Rising third graders have a great opportunity in the summer to start exploring chapter books! Developing readers can read leisurely without the pressure of other school work and their literacy skills will skyrocket at this age. I know that my younger son's reading took off when he was nearing 8 years old.
You will find fiction chapter books featuring a diverse group of characters as well as a few nonfiction choices at the end of the list which will appeal to kids who love facts and true life tales.
More useful summer reading recommendations for third graders can be found on these lists:
- Summer reading for 2nd graders
- Summer reading books for 4th graders
- Diverse Summer Reading List for 7-10 Year-Olds
Note: this post contains Amazon and Bookshop affiliate links. Purchases made through these links may earn commission for this blog. Bookshop supports independent booksellers. You can see this list, in addition to our other summer reading lists curated at Bookshop.
Would you like a printable version of this 3rd grade summer reading list? Grab it at the end of the post!
Chapter Books & Graphic Novels
ONCE UPON A TIM (series) by Stuart Gibbs
Kids will love this funny book series by the author of the Fun Jungle and Spy School series. Line drawing illustrations accompany Tim's narration about his attempts to rise above his fate as a peasant and answer the prince's call to become a knight and defeat the evil wizard Nerlim. His best friend is Belinda, who is dissatisfied with the restrictions of how she is expected to behave as a girl. Clever humor and a pointed discussion of new vocabulary words throughout will tickle both funny bones and brains.
MORE: Funny 3rd Grade Books
A BOY CALLED BAT (series) by Elena K. Arnold
Third grader, Bixby Alexander Tam, goes by the nickname Bat and exhibits behaviors that place him on the autism spectrum. He flaps his hands and avoids eye contact, but the author never labels Bat "autistic." She simply allows us to see Bat, and all his friends, as unique individuals without labels. Bat's divorced mom is a veterinarian and one day she brings home a baby skunk. Bat wants to take care of it and must prove to his mom that he knows what he is doing. Full of wonderful characters and lots of interesting information about skunks, this is an absolutely delightful book series.
JUST HARRIET by Elena K. Arnold
Third grader Harriet is the heroine of her own classic summer story. Harriet is off to spend the summer at her grandmother's Bed and Breakfast. Also staying at the B & B is an ornithologist whom Harriet befriends and learns from. After Harriet discovers an ornate old key while cleaning out her grandmother's shed, she is determined to locate the lock it opens. A secret door in a walled garden, a mysterious neighbor and self-discovery round out this compelling summer mystery.
THE DRAGON IN THE LIBRARY (series) by Louie Stowell
It's summer vacation and while 10-year-old Kit and her two friends would rather romp in the outdoors, they are drawn into the library. Once inside, Kit is shocked to find that when she touches certain books, she is transported to another place. The librarian informs her that she is a wizard. Kit now wants to use her newly discovered abilities to stop the horrible Mr. Salt from tearing down the library.
MORE: Dragon Books for Kids
OG THE FROG (series) by Betty G. Birney
My son has long loved the Humphrey series and was so excited to discover that Birney the companion series about Og the Frog, Humphrey's fellow classroom pet. Og dreams of returning to his native habitat but when the class decides to research whether or not they should keep him or return him to the wild, Og has second thoughts. After all, he's come to think of the children as his friends. This is a wonderful, gentle and funny read aloud that is suitable as a read aloud for younger kids, too.
LOLA LEVINE IS NOT MEAN! (series) by Monica Brown, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Jewish-Peruvian Lola loves soccer, but when she accidentally hurts another player on the field, her classmates call her "mean!" Lola knows she has a big heart and wants others to know it too, so she uses her love of writing to change others' opinions. I love the way author Monica Brown integrates aspects of Lola's duel heritage throughout the book.
MORE: Early Chapter Books with Diverse Characters
DRAGONS IN A BAG (series) by Zetta Elliott
One day, Jaxon's mom leaves him in the care of Ma, a woman who he thinks is his grandmother but who is actually a witch on a baby dragon delivery mission. Ma takes Jaxon on as her apprentice and they travel to a magical world. When they are set to return to Brooklyn, Ma is accidentally left behind and Jaxon enlists the help of his friends to take care of the baby dragons and rescue Ma.
WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata
Heroine Ryan Hart is absolutely delightful. She is the first one to see the silver lining in any situation, and she always tries to see the best in people. But that doesn't mean everything always goes according to plan. Dad loses his job at the post office and the family has to make some big changes, not to mention her sometimes bossy older brother! A great choice for kids who love contemporary realism and books by Beverly Cleary.
WEDGIE AND GIZMO (series) by Suzanne Selfors, illustrated by Barbara Fisinger
I had great fun drawing upon my silly voices superpower when reading this hilarious book aloud to my son but it's also an excellent choice for independent reading. Narration alternates between Gizmo, the self-proclaimed evil genius guinea pig, and Wedgie the rather dim-witted corgi who become part of the same household when their families merge. Selfors absolutely nails the personalities of the two creatures and your children will be rolling on the floor in tears of laughter. You'll never be able to say the phrase, "furry potato," with a straight face again.
BEATRICE ZINKER, UPSIDE DOWN THINKER (series) by Shelley Johannes
Third grader Beatrice does her best thinking while hanging upside down. (I mean, don't we all???) She's not the kind of girl who wants to fit inside the box and she and her best friend spend the summer planning a first day of third grade spy mission. However, when her friend doesn't follow through, Beatrice has to make some adjustments. A fun series about a charming protagonist.
THE GUMAZING GUM GIRL (series) by Rhode Montijo
This book series cracked my son up. With tons of illustrations, the book's format and humor will appeal to reluctant readers. Gabby Gomez loves bubble gum but when her mom decides she has had enough, Gabby chews one more piece and when the bubble pops, Gabby is transformed into Gum Girl!
MORE: Books with Female Superheroes
KNIGHTS VS DINOSAURS by Matt Phelan
Phelan's book is a hybrid between a graphic novel and a traditional text. We we read the adventure aloud, I had my son read aloud the graphic novel bits so it was a fun, interactive experience. Merlin sends a few knights out on a new adventure in which they encounter dinosaurs instead of dragons. And, of course, not all the knights are as they seem! Silly and fun.
REZ DETECTIVES by Steven Paul Judd, Tvli Jacob, and M.K. Perker
In this colorful graphic novel set on a Choctaw reservation, Tasembo and his friend, Nuseka, declare themselves the "Rez Detectives" and set about trying to solve the mystery of the missing ice cream. Clever and humorous illustrations and dialogue in addition to well-rounded characters make this a winning choice for any third grader's summer reading list.
MORE: Mystery Books for Kids
PLANET OMAR (series) by Zanib Mian
Omar is an appealing and relatable protagonist. His British-Pakistani family has just moved to London, and Omar is feeling nervous about starting a new school and meeting new friends. In a funny-bone-tickling narrative, author Mian weaves together important issues about diversity, identity and the power of standing up for yourself.
3rd Grade Summer Reading: Nonfiction
Nonfiction books are an excellent way to engage third graders or reluctant readers during the summer. Kids can digest the text in small, manageable bites. Plus, the facts in these three books are so intriguing they won't want to stop learning!
WEIRD BUT TRUE (series) from National Geographic
Who doesn't like random and totally bizarre facts? What about 1000 of them? There are also 6 compact versions of Weird but True books, with 300 facts each, including my favorite one focusing on history: Ye Olde Weird but True: 300 Outrageous Facts from History.
MORE: Fact Books for Kids
ZOO IN THE SKY by Jacqueline Mitton
This is a wonderful astronomy picture book to get kids interested in the constellations by harnessing their imaginations and natural inclination for stories. Learning the stories about each of the star formations will imprint the information about the night sky on their brains and inspire them to look up every night this summer to see what they can find. Each illustration is accompanied by a mythical story about the creatures and beings after which the constellation is named.
POOP HAPPENED by Sarah Albee
Yes, I'm putting a book about poop on this third grade summer reading book list. You wanted your kids to read, right? How can they resist a book that declares it is the "number one book on number two." There is a ton of information about waste, sewage systems, excrement and their places in history and culture in this book. Enjoy!
P.S. I have an entire list of poop books here. Trust me, it's the book list you never knew you needed.
I was so excited that a lot of these books were available at our local library. Was a little bummed to see most of them are fourth grade level books. Check on arbookfind.com and the bl book level. The numbers like 4.5 mean fourth grade half way through the year.