13 Back-to-School Chapter Books to Kick Off the School Year


Reading aloud to your class is a great way to build classroom community early on in the school year. But read-alouds shouldn’t only be reserved for picture books or primary grades! A shared reading experience can bring older kids together and is a simple way to ease everyone into the year. Try one or more of these 13 back-to-school chapter books to kick off the beginning of the semester!

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Classic Back-to-School Chapter Books

Sideways Stories from Wayside School  by Louis Sachar

Wayside School was supposed to be one story with 30 classrooms. Instead, the builders built a 30-story building with one classroom per floor. That’s just the beginning of the strange things that happen at Wayside. This classic chapter book follows the kids on the 30th floor. It’s filled with an odd-ball humor elementary kids of all ages will love.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Peter Hatcher is sick of his little brother Fudge and his antics. Fudge is always causing trouble for Peter, and when Peter gets a pet turtle, Fudge is there to create chaos. This is the first novel in the Fudge series, so if your students like this you’ve got several other books to read. 

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

In the summer of 1968, the Gaither sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to spend a few months with their mother. Much to their surprise, their mother isn’t exactly excited to see them and instead wants them to spend the summer at a Black Panther camp.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda is a brilliant, magical little girl who loves to read. Her parents neglect her and when she finally goes to school she has to contend with the evil principal, Mrs. Trunchbull. Its the relationship between Matilda and Miss Honey that makes this classic so heartwarming. After you finish the book, treat your class to a viewing of the 1996 film adaption!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Meg Murry’s father is missing. Mr. Murray is a scientist who traveled between dimensions but never came back. Then three mysterious women appear at Meg’s house. Meg, her little brother, and her friend Calvin all embark on a journey through space and time to find her father and save the universe. This is another great book to pair with the recent movie adaption.  

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald

The magical Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives in an upside-down house and helps the neighborhood children break their bad habits. She teaches children lessons with unconventional methods. Each chapter is another hilarious story about how a kid she helped. 

New Back-to-School Chapter Books

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Brothers Bobby Gene and Caleb were minding their own business in their small Indiana town when Styx Malone rolled in. Styx is older and wiser and teaches the boys how to pull off an escalator trade, getting better and better stuff until they get something incredible. This book is full of hilarious antics and sweet brotherly relationships. 

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen  by Sarah Kapit 

Vivy Cohen has wanted to be a baseball pitcher ever since she met pro ballplayer VJ Capello. But things aren’t so simple for Vivy: she has autism, and her mom says she can’t play baseball because she’s a girl. That doesn’t stop Vivy from being invited to join a Little League team. And when Vivy writes a letter to VJ, she’s surprised to get a reply. 

Merci Suárez Switches Gears by Meg Medina

Back-to-School Chapter Books

Merci is starting sixth grade, and things are changing. She’s tired of being different at her private school. Unlike her wealthy classmates, she’s on a scholarship. And when Merci is assigned to be the buddy of a new boy, she becomes the target of a jealous classmate. At home, things aren’t so good either. Merci’s grandfather has been acting strangely and no one will tell her what’s going on. This coming-of-age novel captures the uncertainty of middle school and the love of family.

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

Seventh-grader Shayla never gets in trouble. Then a Black man is killed by a police officer in her town. Shayla’s family keeps talking about it and she doesn’t know what to think. Her older sister takes her to a Black Lives Matter protest, and Shayla is inspired to speak up at school. But she’ll have to decide if it’s worth getting in trouble to stand up for what’s right.

 The Unteachables by Gordon Korman

Back-to-School Chapter Books

While most middle schoolers are switching classes all day, the kids in room 117 never leave. They’ve been labeled the “unteachables,” a group of misfits with learning disabilities and social-emotional issues. Their teacher Mr. Kermit is here as a punishment, and at first, it doesn’t seem like he cares about them at all. But as the year goes on, the students in 117 form an unlikely bond with each other—and with Mr. Kermit. 

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

Back-to-School Chapter Books

Each of the 18 kids in Ms. Hill’s fifth grade shares their story in this novel-in-verse. Emerson Elementary is run-down and in danger of closing. Ms. Hill challenges her students to write a book of poetry for the school time capsule. The poems express each student’s challenges, worries, and pain, while they process the loss of their school. 

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Back-to-School Chapter Books

Joe has lived in the same town his whole life, and everything was going fine until his best friends moved away. Ravi’s family just came to America from India, and he’s having a hard time adjusting. Joe and Ravi don’t have anything in common—that is until they team up against the class bully.

What are your favorite back-to-school chapter books? Share in the comments below.

Also, 20 books bursting with Black joy.

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