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. This 3rd grade summer reading list contains a selection of books at several different reading levels.
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.
(Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
3rd Grade Summer Reading: Fiction
A Boy Called Bat (series) by Elana K. Arnold. Third grader, Bixby Alexander Tam, goes by the nickname Bat and exhibits behaviors that might place him on the 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. Bat's mom is a veterinarian and one day she brings home 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 story.
Og the Frog (series) by Betty G. Birney. My son has long loved the Humphrey series and was so excited to discover that Birney was now writing a 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.
Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott. This is also an excellent choice for early middle grade readers, ages 7 and up. One day, Jaxon's mom leaves in the care of Ma, a woman who he thinks is his grandmother but is actually a witch on a baby dragon delivery mission. Ma takes him on as her apprentice and they travel to a magical world but when they are all 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.
Wedgie and Gizmo (series) by Suzanne Selfors. The narrative voice 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. Bonus, this is a series, and when they come across a funny book series, kids keep reading! I also recommend the audiobook!
Mac Undercover (series) by Mac Barnett. My son gobbles up any book by Mac Barnett. Junior undercover agent, Mac B. gets a call from the Queen of England. Obviously, he must answer the call and travel around the world to recover her stolen treasure. This title is so much fun and with lots of humorous illustrations, it's a wonderful choice for reluctant readers. I also give the Mac B. series bonus points for being set in the 1980s!
Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes. I love that I was able to find a great new book series about a kid starting third grade for this summer book list. 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, her friend doesn't follow through and Beatrice has to make some adjustments. A fun series about a charming protagonist.
The Gumazing Gum Girl: Chews Your Destiny 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! Loads of fun and perfect for summer reading!
Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan. We had great fun reading this book and it is a good choice if you have children in a range of ages. Phelan's book is a bit of 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.
The Great Cake Mystery Precious Ramotswe’s Very First Case by Alexander McCall Smith. Precious is the heroine of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series for grown-ups and in this book she solves her very first case in Botswana as a juvenile. When her friends’ lunchtime treats go missing Precious is on the job and when she discovers the surprising thief a nice chuckle is had by all. This charming, book full of old-fashioned detective fun is nice way of exposing young readers to other cultures and includes a reading guide, glossary, activity ideas and even a recipe
3rd Grade Summer Reading: Nonfiction
Nonfiction books are an excellent way to engage 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!
National Geographic Kids Ultimate Weird but True: 1,000 Wild & Wacky Facts and Photos. Who doesn't like random and totally bizarre facts? 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 fascinating books on my list of fact books!
Zoo in the Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations 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 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!: A History of the World from the Bottom Up 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.
More summer reading for third graders!