I love how whole-class read alouds level the playing field and help build community by letting all the kids share a reading experience. These are some of the books that my fifth-graders have loved best! ALSO, I think it’s really important that we read NEW books aloud to our students to prove we read too! With the exception of Out of My Mind (2010), all of these books were published no earlier than 2016. And while I’ve titled this post as a list of “grade 5” books, they definitely skew higher than they do low and would do very well in middle school classrooms. Except Front Desk and Out of My Mind, the protagonists are in the middle grades themselves.

Kelly Yang’s Front Desk (#ownvoices text)

Yang’s Front Desk follows ten-year-old Mia, a first-generation Chinese-American immigrant whose family runs a motel for their tyrannical landlord. Mia has so much heart that you can’t help but fall in love with her as she fights to improve the quality of life for her family and friends. Along the way, meaningful discussions about race and social class are woven authentically in. The story and characters are super authentic as they are drawn from Yang’s own experience as a first-generation immigrant whose family managed motels during her childhood. There is SO MUCH to unpack in this book. I’ve read it to death because I used it as part of a project for my Masters and I still just adore it!


As a sidenote, Yang also recorded virtual writing lessons during the covid-19 pandemic. I haven’t watched them all, but the ones I did were fantastic and would be a great tool to use for online learning. She also has some conversational videos with other authors of colour that look fantastic!

Wesley King’s OCDaniel (#ownvoices text)

Whenever I start this bookwith my students, I begin by telling them “this book is about struggling to fit in, crushes, OCD, and murder.” They are immediately hooked! The protagonist is struggling with athletic woes (he’s on the football team and would really rather not be), trying hard not to embarrass himself in front of his crush, and battling symptoms of undiagnosed OCD. In the midst of all this, one of the school’s social outcasts recruits him to help her solve a murder mystery. King’s book brilliantly weaves these plotlines together in a way that will keep you and your students at the edge of your seats. I appreciate this is an #ownvoices title; you can really sense the authenticity compared to similar books with authors who do not have OCD (like Finding Perfect or Goldfish Boy).


Ellie Terry’s Forget Me Not (#ownvoices text)

Written in verse, Forget Me Not uses the perspectives of two characters to tell its story. Calliope June (aka Calli), whose mother is constantly moving them from place to place in pursuit of a new boyfriend, struggles to fit in at school because she is never in one place for long and because she has Tourrette’s Syndrome. Jinsong, student body president, is navigating a new friendship with Calli, who he finds mysterious and confusing. Calli’s portion is written in verse while Jinsong’s is written in prose. My students loved this book and fell in love with the characters immediately! Terry, the author, has Tourrette’s Syndrome just like her protagonist.


Mike Jung’s Unidentified Suburban Object (#ownvoices)


Chloe Cho is a the only Asian kid in her small town, and she is tired of everyone’s stereotypes about what it means to be Asian. Her world turns upside down when a new teacher arrives at the school… and she’s Korean too! Chloe is extremely sarcastic, feisty, and quick to lash out. The story follows her as she tries to learn more about her culture, and there is a shocking plot twist my students never see coming! This book does have some light cursing that I censor in my read alouds (ex. “crap”). However, I think it is a super worthwhile text because of its discussion about racial identity and because often a fifth of my class is Korean and a third is Asian; they deserve representation and it can be tough to find Korean protagonists in English-language novels written by Korean authors.

Jasmine Warga’s Other Words for Home

Warga’s Other Words for Home is written in verse and tells the story of Jude, a Syrian girl who moves to the United States with her mother to escape mounting dangers in her homeland. She has to leave her father and brother, and friends behind. This is not your typical kids’ book about Syrian refugees. She and her mother arrive safely by plane and move into the house of her wealthy uncle. I think this is a really valuable story for kids to hear because so many books about refugees paint a single story of what leaving home in the middle of a conflict looks like. This diversifies that narrative. Jude arrives in the USA relatively early on in the story, and the rest of the book is about her getting used to her new home, missing her country and family, and building up the courage to try out for the school play. There are also opportunities for powerful discussions about Islamophobia as well. Please note that the verse in this book is beautiful; it won the Newberry Award, but it can also be very subtle at times. This is not a read aloud you can jump into without having any discussions (I don’t know if any of the ones on this list are) or stopping to provide historical context. Your students may need background information about the history of Syria and the Syrian revolution and you many want to explain September 11th and the rise of Islamophobia.

Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind

Melody Brooks is ten years old and has cerebral palsy. She’s brilliant… but none of her classmates know it yet because she can’t verbalize speech and uses a communication board to talk. When her school begins integrating students from the special education into the mainstream student body, Melody finally has a chance to shine. Things only get better for her when she gets a new communication device and can join the school’s trivia club. My students love cheering for Melody and I love how this challenges several students to expand their understanding of what it means to have a disability. This is NOT a book with a super-happy ending, and my kiddos often struggle with that. However, it consistently rates as one of their favourite books of the year anyway!

I just had to include this picture too because I love it so much… this is a card I made on Powerpoint to remind my students of all the novels we shared together last year!


Happy reading! Do you have any novel recommendations for grade 5? If so, I’d love to hear them!

My favourite read alouds for grade five (photo of a card with encouraging phrases and book covers being held in front of blue and white paper flowers)