Owens is sentenced to community service in a junkyard where he learns about trash, art, and redemption. He discovers that junk can be transformed into a masterful work of folk art.
5. Restart by Gordon Korman
Chase Ambrose doesn’t remember falling off the roof or hitting his head. He doesn’t even remember his own name. It's not only a question of who Chase is—it's a question of who he was and who he's going to be. Is he the alpha jock and bully he’s hearing stories about, or is it possible to have a clean start?
6. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Rita Williams-Garcia's first book in the series about three sisters—Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern—is historical fiction that explores how they travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them.
7. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Miranda begins receiving mysterious notes commanding her on a secret mission to write a letter with a true story. The science-fiction twist and thought-provoking mystery is that the strange messages predict the future with an ominous warning about life and death.
High School (9–12)
1. The People We Keep by Allison Larkin
April Sawicki leaves her father, broken motorhome, school, and diner job in Little River, New York, in 1994. She randomly stops in Ithaca and finds a sense of community at a coffeeshop where she makes friends and writes songs about her life. She ponders where she came from, who she may leave behind, and who she can become.
2. Black Birds in the Sky by Brandy Colbert
This powerful nonfiction book examines the history and legacy of one of the most deadly and destructive acts of racial violence in American history: the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
3. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe, there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better? Nora Seed travels to the Midnight Library and faces the possibility of changing her life, searching within herself to decide what is fulfilling, such as careers and relationships, and what makes her who she is.
4. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai spoke out at age fifteen when the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan and fought for her right to an education. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Malala’s remarkable recovery has taken her from a family uprooted by global terrorism and the fight for girls’ education to the United Nations. At sixteen, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her autobiography is a stirring story about the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.
5. Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman
Shawn McDaniel is in a wheelchair, unable to voluntarily move a muscle. For all Shawn's father knows, his son may be suffering and want a release. As long as he is unable to communicate his feelings, Shawn's life is in danger. In this novel, we see what no one else does—a rich breathing life.
6. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Soon to be adapted as a Netflix series, this young adult thriller is about a Native teen who must root out the corruption in her community. Eighteen-year-old, biracial Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, either in her hometown or on the Ojibwe reservation. When she witnesses a murder, she agrees to go undercover in an FBI investigation of a lethal new drug.
7. The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
In this first book of a twisty, thrilling trilogy, high school student Avery Grambs inherits a fortune from mysterious, eccentric billionaire she doesn’t even know. She must move into his mansion with his extended family he disinherited, which is filled with secret passages, puzzles, riddles, and codes.
There are many amazing books out there, and this list is just the tip of the iceberg! We hope that this list is beneficial to you as you continue to build your classroom library. Looking for more books to include in your classroom library? Check out these awesome recommendations from other educators!