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Summer Reading List for 3rd Grade: The Ultimate List

Check out this summer reading list for 3rd grade. A list of books to share with families to read over the summer with some literature comprehension activities and ideas for picture books for 3rd graders. Poetry, prose, fiction and nonfiction summer reading recommendations! What is a good book for a 3rd grader to read? Look no further!

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!

Narrative Nonfiction:

Manfish by Jennifer Berne

Before Jacques Cousteau became an internationally known oceanographer and champion of the seas, he was a curious little boy. In this lovely biography, poetic text and gorgeous paintings combine to create a portrait of Jacques Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring.

Check out this summer reading list for 3rd grade. A list of books to share with families to read over the summer with some literature comprehension activities and ideas for picture books for 3rd graders. Poetry, prose, fiction and nonfiction summer reading recommendations!

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 Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

The inspiring story of how William Kamkwamba used discarded and recycled materials to save his home and his village in Africa by building a windmill.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

Fiction:

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

Enter the witty, intriguing world of Weslandia! Now that school is over, Wesley needs a summer project. He’s learned that each civilization needs a staple food crop, so he decides to sow a garden and start his own — civilization, that is. He turns over a plot of earth, and plants begin to grow. They soon tower above him and bear a curious-looking fruit. As Wesley experiments, he finds that the plant will provide food, clothing, shelter, and even recreation. It isn’t long before his neighbors and classmates develop more than an idle curiosity about Wesley — and exactly how he is spending his summer vacation.

The Rock From the Sky by Jon Klassen

There is a spot.
It is a good spot.
It is the perfect spot to stand.
There is no reason to ever leave.
But somewhere above there is also a rock.
A rock from the sky.

Here comes The Rock from the Sky, a hilarious meditation on the workings of friendship, fate, shared futuristic visions, and that funny feeling you get that there’s something off somewhere, but you just can’t put your finger on it. Merging broad visual suspense with wry wit, celebrated picture book creator Jon Klassen gives us a wholly original comedy for the ages. If you’re looking for funny picture books, this needs to be near the top of your list!

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry

Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene.One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them. When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?

Journey by Aaron Becker

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire?

An amazing wordles picture book!

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

When Floyd’s kite gets stuck in a tree, he’s determined to get it out. But how? Well, by knocking it down with his shoe, of course. But strangely enough, it too gets stuck. And the only logical course of action . . . is to throw his other shoe. Only now it’s stuck! Surely there must be something he can use to get his kite unstuck. An orangutan? A boat? His front door? Yes, yes, and yes. And that’s only the beginning. Stuck is Oliver Jeffers’ most absurdly funny story since The Incredible Book-Eating Boy. Childlike in concept and vibrantly illustrated as only Oliver Jeffers could, here is a picture book worth rescuing from any tree.

Drawn Together by Minh Le

When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens—with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

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!

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?

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 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.

Realistic Fiction:

Goldfish on Vacation by Sally Lloyd-Jones

H, Little O, and Baby Em are stuck in the city for the summer with only their pet goldfish—Barracuda, Patch, and Fiss—for company. It’s looking like it might be a pretty boring vacation, but one day, something exciting happens. Someone starts fixing up the old fountain down the street—the one Grandpa says horses used to drink from before everyone had cars—and a sign appears: “Calling All Goldfish Looking for a Summer Home.” H, Little O, and Baby Em can’t wait to send their goldfish on vacation, and the fish, well, they seem pretty excited too. Based on the true story of Hamilton Fountain in New York City, this charming tale of one special summer will delight readers young and old. Author’s Note included.

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.

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.

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 DayHike is a breath of fresh air.

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.

Hum and Swish by Matt Myers

It’s a glorious summer day at the shore, and all Jamie wants is to finish her art project in the sand. A little time to herself is all she needs. But everyone around keeps asking her pesky questions she doesn’t know how to answer: what are you making? Aren’t you clever?

Jamie does her best to tune it all out and focus on her creation . . . until she finds a like-minded friend, who’s as happy to work quietly as she is. A great book about creating art.

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.

A Stone For Sascha by Aaron Becker

This year’s summer vacation will be very different for a young girl and her family without Sascha, the beloved family dog, along for the ride. But a wistful walk along the beach to gather cool, polished stones becomes a brilliant turning point in the girl’s grief. There, at the edge of a vast ocean beneath an infinite sky, she uncovers, alongside the reader, a profound and joyous truth. In his first picture book following the conclusion of his best-selling Journey trilogy, Aaron Becker achieves a tremendous feat, connecting the private, personal loss of one child to a cycle spanning millennia — and delivering a stunningly layered tale that demands to be pored over again and again.

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

Watch the days and seasons pass as the wind blows, the fog rolls in, and icebergs drift by. Outside, there is water all around. Inside, the daily life of a lighthouse keeper and his family unfolds as the keeper boils water for tea, lights the lamp’s wick, and writes every detail in his logbook.

Step back in time and through the door of this iconic lighthouse into a cozy dollhouse-like interior with the extraordinary award-winning artist Sophie Blackall.

Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson

Apples, ho!

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.

Going Down Home With Daddy by Kelly Lyons

“On reunion morning, we rise before the sun. Daddy hums as he packs our car with suitcases and a cooler full of snacks. He says there’s nothing like going down home.”

Down home is Granny’s house. It’s where Lil Alan and his parents and sister will gather with great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil Alan will hear stories of the ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to their family history. All the kids have to decide what they’ll share, but what will Lil Alan do?

Blackout by John Rocco

One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, “Mommm!” His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can’t work on her computer, and Dad can’t finish cooking dinner. What’s a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights–in stars that can be seen for a change–and so many neighbors it’s like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun–talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Best Summer Reading List for 3rd Grade

What are some of your favorite books for your summer reading list for 3rd grade? Are there any must read books to include in my summer reading list for 3rd graders that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!

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!

Download the Printable Summer Reading List for 3rd Grade:

Summer reading list for 3rd grade to help you keep your third grader reading over the summer! A list of books to share with families to read over the summer with some literature comprehension activities and ideas for picture books for 3rd graders. Poetry, prose, fiction and nonfiction summer reading recommendations! Free downloadable and printable PDF of the third grade summer reading list too!
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Other Great 3rd Grade Read Aloud Stories

Looking for other great 3rd grade read alouds? Here are a few more to explore:

Best 3rd Grade Picture Books

Author Study 3rd Grade – The Ultimate List of Books

Realistic Fiction Books For 3rd Graders

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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