The 10 Best Back to School Novels for Upper Elementary


Title Image for The 10 Best Back to School Novels for Upper Elementary. Featuring 10 Novel Covers

Back to school season is one of the most chaotic and busy times of the year. But it's also the best time to build your classroom community! The best way to do this (in my humble opinion) is through a shared read aloud.

In this list I've compiled my TOP 10 read alouds for back to school in upper elementary/middle grades. Each title discusses friendship, special teacher-student relationships, acceptance, community, and more. PLUS check out the seasonal historical fiction novel at the end!

Cover image of Restart, Freak the Mighty, and Save Me A Seat

1. Restart By: Gordan Korman

Each new year is a chance for a “restart” and that is exactly what happens for the main character. Chases loses his memory after a fall and doesn’t remember anything about his past friendships. Now he has the chance to change who he was and make a clean start. This will lead to great discussion as your students “restart” the school year. 

2. Freak the Mighty By: Rodman Philbrick

Making friends is hard, especially if students feel like they’ll never fit in. This novel is about looking for friends in unlikely places. It is a tear-jerker and will cover some tough themes. But it is powerful!

>>View my read aloud companion for this title on Teachers Pay Teachers!<<

3. Save Me a Seat By: Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

This novel finds two characters that seem to have nothing in common. But they soon find common ground and overcome obstacles together. This is another great discussion starter for overcoming assumptions and friendship. 

Cover image of Because of Mr. Terupt, Frindle, and Sideways Stories from Wayside Schools

4. Because of Mr. Terupt By: Rob Buyea

With seven narrators, your students are bound to find someone with whom they can relate. Mr. Terupt, the new fifth grade teacher, has an uncanny way of bringing these students together. They learn life lessons on community, empathy, etc. This novel is PERFECT for building back to school rapport. 

5. Frindle By: Andrew Clements

Another novel with excellent student-teacher rapport: Frindle. In this novel, the main character is seemingly at odds with his “old-fashioned” teacher. But readers learn that the teacher was on her students' side the whole time! This novel is bound to bring your class together. 

>>View my read aloud companion for this title on Teachers Pay Teachers!<<

6. Sideways Stories from Wayside School By: Louis Sachar

The funniest novel on this list, the Wayside series is sure to keep your class laughing. This story is about a “quirky” school with hilarious characters. If you’re looking for an easy, clever read to start the year—this is it!

Cover images of Fish in a Tree, Wonder, and Out of My Mind

7. Fish in a Tree By: Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally has always had trouble in school, but it’s not until she gets a new teacher that she discovers why. Mr. Daniels sees Ally’s dyslexia immediately. But more importantly, he also sees her creativity and intelligence. Fish in a Tree will be a relatable, community building novel for your class. 

>>View my read aloud companion for this title on Teachers Pay Teachers!<<

8. Wonder By: R.J. Palacio

Wonder is the ultimate empathy building novel. Auggie is born with differences that prevent him from going to “regular” school, but this year is different! The novel perspective changes from Auggie, his sister, and other friends as they navigate the school year. You will have excellent discussions about compassion, acceptance, friendship, bullying, and more!

>>View my read aloud companion for this title on Teachers Pay Teachers!<<

9. Out of My Mind By: Sharon M. Draper

This novel is in the same category as Fish in a Tree/Wonder as one that celebrates medical differences. Melody is unable to walk or communicate but she is one of the smartest students in school. With supportive parents and neighbors, Melody shows everyone that she is more than her disability. 

>>View my read aloud companion for this title on Teachers Pay Teachers!<<

Cover image of Lyddie

10. Lyddie By: Katherine Paterson

With many schools starting around Labor Day in the US, this book is the perfect historical novel. You will meet Lyddie, a factory worker during the Industrial Revolution. Lyddie is spirited, hard-working, and an excellent role model. This novel leads to fantastic discussions of the labor movement and the history behind the holiday. 

>>View my read aloud companion for this title on Teachers Pay Teachers!<<

Pin Image of 10 Best Middle Grade Novels for Back to School featuring 10 cover images

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