As third graders develop more advanced reading skills, they unlock a whole new world of chapter books. With higher reading levels comes more opportunity for complex, entertaining stories that will captivate your students. We’ve compiled this list of must-read chapter books for third graders to engage your established readers or encourage those looking to get lost in a good book for the first time. Many of the books are longer with more mature content and honor the significant jump in reading skills from second to third grade. Get ready for intrigue and suspense in these page-turners. At the same time, explore friendship, family, and identity in these realistic stories with characters your students can see themselves in.
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1. Dyamonde Daniel series by Nikki Grimes
Dyamonde is a spunky third grader who thinks “being mean is the most uncool thing in the universe.” In these dynamic and compelling chapter books for third graders, award-winning author Nikki Grimes writes stories about the challenges of growing up, like navigating feelings of jealousy, comparison, and trying to fit in. By working through tough situations, Dyamonde learns important life lessons about what it means to do the right thing.
Buy it: Dyamonde Daniel series at Amazon
2. Stella Diaz series by Angela Dominguez
Readers will delight in the charismatic Stella Diaz. Based on author Angela Dominquez’s own experience as an immigrant in the United States, the series highlights relevant, complex challenges in an engaging narrative. Tackling topics like divorce and bullying, as well as struggling to learn English, these chapter books for third graders are a great choice for your classroom library. Carefully chosen Spanish words also enhance the realistic story.
Buy it: Stella Diaz series at Amazon
3. Dragons in a Bag series by Zetta Elliot
We can’t get enough of this fantastical series. In the urban backdrop of Brooklyn, 9-year-old Jaxon discovers his so-called grandmother and neighbor is actually a witch, who entrusts him and his friends to help deliver dragons to a new home. Filled with magic and time travel, the series delivers an imaginative plot that still manages to be authentic and relatable.
Buy it: Dragons in a Bag series at Amazon
4. Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker series by Shelley Johannes
Spunky third grader Beatrice sees things differently. Her challenges trying to fit in with friends at school and finding a place in her family will resonate with readers, while the humorous take will keep them wildly entertained. This quirky and endearing series reminds us how to be comfortable in our own skin and that it’s OK to be different. In fact, it’s something we should celebrate.
5. The Fantastic Frame series by Lin Oliver
Looking for a fast-paced adventure that instantly hooks your readers? Lin Oliver’s gripping series jumps right into the action. Ten-year-old Tiger loves science, but what happens to him when he visits his mysterious neighbor is too wild to be believed: He gets transported into a painting and is forced to escape from a hungry tiger. The first book ends on a cliffhanger that will leave your readers eager for more action and excitement in the next installments.
Buy it: Fantastic Frame series at Amazon
6. Definitely Dominguita series by Terry Catasus Jennings
Meet Dominguita, a book-loving Cuban American who wants to prove to a school bully that girls can be knights too. Taking inspiration from Don Quixote, the clever plot showcases relatable characters who help Dom with her quest. Quietly determined and brave, she is a heroine your readers will want to get to know.
Buy it: Definitely Dominguita series at Amazon
7. The Wild Robot series by Peter Brown
These one-of-a-kind chapter books for third graders are hugely popular for a reason. The futuristic tale features a robot, Roz, trying to survive on a wild island as she faces threats of weather and dangerous animals. In order to survive, she must learn to adapt to her new environment. Short chapters move along the compelling story, making it a perfect choice for readers who are looking for their next adventure.
Buy it: The Wild Robot series at Amazon
8. Unicorn Academy series by Julie Sykes
A unicorn for a best friend? Yes, please! In this delightfully sweet series, students and their own unicorns get to know each other as they go on magical adventures together. These entertaining chapter books for third graders offer plenty of imagination and fantasy, while also illustrating the realistic elements of friendship.
Buy it: Unicorn Academy series at Amazon
9. Geronimo Stilton series by Geronimo Stilton
Geronimo Stilton, an author who runs a newspaper in New Mouse City, embarks on grand adventures with his sister, Thea, and their friends. Fast-paced plots keep readers coming back to this treasured collection. The colorful, eye-catching illustrations and creative use of fonts come together for a fun, lighthearted read.
Buy it: Geronimo Stilton series at Amazon
10. Marya Khan series by Saadia Faruqi
Saadia Faruqi, author of the popular Yasmin series, which made our list of top second grade chapter books, has created another hit series for more advanced readers. Heartwarming and relatable, the story of Marya and her loving Pakistani American family is full of friendship woes and realistic challenges that any kid might face.
Buy it: Marya Khan series at Amazon
11. The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck
Fans of The Tale of Desperaux and The Mouse and the Motorcycle will love this endearing story of a mouse without a name. Unsure of where he came from, he is full of questions and desperate to find out the answers. After setting out to solve the mystery of his identity, the mouse embarks on grand adventures fit for royalty. Lovely, detailed illustrations accompany this wonderfully imaginative tale.
Buy it: The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail at Amazon
12. The Unicorn Rescue Society series by Adam Gidwitz
Who wouldn’t want to be part of a secret society? And one that protects mythical creatures no less! This entertaining fantasy series explores important third grade experiences, like friendship and finding courage, with an inventive plot that will appeal to the reader’s imagination and engage them at every turn.
Buy it: The Unicorn Rescue Society series at Amazon
13. Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
Nobody believes the baby donkey Louie’s dad brings home will survive except for Louie. Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech explores theme of hope, connection, and vulnerability in this beautiful story about a boy’s determination to keep his pet donkey alive. With beautiful prose and plenty of understated life wisdom woven throughout the heartwarming story, this book is a winner.
Buy it: Saving Winslow at Amazon
14. Planet Omar series by Zanib Mian
We can’t say enough good things about these chapter books for third graders. While navigating life at a new school and being labeled as different, Omar uses his imagination to deal with everyday challenges and make sense of the world. Author Zanib Mian beautifully weaves in cultural elements, portraying the traditions and experience of a Muslim family while exploring themes of acceptance, friendship, and identity. Different fonts and sizes break up long chunks of text and keep the stories moving and engaging.
Buy it: Planet Omar series at Amazon
15. Sideway Stories From Wayside School series by Louis Sachar
Hilarious and absurd, author Louis Sachar’s series about a school that was accidentally built sideways and 30 floors high is a hoot. While it may be completely wacky, the realistic elements about life at school keep it authentic and relevant. You won’t want to miss these unique chapter books for third graders!
Buy it: Sideways Stories from Wayside School series at Amazon
16. A to Z Mysteries series by Ron Roy
This classic series is perfect for reluctant readers or those who are looking for shorter chapters with easier text. The wholesome adventures and mysteries are endlessly entertaining and hook readers from the very beginning. With 26 books to choose from, students can breeze through them all and try to solve each case before the characters do.
Buy it: A to Z Mysteries series at Amazon
17. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher series by Dana Alison Levy
Humorous with huge heart, this two-book series is simply wonderful. With four boys in the Fletcher family who all have different interests and personalities, Dad and Papa have their hands full. These chapter books for third graders portray the realistic imperfections of family life and school, and illustrate how a strong familiar bond can get them through anything.
Buy it: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher series at Amazon
18. Who Was …? series by various authors
Curious readers will devour these nonfiction titles. With more than 200 books to choose from in the prolific series, students can discover compelling biographies that suit their varying interests. Interesting anecdotes and detailed black-and-white illustrations make these famous thinkers, heroes, and changemakers engaging and approachable.
Buy it: Who Was …? series at Amazon
19. Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon
No matter how hard he tries, Danny just can’t breathe fire like all the other dragons. Along with his iguana best friend, Wendell, Danny goes on adventures to reptile school and beyond as he navigates not feeling he’s good enough and persevering through hard things. With appealing comic-book features combined with traditional text, these entertaining and clever books are as accessible as they are fun.
Buy it: Dragonbreath series at Amazon
20. The Magnificent Mya Tibbs series by Crystal Allen
Mya Tibbs is an energetic and endearing character your readers are sure to love. Entertaining and realistic, this charming series showcases the changing nature of friendship and relationships and what it takes to do the right thing.
Buy it: The Magnificent Mya Tibbs series at Amazon
21. The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
We’re rounding out our list with a classic you may remember reading as a kid. This series has truly stood the test of time. Hiding out in an abandoned boxcar, four orphaned siblings take care of one another. With simple text and more accessible vocabulary, this series is great for readers who are looking for an engaging story but aren’t quite ready for more advanced books.
Buy it: The Boxcar Children series at Amazon
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Plus, check out this list for more book inspiration for third graders.