25 Must-Read Books for Grades 1-3

Introduce early readers to chapter books with these must-read children’s chapter books for beginners.

Introduce early readers to chapter books with these must-read children's chapter books for beginners.

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25 Must-Read Books for Grades 1-3

1. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Everyone that knows Mr. Popper knows that he is fascinated with all things Arctic–especially penguins. So when his favorite Arctic explorer sends him a penguin in the mail, Mr. Popper finds himself scrambling to accommodate the new family pet in their townhouse. As soon as they sort out Captain Cook’s icy refrigerator bed, there’s something else to consider: getting their new penguin a friend of his own kind to play with. Soon the Popper family finds themselves with a house full of talented penguins and consider taking the troupe on the road. With fame and success come a price the penguins, and the Poppers, are not sure they are willing to pay. 

2. Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne

Siblings Jack and Anne find that their magical treehouse can transport them through time and space in the blink of an eye (with some help from their wizard friend, Merlin). Together they traverse some of the greatest points in history, have some narrow escapes, and make a difference and a few friends along the way. (Series, 54 books)

3. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Siblings Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny are four resourceful orphans who set up a makeshift home in an abandoned boxcar after their parents pass away. Together they find food, sources of income, and a home in the boxcar until one of the sisters falls ill and a doctor must be summoned.  (Series, 19 books)

4. Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo

Mercy, known to her family as a “porcine wonder”, is full of vibrancy, hilarious escapades, and, of course, buttered toast. Join Mercy and her human parents as they try (mostly unsuccessfully) to keep their pink pig out of mischief. (Series, 8 books)

5. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

James grows in a household devoid of love and full of gloom with his two miserly aunts. When he gets the chance to escape, he takes it and forms a makeshift family with a few giant insects on top of a giant peach. The troupe must band together to survive fruit-loving sharks, the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, and a New York City parade. 

6. A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy 

Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose are three friends working together to solve the mysteries that seem to follow then. Readers can gather and piece together clues right along with the trio to try and help solve the mystery! (Series, 26 books)

7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

In this classic by Roald Dahl, Charlie Bucket sees a way out of poverty and into the adventure of a lifetime when he becomes a recipient of one of the precious golden tickets given out by Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The ticket allows him to bring himself and one other on a tour of the famed production center, but no one can predict what they will find once they are inside. 

8. Nate the Great by Marjorie Sharmat

Nate is the greatest detective in the world. He and his dog, Sludge, work together to solve mysteries and find missing items for their friends over the years. When they aren’t hunting something down, the two can be found enjoying a plate of pancakes. (Series, 29 books)

9. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

Edward Tulane, a soft China rabbit, is owned by the kindest person in the world–his human Abilene. But one day he gets lost, and so begins the rabbit’s long journey across oceans to boats and hospital beds. Through it all he never gives up the hope that he will one day he will be reunited with his beloved Abilene. 

10. Girls to the Rescue series by Bruce Lansky

Damsels in distress usually wait around for a brave prince to ride up on his steed and save the day–but not these girls! Pluck and courage are the words of the day as these spirited females enter the scene. Several stories adapted from folk tales and fairy tales around the world make for a delightful read.

11. Horse/Dog Diaries series by Kate Klimo

Experience history through the eyes of horses and dogs who were there! Each adventure in these series takes readers to places like the White house, the unsinkable Titanic, New York City on 9/11 and much more!

12. Geronimo Stilton series by Elisabetta Dami

Geronimo is a cheese-loving rodent living on Mouse Island. He is a renowned author and journalist who just wants to live a happy and quiet life. There is just one problem– Geronimo’s crazy family won’t leave him alone and always seem to be roping him into their hare-brained adventures. 

13. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

Amelia Bedelia works in the Roger’s posh mansion as a maid, but even when she tries to do her best she always seems to mess things up! Join Amelia on her hilarious adventures as she takes everything quite literally and ends up taking spots out of Mrs. Roger’s dress (cutting out the polka dots), dressing the turkey (none of the clothes seem to fit!), and dusting the furniture (sprinkling a canister of dust on every surface). 

14. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Runt pigs born on the farm are usually killed, but Fern won’t stand for it this time. She rescues and raises sweet Wilbur until he is big enough to be moved back to the barn. There he meets a large gray spider called Charlotte, and the two become fast friends. When Wilbur discovers he is about to become bacon, the two work together to save his skin and weave a web of surprises for the farmers. 

15. Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park

Juniper Beatrice Jones prefers to shorten her name to Junie–but you can’t forget the ‘B’! This fiery seven year old is always doing things that make her mother roll her eyes up to look at the ceiling, only Junie B. doesn’t see anything up there! Her mischief and misunderstandings seem to know no bounds and she usually leaves a trail of exasperated adults in the wake of her hilarious but well-meaning chaos.

16. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a delightful, tiny, quirky woman who lives in a house that is upside-down in a town full of children who need her help. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle knows just how to cure children of their bad habits–usually in quite unconventional ways! 

17. Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Beezus has always been the responsible older sister, and Ramona, well…she’s always the one messing everything up. At least, that’s how it seems to Beezus. With Beezus’ birthday coming up, she doesn’t want anything to ruin her special day, but Ramona has a pesky tendency to bring chaos wherever she goes, and this birthday party is certainly no exception. 

18. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi Longstocking is a fiesty nine-year old who lives alone, save her monkey, Mr. Nilsson, and her horse that sleeps on the porch. Her mother has died and her father is king of a cannibal island far away. But Pippi is always finding trouble to get into, and when she discovers that Tommy and Annika are her neighbors, the three children become wrapped up in several hilarious escapades. 

19. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Sarah lost her first mother, and now her Papa has sent for another. Soon Sarah Wheaton arrives and quickly wins the hearts of Papa, young Sarah, and Caleb with her kindness and her singing that reminds them all of Mama’s. But all too quickly, Sarah’s trial month is up and the family begins to wonder if she will return to Maine or stay and be their new mama forever. 

20. Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes

Jerry Pye bought his most-beloved pet for one precious dollar and has not once regretted this decision. The whole Pye family is absolutely enamored with little Ginger dog, but when Ginger Pye is abducted, everyone is devastated and must work quickly to bring their little canine home. 

21. Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace

Betsy wishes for a playmate her own age to move in to the vacant home across the street. When a little red-haired girl appears among the boxes on move-in day, a timeless friendship is born between Betsy and Tacy. (Series, 10 books)

22. Poppy by Avi

High above the Dimwood Forest sits the ever-disapproving eye of Mr. Ocax, the owl who considers himself king over all. When Poppy and the rest of her mouse family ask the owl for permission to move and are denied, our heroine sets off on a quest to defy and defeat the great owl. 

23. The BFG by Roald Dahl

The BFG (big friendly giant) isn’t like the other giants who eat people. Instead, he prides himself on being a kind soul who collects whimsical dreams and saves them to give to children while they sleep. The BFG befriends a “human bean” named Sophie, but soon finds himself struggling to protect her from the nine giants who DO eat humans that reside just outside his cave. What follows is a tale that celebrates friendship, adventure, and sacrifice. 

24. The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Based on the childhood of the author, Little House on the Prairie follows Pa, Ma, Mary, and Laura Ingalls as they traverse the Great Plains homesteading and trying to eke out a living from the harsh land. This series will whisk you away to the time when wagon wheels dug rivets into dusty earth, pioneers interacted with Native American tribes, schools were one-room wonders, and family ties were strong. (Series, 9 books)

25. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall 

The four Penderwick sisters are thrilled to discover that they will be summering at the magical estate Arundel in Massachusetts. Upon arrival, the house does not disappoint. An attic filled with an abundance of things to discover, two lively rabbits, flower-filled gardens, and a new friend all add to the delight of the sisters. Together, the troupe spends a lovely summer full of whimsy and lots of mischief!

Check out my list of must-read books for grades 4-6!

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2 comments

  • Why don’t any of theses Must reads include Characters of color? In 25 books you couldn’t find one book with people of color?

    • The Girls to the Rescue series is filled with stories of girls from all ethnicities, and this blog is filled with diverse literature recommendations featuring kids of all backgrounds.