Looking for the best picture books for 3rd graders? These fun picture book read alouds for 3rd grade elementary students are engaging. Fiction, narrative nonfiction, and poetry books with lesson plans and activities linked. These are the best diverse picture book read alouds for 3rd graders. Many of these are award winning children’s books about diverse characters, friendships, relationships, and for the whole year of third grade!
If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!
Picture Books for 3rd Graders:
Salt In His Shoes by Deloris Jordan
Michael Jordan. The mere mention of the name conjures up visions of basketball played at its absolute best. But as a child, Michael almost gave up on his hoop dreams, all because he feared he’d never grow tall enough to play the game that would one day make him famous. That’s when his mother and father stepped in and shared the invaluable lesson of what really goes into the making of a champion—patience, determination, and hard work. Another great book for social emotional learning to talk to students about perseverance and grit.
Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin
Most eight-year-olds are about five times as tall as this book . . . but only half as tall as an ostrich, which is half as tall as a giraffe . . . twenty times smaller than a California Redwood! How do they compare to the tallest buildings? To Mt. Everest? To stars, galaxy clusters, and . . . the universe?
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta
When George Washington Carver was just a young child, he had a secret: a garden of his own.
Here, he rolled dirt between his fingers to check if plants needed more rain or sun. He protected roots through harsh winters, so plants could be reborn in the spring. He trimmed flowers, spread soil, studied life cycles. And it was in this very place that George’s love of nature sprouted into something so much more—his future. A story about a scientist and farmer who transformed farming for many!
Dazzle Ships: World War I & The Art Of Confusion by Chris Barton
During World War I, British and American ships were painted with bold colors and crazy patterns from bow to stern. Why would anyone put such eye-catching designs on ships? Desperate to protect ships from German torpedo attacks, British lieutenant-commander Norman Wilkinson proposed what became known as dazzle. These stunning patterns and colors were meant to confuse the enemy about a ship’s speed and direction. By the end of the war, more than four thousand ships had been painted with these mesmerizing designs.
Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker
You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home? As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.
Waiting For the Biblioburro by Monica Brown
Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight: a traveling library resting on the backs of two burros‑all the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own.
Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, award-winning picture book creators Monica Brown and John Parra introduce readers to the mobile library that journeys over mountains and through valleys to bring literacy and culture to rural Colombia, and to the children who wait for the BiblioBurro.
Above the Rim by Jen Bryant
Hall-of-famer Elgin Baylor was one of basketball’s all-time-greatest players—an innovative athlete, team player, and quiet force for change. One of the first professional African-American players, he inspired others on and off the court. But when traveling for away games, many hotels and restaurants turned Elgin away because he was black. One night, Elgin had enough and staged a one-man protest that captured the attention of the press, the public, and the NBA.
Six Dots by Jen Bryant
Louis Braille was just five years old when he lost his sight. He was a clever boy, determined to live like everyone else, and what he wanted more than anything was to be able to read. Even at the school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him. And so he invented his own alphabet—a whole new system for writing that could be read by touch. A system so ingenious that it is still used by the blind community today. An excellent book for studying people with disabilities.
Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey
Did you know that one of America’s favorite songs, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” was written about a girl? And that in the 1940s girls all across America were crazy for our country’s favorite game?
These little known facts inspired Shana Corey to imagine a story about how one determined girl made her way to the big leagues & found a sisterhood of players in pigtails. With the same exuberant spirit that fueled the formation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, joyful text & jubilant pictures celebrate these brave girls’ love of the game & the league they called their own.
Planting Stories: The Life Of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Denise
An inspiring picture book biography of Latin American storyteller, puppeteer, and New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who championed bilingual literature.
When she came to America in 1921, Pura Belpré carried the cuentos folklóricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura’s legacy.
Pocket Full of Colors by Amy Guglielmo
Mary Blair lived her life in color: vivid, wild color. From her imaginative childhood to her career as an illustrator, designer, and animator for Walt Disney Studios, Mary wouldn’t play by the rules. At a time when studios wanted to hire men and think in black and white, Mary painted twinkling emerald skies, peach giraffes with tangerine spots, and magenta horses that could fly. If you want a great book for an art connection, this is a great choice!
She painted her world.
Fireboat by Maira Kalman
The John J. Harvey fireboat was the largest, fastest, shiniest fireboat of its time, but by 1995, the city didn’t need old fireboats anymore. So the Harvey retired, until a group of friends decided to save it from the scrap heap. Then, one sunny September day in 2001, something so horrible happened that the whole world shook. And a call came from the fire department, asking if the Harvey could battle the roaring flames. In this inspiring true story, Maira Kalman brings a New York City icon to life and proves that old heroes never die. One of my favorite children’s books about September 11.
Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky
Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a seeing eye dog — it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a service dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than the way she’d imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time. An endnote from the authors tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend and black lab, Rescue.
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Wilson Bentley was always fascinated by snow. In childhood and adulthood, he saw each tiny crystal of a snowflake as a little miracle and wanted to understand them. His parents supported his curiosity and saved until they could give him his own camera and microscope. At the time, his enthusiasm was misunderstood. But with patience and determination, Wilson catalogued hundreds of snowflake photographs, gave slideshows of his findings and, when he was 66, published a book of his photos. His work became the basis for all we know about beautiful, unique snowflakes today. A really interesting biography picture book for the winter months!
Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick
Before Winnie-the-Pooh, there was a real bear named Winnie. And she was a girl!
In 1914, Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian on his way to tend horses in World War I, followed his heart and rescued a baby bear. He named her Winnie, after his hometown of Winnipeg, and he took the bear to war. Harry Colebourn’s real-life great-granddaughter tells the true story of a remarkable friendship and an even more remarkable journey–from the fields of Canada to a convoy across the ocean to an army base in England and finally to the London Zoo, where Winnie made another new friend: a real boy named Christopher Robin.
Aliens Are Coming! by Meghan McCarthy
A picture-book account of one of the most famous pieces of radio history: the War of the Worlds broadcast. This is a really fun book to talk about evaluating sources and also scary until the reveal.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca
When young Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!
Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco
After being initiated into a neighbor’s family by a solemn backyard ceremony, a young Russian American girl and her African American brothers’ determine to buy their gramma Eula a beautiful Easter hat. But their good intentions are misunderstood, until they discover just the right way to pay for the hat that Eula’s had her eye on. A loving family story woven from the author’s childhood.
The Girl Who Ran by Frances Poletti
When Bobbi Gibb saw the Boston Marathon her mind was set-she had to be a part of it. But when the time came to apply for the marathon, she was refused entry. They told her girls don’t run, girls can’t run. That didn’t stop Bobbi. This picture book tells the true story of how she broke the rules in 1966 and how, one step at a time, her grit and determination changed the world. A really heroic part of women’s history.
Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins
Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world. Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8, Apollo 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed. An excellent book about women in STEM!
Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock
On June 6, 1930, engineer Otis Barton and explorer Will Beebe dove into the ocean inside a hollow metal ball of their own invention called the Bathysphere. They knew dozens of things might go wrong. A tiny leak could shoot pressurized water straight through the men like bullets! A single spark could cause their oxygen tanks to explode! No one had ever dived lower than a few hundred feet…and come back. But friends Otis and Will were determined to become the first people to see what the deep ocean looks like.
The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock
Caldecott medalist Mordicai Gerstein captures the majestic redwoods of Yosemite in this little-known but important story from our nation’s history. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt joined naturalist John Muir on a trip to Yosemite. Camping by themselves in the uncharted woods, the two men saw sights and held discussions that would ultimately lead to the establishment of our National Parks.
Grace Hopper Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
Who was Grace Hopper? A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, naval leader—AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker. Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English.” Throughout her life, Hopper succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys. An excellent story for Women’s History Month!
The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon by Dean Robbins
As a boy, Alan wanted to fly planes. As a young navy pilot, Alan wished he could paint the view from the cockpit. So he took an art class to learn patterns and forms. But no class could prepare him for the beauty of the lunar surface some 240,000 miles from Earth. In 1969, Alan became the fourth man and first artist on the moon. He took dozens of pictures, but none compared to what he saw through his artistic eyes.
When he returned to Earth, he began to paint what he saw. Alan’s paintings allowed humanity to experience what it truly felt like to walk on the moon. Journalist and storyteller Dean Robbins’s tale of this extraordinary astronaut is masterful, and artist Sean Rubin’s illustrations are whimsical and unexpected. With back matter that includes photos of the NASA mission, images of Alan’s paintings, and a timeline of lunar space travel, this is one adventure readers won’t want to miss! An amazing story to talk about art and artists and how they can be found everywhere.
Paper Son by Julie Leung
Before he became an artist named Tyrus Wong, he was a boy named Wong Geng Yeo. He traveled across a vast ocean from China to America with only a suitcase and a few papers. Not papers for drawing–which he loved to do–but immigration papers to start a new life. Once in America, Tyrus seized every opportunity to make art, eventually enrolling at an art institute in Los Angeles. Working as a janitor at night, his mop twirled like a paintbrush in his hands. Eventually, he was given the opportunity of a lifetime–and using sparse brushstrokes and soft watercolors, Tyrus created the iconic backgrounds of Bambi. One of my favorite narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade about a lesser known Asian American.
Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most influential and gifted speakers of all time. Doreen Rappaport uses quotes from some of his most beloved speeches to tell the story of his life and his work in a simple, direct way. Bryan Collier’s stunning collage art combines remarkable watercolor paintings with vibrant patterns and textures. A timeline and a lsit of additional books and web sites help make this a standout biography of Dr. King. Definitely one of my favorite read aloud books for 3rd grade to talk about MLK and activism.
Crown by Derrick Barnes
The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.
Akiak by Robert Blake
What happens when you can’t control your life? How do you take control of your fate? When she hurts her paw on the fourth day of the race, Akiak can no longer compete in the Iditarod—the famed dogsledding race through 1,151 miles of Alaskan terrain. Her musher has no choice but to leave her behind. The rules say once a dog is dropped from the race, it may not rejoin the team. But ten-year-old lead dog Akiak doesn’t know the rules, and nothing will stop her from catching up to her team. Akiak has never won the race before. Will she be able to help her team win this time? A great book to read in winter or to talk abou the Iditarod race in March.
Ruby’s Wish by Bao Phi
Ruby is unlike most little girls in old China. Instead of aspiring to get married, Ruby is determined to attend university when she grows up, just like the boys in her family. Based upon the inspirational story of the author’s grandmother and accompanied by richly detailed illustrations, Ruby’s Wish is an engaging portrait of a young girl who’s full of ambition and the family who rewards her hard work and courage.
Gleam and Glow by Eve Bunting
Inspired by real events, master storyteller Eve Bunting recounts the harrowing yet hopeful story of a family, a war–and a dazzling discovery.
Carmela Full Of Wishes by Matt De La Peña
When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true–she’s finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make. Another one of my favorite September read alouds especially for Hispanic Heritage Month!
Grace For President by Kelly DiPucchio
“Where are the girls?” When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides to be the first. And she immediately starts off her political career as a candidate the school’s mock election. But soon, she realizes that she has entered a tough race. Her popular opponent claims to be the “best man for the job”–and seems to have captured all the male votes–while Grace concentrates on being the best person. In this timely story, author Kelly DiPucchio not only gives readers a fun introduction to the American electoral system, but also teaches them the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought–and offers an inspiring example of how to choose our leaders.
Sweep by Louise Greig
What happens when you can’t control your emotions? Anger and frustration, two emotions students need help dealing with. Ed’s bad mood begins as something really small, hardly a thing at all. But before long it grows, gathers pace, and spreads through the whole town. Can Ed sweep his troubles away?
Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson
When Papa decides to pull up roots and move from Iowa to Oregon, he can’t bear to leave his precious apple trees behind. Or his peaches, plums, grapes, cherries, and pears. Oh, and he takes his family along too. But the trail is cruel. First there’s a river to cross that’s wider than Texas, then there are hailstones as big as plums, and then there’s even a drought, sure to crisp the cherries.
Luckily Delicious (the nonedible apple of Daddy’s eye) won’t let anything stop her father’s darling saps from tasting the sweet Oregon soil. A hilarious tall tale from the team that brought you Fannie in the Kitchen that’s loosely based on the life of a real fruiting pioneer.
The Raft by Jim LaMarche
Nicky is convinced that his summer with his grandmother in the Wisconsin woods is going to be the worst summer ever. She cooks food that he doesn’t like, there’s an art studio where her living room should be, and he’s expected to do chores—including fishing, the most boring chore ever.
But one afternoon, while Nicky is trying to catch their dinner, a raft drifts down the river towards him. The raft has a calming magic about it, affecting both Nicky and the wildlife of the river and woods. Through the raft and the adventures it brings him on, Nicky finds new common ground with his grandmother, a fellow river rat, who encourages him to explore his newfound talent for art.
Lift by Minh Le
Iris loves to push the elevator buttons in her apartment building, but when it’s time to share the fun with a new member of the family, she’s pretty put out. That is, until the sudden appearance of a mysterious new button opens up entire realms of possibility, places where she can escape and explore on her own. But when she’s forced to choose between going at it alone or letting her little brother tag along, Iris finds that sharing a discovery with the people you love can be the most wonderful experience of all.
You Are Special by Max Lucado
In the town of Wemmickville there lives a Wemmick named Punchinello. Each day the residents award stickers―gold stars for the talented, smart, and attractive Wemmicks, and gray dots for those who make mistakes or are just plain ordinary. Punchinello, covered in gray dots, begins to feel worthless. Then one day he visits Eli the woodcarver, his creator, and he learns that his worth comes from a different source.
The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros
James’s Grandpa has the best balloons because he has the best memories. He has balloons showing Dad when he was young and Grandma when they were married. Grandpa has balloons about camping and Aunt Nelle’s poor cow. Grandpa also has a silver balloon filled with the memory of a fishing trip he and James took together.
But when Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James is heartbroken. No matter how hard he runs, James can’t catch them. One day, Grandpa lets go of the silver balloon—and he doesn’t even notice! Grandpa no longer has balloons of his own. But James has many more than before. It’s up to him to share those balloons, one by one.
Hike by Pete Oswald
Take to the trails for a celebration of nature — and a day spent with dad.
In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history. In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. A touching tribute to the bond between father and child, with resonant themes for Earth Day, Hike is a breath of fresh air.
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero
When Daisy Ramona zooms around her neighborhood with her papi on his motorcycle, she sees the people and places she’s always known. She also sees a community that is rapidly changing around her. But as the sun sets purple-blue-gold behind Daisy Ramona and her papi, she knows that the love she feels will always be there.
The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers
One day, William discovers that the tree outside his window has been sculpted into a wise owl. In the following days, more topiaries appear, and each one is more beautiful than the last. Soon, William’s gray little town is full of color and life. And though the mysterious night gardener disappears as suddenly as he appeared, William—and his town—are changed forever.
Outside In by Deborah Underwood
Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.
Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all . . . outside.
The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin
Kameeka yearns to continue her hula hooping competition with her rival, Jamara, rather than help prepare for Miz Adeline’s birthday party, and “the itch” almost ruins the party before the girls learn who the real winner is.
Flotsam by David Wiesner
A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam–anything floating that has been washed ashore. Bottles, lost toys, small objects of every description are among his usual finds. But there’s no way he could have prepared for one particular discovery: a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera, with its own secrets to share . . . and to keep. An amazing wordless picture book to discover and explore!
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
Each kindness makes the world a little better
This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful anti-bullying message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they’ve put it down.
Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her friends, they reject her. Eventually Maya stops coming to school. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.
I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott
I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me.
And I can’t say them all . . .
When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him.
You Are Home by Evan Turk
Beneath the soaring doorways of stone,
and peaks that pierce the ceiling of clouds,
from every river, star, and stone
comes the eternal refrain:
you are home.
In simple, soaring language and breathtaking art, acclaimed author-illustrator Evan Turk has created a stirring ode to nature and nation. From the rugged coast of Maine to the fiery volcanoes of Hawaii, You Are Home reminds us that every animal, plant, and person helps make this land a brilliant, beautiful sanctuary of life.
Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston
Henry Brown “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next — as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope — and help — came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape!
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical train to the North Pole. The Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish. This is a story for all who believe in the spirit of Christmas and those who treasure the sound of a reindeer’s silver bell. This classic is definitely one of the best read aloud books for Christmas.
Get the lesson plan and activities for The Polar Express HERE
Conclusion: Best Picture Books for 3rd Graders
What are some of your favorite picture books for 3rd graders? Are there any must read picture books for 3rd graders that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!
Free Picture Books for 3rd Graders Lesson and Activities
If you’re a member of the Picture Book Brain Trust Community, you already have access to EVERY lesson plan and activity for these books! Just click on the Lesson Plans button in the menu!
Other Great 3rd Grade Read Aloud Stories
Looking for other great 3rd grade read alouds? Here are a few more to explore:
Author Study 3rd Grade – The Ultimate List of Books
Realistic Fiction Books For 3rd Graders
Summer Reading List for 3rd Grade
32 Black History Month 3rd Grade Books
20 New Back to School Books for 3rd Grade
37 Narrative Nonfiction Books For 3rd Grade
50 Read Aloud Books For 3rd Grade
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