35 Books for Lower Elementary


Yvonne offers a list of books to consider with your elementary students.

Some of my favorite story time books for Grades 1-3:

1-5. Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, Farmer Boy, By the Banks of Plum Creek, and The Long Winter

By Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura tell the story of her childhood, growing up when the Midwestern United States was being settled by white people.  She describes things that her parents did and stories of things that happen to her and her sisters.  Occasionally I have skipped or shortened long descriptive passages for younger students.

6. Treasures of the Snow

By Patricia St. John

When Dani was born, his mother died and his sister Annette raised him with the help of her father and grandmother.  When an accident leaves Dani crippled, Annette vows never to forgive Lucien for his part in it.  Lucien has his own battles to face and bravely chooses to make things right by risking his life to talk to a doctor who may be able to help Dani.  A beautiful story of forgiveness and God’s work in a person’s heart and life experiences.  The book is a bit advanced for some first graders.

7. The Adventures of Peter Cottontail (and other animal tales by the same author)

By Thornton W. Burgess

These books are full of life lessons put into story form and played out by animals that talk and reason.  Those who do wrong are punished and those who are kind are rewarded in these delightful books.  Some animals help each other and others try to outsmart another in order to have a tasty meal.

8. The Bears on Hemlock Mountain

By Alice Dalgliesh

Young Jonathan has been told that there are no bears on Hemlock Mountain.  But when he goes over the mountain to fetch a large cooking pot for his mother, he notices that the snow is starting to melt.  He thinks, “Spring! Bears!”  He falls asleep at his aunt’s house and when he starts back, it is growing dark.  He bravely starts out and soon finds that there are bears on Hemlock Mountain!  To stay safe, he crawls under the large pot.  A bit later, he is rescued by his father and uncles—and they all look forward to having bear steak for dinner.

9. A Question of Yams

By Gloria Repp

When Kuri and his family embrace the Christian faith, the witch doctor tells them that their yams will not grow because they have not prayed to the spirits when they planted them.  Will God be big enough to protect the yams?  When Kuri is bitten by a poisonous snake, is that because the spirits are angry?  But God cares for Kuri and his family.  In the end, when they eat the delicious yam soup, they say with conviction, “Behold, God is Mighty!”

10. Through the Green Gate, a reader in the Alice and Jerry Basic Reading Program

By Mabel O’Donnell

Set in Friendly Village, this book contains three main stories:  Jim and his pony that he was afraid of, Billy who wants a dog but his mother does not,  and Bobby who had measles and had to stay in bed when the circus came to town.  In the end, Jim learns to enjoy riding his pony, even finding out how to make him buck.  Billy got a dog that his mother was happy for him to have.  Bobby got to see the circus “go to sleep” and ate supper with the clowns.  This book is on a slightly lower level than most of the others and is perfect for first grade near the beginning of the year.

11. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

By Roald Dahl

Charlie is a very poor boy who loves chocolate but only gets it occasionally for his birthday.  When Willie Wonka announces that several free tickets to tour his factory are hidden in chocolate wrappers, he buys one whenever he can—and happens to get a ticket!! He and grandfather tour the factory along with four other very spoiled children.  Virtue is rewarded and vice is punished in this highly imaginative tale.

12. Mr. Popper’s Penguins

By Richard and Florence Atwater

Mr. Popper is a very poor painter who struggles to make ends meet for their family.  He is delighted when his friend, Admiral Drake, sends him a penguin for a pet.  This penguin becomes depressed after a while, so they get another one—and then there are ten babies.  At wits end to provide for his family and the penguins, Mr. Popper trains the penguins to go on stage.  They are a great success!  In the end, Admiral Drake takes the penguins (and Mr. Popper for the trip) back to the North Pole where they belong.

13. Misty of Chincoteague

By Marguerite Henry

Paul and Maureen want a pony, but not just any one will do.  At Pony Penning Days the wild ponies are chased off the island where they live and onto the mainland where some of them are sold.  After escaping capture many times, this year the Phantom is rounded up with the others because she has a small colt.  Paul and Maureen make up their minds to buy them both.  After various mishaps, they manage to do this.  But the Phantom is not happy living in a pen.  Even though she has been gentled, she still is not tamed.  So, Paul allows her freedom and happiness, back on the island of the wild things while her colt, Misty, stays with them.

Some of my favorite books to use during Bible time:

14. Missionary Stories with the Millers

By Mildred A. Martin

A wonderful collection of stories taken from various places in the world.  A map at the beginning of each story shows where the story took place.  Many stories are of God’s wonderful provision for His children, some of them miraculous.

15 & 16. Story Time with Grandma and More Story Times with Grandma

By Mary Elizabeth Yoder

A collection of character-building stories about children.  Most of the settings are Mennonite families and homes, making the stories easy for many children to relate to.  Some of the stories are obviously from “Grandmas’ day” where things are done differently than we do them now, but the lessons still apply.

17. Godly Heroes of the Past

By Sharon M. See

Gently written stories of martyrs and those who suffered for their faith during the Protestant Reformation or earlier.  These simple stories are written with a young audience in mind, kindergarten

or first grade or younger.  The book includes a beautiful pencil illustration with each story.  I found these stories to be good exposure to students of how Christians lived in a different time and place.

18. Even Donkeys Speak & Other Stories of God’s Miracles in Asia

By Mary McDonald

Stories of God’s care for His people, many of them taking place in recent years in India.  From the witch doctors who could not harm the missionaries to the student who learned to speak English to the karate master who could not break a coconut, your students will see God’s power and His personal love for individuals in these stories.

Some of my favorite read-aloud picture books for lower elementary:

19. Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do

By Eileen Christelow

It summer vacation and the five little monkeys complain that they are bored.  Mama gets them to clean up the house and pick berries before Grandma Bessie arrives.  What a surprise when the house is messy again when Grandma Bessie walks in!  Mama’s response to their question of who did it, “Whoever did has plenty to do.”  Wonderful, imaginative pictures!

20. Tacky the Penguin

By Helen Lester

Tacky lives with five other penguins in the icy land of the north.  His friends are neat, careful and polite.  Tacky is not.  But when hunters come to the “land of the pretty penguins,” Tacky’s uniqueness saves the penguins from the hunters.  In the end, the other penguins decide that “Tacky was an odd bird but a very nice bird to have around.”

21. The Mitten

By Jan Brett

A traditional Ukrainian folktale, beautifully illustrated by the author.  Nicki wants his new mittens knitted with white yarn, but Baba is afraid that he will lose them in the snow.  When he insists, she makes them for him.  Sure enough, he does lose one.  First a mole finds it and burrows inside.  Then a rabbit, a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, a fox and a bear each squeeze inside.  Baba’s knitting is stretched, but holds fast.  Last of all a mouse comes and settles onto the bear’s nose.  This tickles the bear and he sneezes, sending all of the animals flying out of the mitten!  Nicki finds his lost mitten, but he and Baba can’t understand why this mitten is so much bigger than the other.

22. The Bee Tree

By Patricia Polacco

Mary Ellen is tired of reading, so Grandfather takes her on a chase to find a bee tree.  As they race along, others join them including “Klondike Bertha,” three traveling musicians, baby Sylvester, and a herd of goats.  When they find the bee tree, they scoop out some of the honey and bring it home.  Grandfather puts some honey on a book and has Mary Ellen taste it.  “There is such sweetness inside of that book too!” he says.   “. . .adventure, knowledge and wisdom.  But these things do not come easily. Just like we ran after the bees to find their tree, so you must also chase these things through the pages of a book!”  And Mary Ellen learns to love to read.

23. Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

By Rudyard Kipling

Set in India, Rikki is a baby mongoose that is found and adopted by an English family.  Teddy, their young boy, loves Rikki and feeds and plays with him.  Nag and Nagaina, the cobras who live in the garden, want nothing more than for the people and Rikki to leave so they can be masters of the house and gardens.  With the help of other animals around the house and his own hunting nature, Rikki finds and kills these dangerous enemies.  A fast-paced, exciting read!

The copy I have is adapted and beautifully illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

24. The Story About Ping

By Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese

Ping, a small yellow duck, lives with his mother and father and extended family in China.  Each day they leave the boat to eat along the shores of the Yangtze River.  Every evening, the boat master calls and the ducks return to the boat for the night.  The last duck to go up the ramp and onto the boat gets a spank on the back.  One evening Ping realizes that he will be last—so he hides.  The next day is full of adventures as he tries to find his way home.  By evening, he has found the boat, but realizes that he will be last again!  This time, he takes his punishment because he is so glad to be back safe with his family.

25. Who Wants an Old Teddy Bear?

By Ginnie Hofman

On his birthday Andy receives a package in the mail from his grandmother!  When he opens the box, he is disappointed to find a teddy bear inside.  He kicks it aside.  That night he dreams that he goes to teddy bear town, where he is put into a box by a grandmother teddy bear and delivered to a boy teddy for his birthday.  The boy teddy is disappointed to receive Andy for a birthday present and kicks him aside.  When Andy begins to cry, the boy teddy is sorry.  He and Andy play together and have a fun time.  When Andy wakes from this dream, he decides to love his birthday teddy bear after all.

Some of my favorite easy-read books for first and second grade:

26. Bears on Wheels

By Stan and Jan Berenstain

A very simple book with few words and fun pictures.  I often start my first graders out on this one, reading it to them initially so they have an idea what some of the more difficult words are.  The story is about a bear on a bike and what happens when he meets other bears on wheels, ending in a terrific smash up—but the bear on the bike comes out unscathed.

27 & 28. Biscuit, Biscuit Wants to Play, Biscuit Goes to School, etc.

By Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Another very simple book to read about a dog and his adventures and mischievousness.  The pictures are very nice, colorful and warm.

29 & 30. The Foot Book, Green Eggs and Ham and other easy read books

By Dr. Seuss

These books are longer and more complicated, though again the vocabulary is very simple.  Many of the words are one-syllable words that students can sound out.  The books have fun, imaginative pictures.

31 & 32. Danny and the Dinosaur and Sammy the Seal

By Syd Hoff

These books work well toward the end of first grade.  Syd Hoff has written a number of easy read books that children will enjoy.  Imaginative pictures and interaction between children and animals.

33. Robert the Rose Horse

By Joan Heilbroner

A fun story about a horse that was allergic to roses.  His sneezes caused trouble wherever he went—until at last one giant sneeze saves the day and cures him of his allergies to roses.

34 & 35. Benny the Beaver and Chipmunk Willie

By Harry J. Baerg

These two books, along with a book by the same author about a moose, are great beginning chapter books.  They have beautiful, realistic pictures and follow the adventures of an animal through its life.  The portrayal of animals is realistic with information about how these animals live.

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Betty Yoder

6 years ago

Thank you, Yvonne! This is really well done and I would love to see you develop this kind of list for the next level up — grades 3-6.

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