Is your child in 5th grade and you want to read a book together? These picture book read alouds for 5th graders are fun and interesting. They have fiction and non-fiction books that have lesson plans and activities linked to them, too. These are the best picture books for 5th graders to read aloud to each other. They are all different. Award-winning kids’ books about diverse characters, friendship, relationships, and fifth-grade all come up a lot in this list.
Game Changers by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Venus and Serena Williams are two women who play tennis. Two peas are in a pod. Best of friends. Sisters. Six days a week, they woke up before the sun came up to practice their serves and returns. They wanted to run faster and hit harder, so they did this every day before the sun rose. They couldn’t be stopped. After she was 14 years old, Venus played her first real game for money. Three years later, Serena was the one who had to do the same thing as before. It wasn’t simple. The two new faces were cheered on by some tennis fans, but those who didn’t like that two black girls were competing in a mostly white sport booed them and made fun of them. But they didn’t let it stop them from going. If you’re in 5th grade, this is a great book to read aloud. During Black History Month, you can learn about Black athletes and entertainers.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Christine Darden, and Christine Darden were good at math. They were really good. They were part of some of NASA’s biggest successes, like making the calculations for America’s first trips into space. They also did this at a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked very hard. They kept going. And they used their brilliant minds to change the world, as well as their own lives. During Women’s History Month, this is a great book to read aloud to your kids so that they can learn more about Black scientists.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
This poem was written for ESPN’s The Undefeated. It is a love letter to black life in the United States. It shows the unimaginable pain of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s most important people. The text also includes references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and other people, giving more information about the past and highlighting the strength and perseverance of those who are still alive and well today. At the end, there is a lot of back matter that gives important historical context and more information for people who want to learn more.
Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome
After getting on a train bound for New York, Ruth Ellen starts a new life up north. She can’t even begin to imagine what it will be like. When the young narrator talks about her trip in poems, she leaves behind cotton fields and the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Stop by stop,” she writes.
During each leg of the trip, people working in fields give way to the Delaware River, and the curtain that separates the two cars is taken down. Then, a few glimpses of what the family is looking for come into view. During the train ride, Ruth Ellen reads a book about Frederick Douglass called Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Ruth Ellen thinks about how her journey mirrors her own until the train finally stops at New York’s Penn Station, and the family goes outside into a night full of bright lights, glimmering stars, and new opportunities.
Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg
62-year-old Annie Taylor runs a charm school right next to Niagara Falls. She is short, fat, and fussy, but she does a great job. The first time this doesn’t work out, she decides to be the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. They will love this story of bravery, as they ride a roller coaster over the falls. It will be a roller coaster ride of a lifetime for them. You can get the lesson plan and activities for Queen of the Falls here. HERE
Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston
What can I be afraid of?
My master broke every promise he made to me. She and our children are gone. They all went to South. Time and body are not mine. It’s all I have to lose. And I’m suffocating because of the bonds I have with people.
In his book, Henry Brown said that long before he became known as Box, Box was a slave. As a child, he worked and was passed down from one generation to the next as a piece of land. In spite of him being an adult, his wife and kids were sold away from him. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains and went to the South. What else could be done to him? There was a time when there was no hope. Then there was the Underground Railroad, which brought hope and help. Escape! This is one of my new favorite read-aloud books for 5th grade because there are so many connections you can make to poetry and perseverance in this book.
Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom has a lesson plan and activities that you can get HERE.
Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code by Joseph Bruchac
He had to leave the reservation and go to school away from home, where he was told that his native language and culture were not important. But Chester didn’t want to give up his heritage. During World War II, Chester and other Navajo men were asked to use the Navajo language to make an impossible-to-crack military code. Soon, the language he had been told to forget came in handy to fight a war. This powerful picture book biography includes backmatter like a timeline and a piece of the Navajo code. It also shows the life of an original Navajo code talker while highlighting the importance of heritage. During Indigenous Peoples Day or Veterans Day, this book would be a good choice for a book you could read.
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
It took millions of years for rivers to cut through the earth, eroding and cutting down the soil. This made a hole in the ground that was more than a mile deep. This hole is called the Grand Canyon and is 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. There are a lot of plants and animals that have lived there for a long time. The Grand Canyon is more than just a hole in the ground. Follow a father and daughter as they make their way through the cavernous wonder, discovering life both present and past.
When you look at a fossil, you can see that it was alive at some point in the past, even though it was in a very different place. The book comes with a spectacular double gatefold, a detailed map, and a lot of back matter. One of my favorite read-aloud books for fifth graders is this one because it has a lot of connections to science and Earth Day.
Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander
To show how much they appreciate poetry, Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth write original poems that pay tribute to twenty famous poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and made their minds wonder. This book is a collaboration between the three. Images by Caldecott Honor winner Ekua Holmes, who also won a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, make the celebration complete. They make the reader want to listen, wonder, and maybe even pick up a pen to write.
Mexique by Maria Jose Ferrada
On May 27, 1937, more than 400 children fled the violence of the Spanish Civil War and sailed to Morelia, Mexico, where they lived in safety. Home was no longer safe, and Mexico was taking in tens of thousands of refugees from all over the world. It took each child a while to pack their suitcases and get on the Mexique. They thought they would be home in a few months. That’s what they thought. This was just a short trip. But the war didn’t end in a few months, and the kids stayed in Mexico, waiting and wondering, waiting for the war to end. When the war was over, Francisco Franco, a Fascist, was in charge of Spain. A lot more dangerous than before.
Saved By the Boats by Julie Gassman
September 11, 2001, was a bad day for the United States. In the middle of the chaos, sea captains and crews raced by boat to the scene of the tragedy in New York. The largest sea evacuation in history took place on that day. Nearly 500,000 people on Manhattan Island were saved. A rarely told story of heroism helps us to understand how bright the lights of hope can be in the darkest places of our lives. 5th graders can start to understand how important September 11th was, and this book makes it more relatable to them by telling a story.
Shooting at the Stars by John Hendrix
During World War I, a young British soldier is on the front lines. On Christmas Eve, he has a memory that will stay with him for the rest of his life. In a letter to his mother, he talks about how, even though there had been a lot of fighting on both sides, the soldiers from both sides stopped firing and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday. They sang Christmas songs, gave each other gifts, and even lit Christmas trees. But as the holiday came to an end, they went back to their separate trenches and waited for the war to start again. In 5th grade, this is one of the best Christmas read-alouds.