At Englist, we know that the most productive thing students can do is simply read.
However, not all books are created equal.
Finding books that connect with students, especially in their second language, is difficult, but also something Englist teachers pride themselves on being able to do, term after term.
Below is a list of books that we know to be effective, engaging, and exciting. We have chosen five books for three different levels (elementary, junior high, and high school), both to show you what we read at school and so you can pick up your own copy. Click on the book title to purchase your own copy of these novels (or contact Englist and we can help find a copy for you!).
Learn more: Reading is the most important thing you can do
5 books elementary school students love
Elementary level books can be the most fun and lighthearted, but also pack an emotional punch that will stay with students into their adult lives. At Englist, we find the best books for this level are a combination of fun and humor, but with a dose of heavier topics and deeper meaning.
Here are our favorite novels to read with elementary level students:
Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Reading level: Grades 2-4 | Get it now
Sideways Stories from Wayside School is silly, irreverent, and accessible. Many books are aimed at “bookish” students, but not Sideways Stories. The hilarious characters, situations, and running jokes are sure to leave elementary readers laughing out loud.
Writing funny books for kids is difficult without relying on bodily function humor, but Sideways Stories manages to be a chucklefest without being gross. Englist students love reading about ridiculous characters and a school that is profoundly bizarre, but also relatable for younger readers.
Bridge to Terabithia
Reading level: Grades 2-5 | Get it now
Bridge to Terabithia is an easy to engage novel that tackles some tough topics. The book is about two kids, local boy Jesse and quirky newcomer Leslie, and their friendship that ultimately creates Terabithia – a fantasy world for just the two of them. However, when tragedy strikes, Jesse fears the worst and is tasked with being strong and open-minded like Leslie has taught him to be.
Englist students like this book because it is easy to read but gives them a lot to think about. Many elementary kids have created their own worlds like Terabithia, whether in their minds or in stories of their own, so the core symbol of the plot resonates with younger readers. Furthermore, Bridge to Terabithia is a deeply sad novel, but equally uplifting.
The Midnight Gang
Reading level: Grades 3-5 | Get it now
The Midnight Gang is a great book for elementary-level students because it is one of the most fun to read on this list.
It’s the wild story of a 12-year-old boy named Tom who ends up in a London hospital after suffering a head injury during gym class at his hated boarding school. There, Tom joins a group of kids known as the Midnight Gang who go on nightly adventures to make the personal dreams of each member come true. This story is packed with messages about empathy, friendship, creative problem solving, and not judging others based on their appearance alone.
Englist students love The Midnight Gang because they can relate with the similarly aged characters as they go on thrilling adventures and get into hilarious mishaps. Not many books combine both funny writing, engaging characters, and compelling themes as well as The Midnight Gang does.
Danny the Champion of the World
Reading level: Grades 4-6 | Get it now
Danny the Champion of the World is a kid favorite and a classic elementary novel. It was written by Roald Dahl, one of the best children’s authors of all time. The story is about Danny and his “sparky” father, who together pull off some spectacular pheasant- poaching.
Englist readers love this novel because it is a silly book with happy, light-hearted characters. However, it features compelling motifs related to the nostalgia of childhood, happiness in the face of poverty, the love between father and son, and even some social justice undertones. Danny really is a champion, and the kind of champ our students love to read about.
The Trumpet of the Swan
Reading level: Grades 4-6 | Get it now
The Trumpet of the Swan is one of the lesser known children’s novels written by legendary author E.B. White; most readers will be more familiar with Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. However, that is part of why we like this book – E.B. White has a charm few children’s authors can emulate, and we find this story to be every bit as fun and thoughtful as his other books, but even more direct, earnest, and kind.
The Trumpet of the Swan is something of a re-telling of the fairytale “The Ugly Duckling”, as it deals with Louis the swan’s disability and his approach to overcoming it. Our students love the characters, the silliness, and the topics covered, but they especially appreciate the relationship formed between Louis and his earliest and best friend, the human boy Sam Beaver.
Establish good reading habits from an early age
While we encourage all students to read as much as they can, at Englist we hope we get the chance to read and explore these books with you. There is no better way to build the analytical and critical thinking skills than diving into these stories and working towards comprehensive and deep understanding together.
From experience, we know that the students who do learn this way not only develop stronger academic and language skills, but also a love of good books and good writing.
Join us so we can read these books together.
**Disclaimer – these are books we read with students in class. These stories may be too difficult if students were to read them individually, without guided reading, class discussion, and the analysis practice Englist teachers provide. We discourage students from glazing through books and claiming to have “read” them on their own – these are the books we like to dive deep into and understand as much as we can about them.
Furthermore, the “grade” guides noted for each book is an estimation. A very advanced fifth grader might find the elementary level books to be too easy, while a high school student without a strong background in English may be happier with “junior high level” novels. Each student is different, so take our grade level recommendations with a grain of salt.