4th-grade-reading-listDeveloping good reading habits early in life will help your students succeed academically, professionally and personally. Reading helps facilitate a thirst for knowledge that few other activities can achieve.

Part of developing good reading habits is showing your students books that they will enjoy. Some students might be under the impression that reading is boring, but the right book can turn that thinking around.

The list below includes books that work for different reading levels and interests. They are perfect for your 4th graders who are starting to understand more complex themes and are ready to move into a world of novels and chapter books.

Almost all of the books on this list include a project that can be done as a class. If your students are choosing something to read independently for class, we also have two general project ideas that will work for any book at the bottom of this post.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Based on a true story, Island of the Blue Dolphins follows 12-year-old Karana as she tries to survive on an island all by herself. This book is great for adventure-loving students who want a more challenging read. Although the book can be sad during some parts, Karana’s perseverance is inspiring and the loneliness she experiences on the island makes her stronger over time.


After finishing the book, have your students imagine how they would handle themselves if they were put in Karana’s position. Have them create a list of situations from the book and write down how they would respond in order to survive. Would they have done anything differently? Publish their work into a classbook about survival. Have them write a classbook page about how they would handle being on an island all alone and add an illustration of themselves on their island.

Pilfer Academy: A School So Bad It’s Criminal by Lauren Magaziner

This hilarious book follows George, a mischievous character who has an affinity for taking his sister’s diary and his brother’s comic books, as he attends Pilfer Academy - a secret school for thieves.

It might not sound like it sends the right message to your 4th graders, but stick with me.

As George gets to know his off-beat teachers, interacts with classmates who have morals that are questionable at best, meets a new friend Tabitha, and learns about safe-cracking, stealth and special criminal gadgets, he comes to realize that he might be too kind to be a thief.

In the story, George finds out that he needs to pull off one of the biggest heists in Pilfer Academy history and if he doesn’t? He will be punished by Dean Deanbuggle. This test allows George to find out if he really is too good-hearted to be a thief.

This book works well with almost all reading levels in your class. It is kooky, funny and will make your students think about their own morals.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Vanderbeeker family and their five children have lived off of 141st Street in Harlem for the last six years. Their home is filled with fun and creativity until they find out that their mysterious landlord, Mr. Beiderman, will not renew their lease and they will need to move by the end of the month.

The five Vanderbeeker children start plotting on how they will get Mr. Beiderman to let their family stay. The children use their unique personalities and talents to try and charm Mr. Beiderman into letting them stay, but they can’t seem to get through to him.

The children are under the impression that Mr. Beiderman is just a mean old man until they begin to learn more about his past and understand why he is the way that he is.

This book teaches the importance of community, teamwork and having sympathy for others. These are all lessons that anyone, 4th grader or otherwise, can benefit from.



Divide your class into groups of 4-5 and coordinate a role-playing activity where you are Mr. Beiderman and your students are the Vanderbeeker children. Have your students write down a special talent or skill that sets them apart from the group. Have them work together to try and convince you to let them stay at 141st Street by showing off their talents. For example, if one student is great at poetry and another is funny, have your class clown recite the funny poem. Have them write about their experience and draw a picture of their team as the Vanderbeekers. Then, publish their work into a classbook and celebrate with a publishing party!

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver is a classic and has been a staple in classrooms for years. It isn’t the easiest read, but you can read the book aloud in class and use reading comprehension activities to help your students better understand the message and story.

The Giver takes place in a utopian society where there is no crime or sadness and children are assigned their jobs at the age of 12. The main character, Jonas is assigned the job of “Memory Keeper.” The Memory Keeper must hold onto all of the good and bad memories that have been removed from society to protect citizens from painful or negative thoughts.

Throughout the book, Jonas struggles with big issues such as trust, morality, and independence - things your 4th graders are likely starting to think about.

The Giver has a simple yet engaging story that will hold attention and get students thinking about society as a whole.


Create your own society that is similar to the one in The Giver in the classroom. Assign jobs to each student. They cannot choose their job. Have them reflect on how they feel about their job assignment and write a journal entry depicting these feelings. Would they have preferred another job? Do they think that assigning jobs at 12 (or even 9-10) is a good or bad idea?

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Wayside School isn’t a normal school. This school has 30 classrooms built on top of each other so the school was 30 stories tall and leans a bit sideways. The book focuses on a class on the 13th floor.

Mrs. Gorf likes to turn kids into apples, the apples rebel against her and she is replaced.

Mrs. Gorf’s replacement is Mrs. Jewls, who is much nicer than Mrs. Gorf, even if she doesn’t always know what’s best for her students. Sideways Stories from Wayside School has a great sense of humor and shows important truths in a fun way. A few of the stories are meant to put a smile on your face, but most manage to say something interesting about how brains work.


Have students write their own funny stories based on classroom experiences. Have them partner up and brainstorm funny details that they can include and then combine their stories into a classbook. Make sure you have them add a hilarious illustration showing what happened in their writing and publish your own classroom version of Sideways Stories from Wayside School.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Meg Murry, a high-school-aged girl who is transported on an adventure through time and space with her younger brother Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin O’Keefe to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from the evil forces that hold him prisoner on another planet. This book combines fantasy, sci-fi and real-world concerns to create an epic story.

Before Meg starts her time-traveling adventure, she is depicted as an awkward, loving girl with personal insecurities. As she progresses on her adventure, Meg is faced with overcoming her need to conform and starts to appreciate who she is as an individual.

The messages of individuality, nonconformity, friendship and courage are all things your 4th graders will take away from this exciting page-turner.


Have your students reflect on Meg’s experience and think about what makes them a special individual. For example, do they go out of their way to help others? Do they like to tell funny stories to their friends and family? Maybe they enjoy caring for animals. Have them jot down a few of these traits that make them unique and a few reasons why they like those things about themselves. They can then use these notes to write about what makes them different and special. Have them add an illustration depicting these traits and publish their work into an inspiring classbook that celebrates individuality!

General Reading Project Ideas

#1: You are a famous book critic. Summarize and write a review of your book.



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This reading project is a step up from writing the traditional book report. Your students will need to summarize the book, speak to the main themes, and give a review of what they read. Provide examples of book reviews that they can reference and encourage them to be as unbiased as possible. If they didn’t like their book, they will need to give specific reasons to support that opinion. Have them reimagine the cover of their book and draw a picture to accompany their review. You can then gather their work and publish it into a classbook that they can look at when they need something new to read!

#2: Write a poem about the book you read.



You can assign the type of poem your students write or have them choose. They can use the letters in the title of the book or the name of a character to create an acrostic poem, write a haiku that summarizes the book, or write a rhyming poem about a character or the plot in their book. Have them bring their poems to life by adding an illustration and publish their poetry in an awesome classbook that they can keep forever!

Additional Resources

For more creative ideas and resources to improve your students’ reading comprehension and writing, visit our teacher’s lounge and don’t forget to head over to sign up and receive a free classbook publishing kit!