Reading novels is a wonderful way to build a love for reading! Here you will find the 10 best novel studies for 4th and 5th graders. These 4th and 5th-grade chapter books keep students engaged because they are interesting and fun to read.
You will also find a FREE printable list of each chapter book with their reading level, Lexile level, and other good-to-know information at the end of the post.
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This post is one part of a series on helpful content geared toward literacy instruction in upper elementary classrooms. Here are the other posts to checkout once you’ve read all of this post:
- Why You Need to Have Literacy Centers in Your Upper Elementary Classroom
- 4th Grade Literacy Centers
- Teaching Strategies for Reading Comprehension in Upper Elementary Classrooms
- Ideas to Help Older Students Who Struggle with Spelling*
- Read Alouds for Upper Elementary Students*
- How to Use Choice Boards to Run Literacy Centers*
- 8 Clever Ways to Get Students Writing More*
Posts with * beside their titles have free downloads available!
Why I Recommend Novel Studies for 4th & 5th Graders
I looked across my classroom and couldn’t believe my eyes.
Other than the sound of one selected student reading out loud, you could’ve heard a pin drop.
Other than the sound of one selected student reading out loud, you could’ve heard a pin drop.
Every single one of my 4th-graders were glued to their books. Some of them were crying. A few of them had red faces or dropped jaws.
We were engaged in our novel study–a chapter book by Christopher Paul Curtis–titled Bud, Not Buddy. We were only a few chapters in as students listened to the part where Buddy, an orphaned 10-year-old black boy, was being abused by his foster parents.
I use a special bell in my class to get my students’ attention and signal that reading time is over. My hand reluctantly rang the bell and all across the room I heard:
“Noooooo, please let’s have more time!”
“Ms. Marshall, is this book based on a true story? Is there a movie to go with it?”
“Can I take this copy home to read for my reading homework tonight?”
As the loud groans and constant question filled the air, I knew we had ourselves a new favorite chapter book!
This is why I recommend these novel studies for 4th and 5th graders: they keep students engaged and in love with reading!
What Are The Best Chapter Books for 4th and 5th Graders?
When selecting novel studies for 4th and 5th-grade students, I consider the following criteria:
- Word or Chapter Count (to decide how long it may take us to complete the novel)
- Reading and Lexile Level
- Whether it’s an Accelerated Reader book or not (our school is an AR school and I heavily push it in my class)
- Gender/ Race /Life-Situation of the main character (I want books that appeal to all my students)
Once I check out these factors, then I read it myself before introducing it to my students.
Each of the 10 books in this list has gone through this process, and have been read several times with my students.
These 10 novel studies for 4th and 5th-graders also have some of the highest ratings on goodreads.com, Amazon book reviews, and other sites. Many of them have even won numerous awards in children’s literature.
Now that you know my process for chapter book selection, let’s dive right into this juicy book list!
First Best Novel Study: Holes by Louis Sachar
I was honestly nervous about introducing this book to my students at first. I knew it would make a great novel study for teaching theme and sequence. But I didn’t know if my students would be able to understand some of the experiences of the main character Stanley Yelnats.
Boy was I wrong!
My students ADORE this book–every single year. Plus, it has been made into a movie. My kids really enjoy comparing and contrasting the novel and the movie once we finish both.
The movie for Holes is FREE for Prime members. You can get 30 Days FREE with my code HERE.
Second Best Novel Study: From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
This chapter books starts off a little slow (as far as “kid” action is concerned). Once you get a few chapters in, the plot hooks you into the mystery.
If you have students who love solving riddles or reading mystery chapter books, they will love this novel study.
Each year that I’ve read it with my students, I catch a new clue or detail that I didn’t see before. It’s great for teaching plot!
Third Best Novel Study: Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
I could write an entire blog post on nothing but Christopher Paul Curtis books! Especially Bud, Not Buddy!
Every year that I introduced this chapter book as a part of our class novel studies, my students display emotions all across the board.
When students’ emotions are activated by what they’re reading, then you know that they are truly engaging with and understanding the text.
I love using this chapter book to teach characterization because the characters in this book are so real and multi-faceted. It is hands-down one of the best novel studies for 4th and 5th-grade students of all reading levels!
Related Posts for Reading Instruction:
- Teaching Strategies for Reading Comprehension for Upper Elementary Students
- Literacy Centers for 4th Grade
- The Best Read-Alouds for Upper Elementary Classrooms
- Using Life Lesson’s to Teach Children’s Literature
Fourth Novel Study: Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This book was recommended by one of my students after she purchased it from our school book fair.
This novel study is wonderful for teaching empathy and kindness in the classroom. I even incorporated it into our Golden Rule classroom practice.
I also love how the main character is a 5th-grade boy who experiences struggles with fitting in. This is great for helping students feel a sense of connection to the novel.
Being able to relate what they are reading to real-life helps students stay engaged with reading longer texts.
You Might Want to Check Out:
How to Help Your Boys Fall in Love with Reading
Fifth Novel Study: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Having a dog as the main character makes teaching personification and other figurative language elements a breeze!
My students (and I) absolutely love this novel. The reading level is 3.9 (as you will see in the FREE printable below), so I often use this as our introductory novel study at the beginning of the school year.
Which works great because I need to teach them the procedures for our novel studies, and they need to ease back into reading deeply after being out all summer.
The first-person narrative of the book makes both of those goals super easy.
Sixth Novel Study: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
This classic chapter book provides rich details and descriptions that are great for teaching imagery.
Students enjoy visualizing the main character’s adventures through the wilderness.
One of my favorite things about this chapter book for 4th and 5th graders is that the main character keeps a journal of his adventures.
So I encourage my students to keep a journal while we read the novel. They are more motivated to write about their daily and weekly lives to compare with the journal entries of the character.
Anything I can do to combine reading and writing practice is a bonus in my book!
Seventh Novel Study: The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
I told you that I love this author right?
All of my students who read Bud, Not Buddy as a 4th-grader can’t wait to read this chapter book as a 5th-grader.
The historical fiction setting gives vivid details about life during the 60’s for African-Americans, from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy.
This author has an amazing way of detailing uncomfortable topics in a kid-friendly way that’s accurate, but also full of humor. My students always give rave reviews about this book.
Eight Novel Study: One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Ivan, a silverback gorilla, steals your heart as the narrator and main character of this amazing read-aloud for 4th and 5th-graders.
He is caged, and his experiences help you see life from an animal’s perspective in a whole new way.
Be sure to check out these reviews on this book from other readers.
Related Posts and Resources on Reading:
- Cheap and Easy Ways to Stock Your Classroom Library
- Read-Aloud with Rigor Book Series
- Centers in Upper Elementary Classrooms
- The Best FREE Literacy Apps
Ninth Novel Study: Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Initially, when my students looked at the cover, they whined about reading it. They assumed that it would be “boring” based on the cover illustration.
But this novel is far from boring.
It is one of the best books for novel studies with 4th and 5th graders because it teaches so many essential lessons. I especially like to emphasize having a growth-mindset through the main character of this book.
Esperanza is a wealthy Hispanic girl whose life is turned upside down due to tragedy in her family; her father is unexpectedly murdered. She and her mother are forced to flee their country and become migrant workers in California.
I use this novel study with current events to help students better understand immigration issues in our country.
Plus, building a culturally responsive classroom ranks HIGH on my list as a teacher! One of the ways to do that is by showcasing diversity through book selections.
This novel helps to achieve that goal!
Tenth Novel Study: Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence Atwater and Richard Atwater
Besides the very funny book-based movie starring Jim Carrey, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is hilarious!
I definitely think it is the most fun book for a novel study.
Even though it is far from being realistic fiction, my older kiddos enjoyed the over-the-top scenes of Mr. Popper taking care of his penguins.
Before teaching 4th grade, I taught 2nd grade for four years and I read Mr. Popper’s Penguins with my 2nd graders.
Here’s why I recommend it in this list of novel studies for 4th and 5th graders:
- My 2nd graders could NOT read this book independently. The word selection and meaning were too complex.
- 4th and 5th graders CAN read and understand the content of this book independently.
- This novel has many high-frequency words and vocabulary words that are recommended for older students.
Bonus Book–Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen
This book is a new edition to my list of novel studies for 4th and 5th graders, because I just recently read it at home with my son who is now in 5th grade.
Even though it’s new for us, I highly recommend it as a novel study in the classroom.
My son Caleb could not put it down! He actually finished it in four days. We both enjoyed the deep plot twists and unexpected surprises throughout the story.
My only caution is that it contains content about magic. If your school doesn’t allow books like Harry Potter, then this book probably wouldn’t qualify either. You can check it out here to see for yourself.
Reading and Lexile Levels of 4th & 5th-Grade Chapter Books
For many teachers, novels must be chosen based on their Lexile and reading level. So I created a chart that lists all the information for each chapter book featured in this post.
You can access that free list by entering your email below. Please be aware that many school servers automatically block outside senders. You may have a better chance of grabbing this guide with a personal email address.