I’ve been an elementary school reading teacher, a reading interventionist, and now a reading instructional coach. Plus, I’ve got a 7 year old daughter who is obsessed with reading! I’ve had so much fun compiling this list of the best chapter books for 5th graders. Some are timeless treasures and others are modern winners.
I decided to sort my list, just like the others, by guided reading level. Of course, you may have a struggling reader who is not on grade level, or a kiddo who is a year or more advanced. Not to worry; I have lists for other grade levels and topics, too.
Here are my other book recommendation posts, sorted by grade level:
- Best Chapter Books for 2nd Grade Girls
- Best Chapter Books for 3rd Graders
- Best Chapter Books for 4th Graders
- 18 Outstanding Books for Middle School Boys
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How to Help Your 5th Grader Choose their Chapter Books
These are the best chapter books for 5th graders; on average, they’ll read between a T-V in the 5th grade. If your child is reading below grade level, don’t be afraid to check out my lists for the lower grades; you’ll still find some that will interest an older child.
If a child is super interested in the content of a book, they’ll sometimes be able to access books that are one reading level higher than you’d expect.
The reverse is also true, if the content bores them completely, they may not be able to read as well. That’s because motivation plays an important part in reading endurance and decoding ability.
For example, my daughter’s current guided reading level is an S. She’s a strong reader who will be entering 2nd grade soon. She’ll make quite a few decoding errors if she attempts to read a book on a guided reading level T. However, she absolutely loves fiction with a female protagonist and an element of fantasy or magic – books like Matilda by Roald Dahl, for example. She will push past her decoding mistakes and manage to have strong comprehension with books that fit this niche.
However, if she’s got to read nonfiction about animals like crocodiles or sharks, she will sometimes comprehend less of what she’s reading, even if it’s technically on grade level. This is normal behavior.
In other words – prioritize interest in the content over exact reading level. The goal is to be in the ballpark on the reading level, and then choose the highest interest books for your child. This will foster a love of reading for your kiddo!
If there’s a book that I want my daughter to enjoy that’s outside her normal wheelhouse, I’ll often read the first few chapters with her at night. Sharing this family time together allows her to be more open minded about new books.
Best Chapter Books for 5th Graders on a Guided Reading Level T
Kids at the beginning of 5th grade read at a level T, on average. If you think your child reads more or less on grade level, start with this collection between August and November and see how it goes!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series
“The best thing about Diary of a Wimpy Kid books is that you always get stuck going on some adventure,” according to my 7 year old daughter. She also says that even though some of the words are tricky, littler kids can understand because there are so many pictures. Plus, there are so many wonderful jokes!
Bridge to Terabithia
Here’s another classic Newbery medal winning book. Bridge to Terabithia is perfect for 5th grade because it’s a story about friendship, loss, and grief, requiring a bit more maturity than some other books on this list. Because it’s such an old book, some of the gender stereotyping will seem odd to kids, so be sure to have good discussions about it. It’s still worth the read in my opinion.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Here’s another classic – this one chosen by PBS’ the Great American Read as one of the 100 best loved novels of all time. This is a fantasy novel about four siblings who step through a closet door into a frozen wonderland and embark on an epic adventure. To most kids, that’s more than enough to hook them. For Christian students, there are plenty of Biblical allegory that will add a layer of interest, which will go unnoticed by kids who aren’t religious.
Harriet the Spy
I still remember reading this book when I was a child. Harriet M. Welsch is a spy who carries a notebook everywhere and makes notes about her people-watching. Unfortunately, the notebook ends up in the wrong hands, and everyone discovers the truthful, but sometimes very hurtful things she has said about them. Harriet has to figure out how to repair her friendships. It’s a really wonderful story full of life lessons.
Here are some more of my book posts and advice about reading for kids.
- Best Fall Books to Read by the Fire
- Our All-Time Favorite Picture Books
- My 4 Year Old Can Read! Is that Normal?!
Best Chapter Books for 5th Graders on a Guided Reading Level U
On average, 5th graders read at a guided reading level U around the winter holiday.
The Secret Garden
Here’s a mysterious classic about a little orphaned girl who goes to live with her uncle in his mansion with 100 rooms. He never comes out of his bedroom, she’s lonely, and the only respite are the gardens outside. She discovers a secret, locked garden behind high walls. Once she finds her way in, she’s determined to bring the garden back to life. I like the version linked here because it has a helpful historic orientation, glossary, and other useful bits to help modern readers access this timeless treasure.
Bud, Not Buddy
This book has a Newbery Award, a Coretta Scott King Award, and has won the best book of the year from The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and the School Library Journal. The story takes place during the Great Depression, in Flint, Michigan. Ten year old Bud has left home to search for his father. Even though his circumstances are dire, he’s a boy filled with hope, so it never feels depressing.
Best Chapter Books for 5th Graders on a Guided Reading Level V
By the middle of spring, most 5th graders who are on track are reading at a guided reading level V. Here are some of my favorite choices.
This is my favorite book that I’ve ever read with my daughter. It’s all about a 5th grade boy named Auggie who is attending school for the first time. While he’s more than prepared academically, he has a facial disfigurement and multiple surgeries and scars that make the situation daunting. All he wants is to be an ordinary kid, but his face prevents his classmates from treating him accordingly. This story is beautiful and heartwarming, and it was a brilliant lesson in compassion for my daughter.
The Harry Potter Series
This story is so famous that I won’t bother providing a summary, but the series is almost universally loved by kids from upper elementary through middle school. To this day, my grown relatives couldn’t resist visiting Harry Potter World when we visited London for a wedding. The stories are just so magical and have a definite cult following. Most kids will have at least seen the movies, so of course, so reading the books is even better!
You probably remember this series from your own childhood; I sure do. The protagonist is Stanley Yelnats, whose family is under a curse. He is unfairly sent to a boys’ detention center at a place called Camp Green Lake. There’s no lake at all, of course, just a dry lake bed full of holes. The boys who have been sent there are all digging the holes on behalf of the warden, but why? No one knows. This story is by Louis Sachar, the same author who wrote Sideways Stories from Wayside School.
This book is an introduction into magical realism and it’s also historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. Esperanza thought she’d always live a privileged life on her family’s ranch in Mexico, with fancy dresses and servants and all the comforts she could want. But there’s a major tragedy, and Esperanza and her mama must flee to California, and live on a farm labor camp in the Great Depression. She has to learn to rise above her incredibly challenging circumstances. Esperanza Rising is part of the Scholastic gold line.
A Series of Unfortunate Events Series
This set is so popular at the elementary school where I teach, and our librarian loves them. Here’s a quote taken directly from the Amazon review section: “This boxed set is wonderful, beautiful paperbacks with nice large type. Lemony Snicket is an amazing writer. Though these books were written for children, I can tell you after a 23-year career as a librarian at both academic and public libraries, that every adult I know that has invested the time to read this series has been enchanted.”
I hope you found something to read with your kiddos from this book list! Good luck, parents and teachers!