Children in the 5th grade are all set and ready to become more independent. They seek the company of their friends over their family and are checking limits all the time. This is popularly known as 'testing their luck and pushing the limits of my patience' by parents. They begin to understand and seek layered friendships and develop relationships with their peers. Nothing is accepted as it is, and friends matter a lot. They want to be heard, though they seem to develop a  sense that they are not listened to or understood.It is also a time when they become more interested in the world beyond home and school. Children in this age group become more aware of their bodies and often feel uncertain about their looks. They start making connections and see the world around them. This new sense of independence and a growing need to know more about the world is the perfect a great time to introduce them to a varied reading diet. Little Kulture is happy to present five reading options to the growing 5th graders.

Esperanza Rising, Newbery Honor Winner, Author: Pam Muñoz Ryan

This brilliant book about one young girl’s incredible journey from Mexico to California and the events that unfold there is a must for every fifth grader. 5th graders who are transitioning from their childhood towards the teenage years will identify with Esperanza’s transformation in the light of her changed circumstances.


Set in the 1930’s Esperanza has to leave behind a bungalow and farmland once owned by her father for work in the farms of California. Her mother and she leave their grandmother behind as they go to try their luck. From being a landowner’s daughter in Mexico, Esperanza finds herself a homeless, citizenshipless migrant worker’s daughter in California. Calamity after calamity ensues. If in Mexico she enjoyed preferential treatment, in California she faces opposition and anger. She realises she knows very little having been tended to by maids and servants. The only thing going for Esperanza is her never-say-die attitude and a willingness to learn.Each chapter is named after a fruit; Las Papayas, Los higos, Las guayaberas - referring to papayas, figs, and guavas respectively. This has special significance in the backdrop of Esperanza’s new life being marked by the different fruits that have to be picked in the orchards of California.

Wonder Author: R.J.Palacio

What if you had no real face? Half-formed lips, holes for nostrils, poor or no eyesight? Would you go to school? What if you knew someone like that? Would you look away? Would you keep looking? Would you call them a freak? How would a child without a face feel? How did their parents cope? Wonder handles this with a grace and beauty that will make children think not just about August the principal character but themselves as well.


R.J.Palacio, the creator of Wonder has a message she hopes to convey to children through Wonder.

What do you hope kids will come away with after finishing WONDER? I hope that kids will come away with the idea that they are noticed: their actions are noted. Maybe not immediately or directly or even in a way that seems obvious, but if they’re mean, someone suffers. If they’re kind, someone benefits. And the choice is theirs: whether to be noticed for being kind or for being mean. They get to choose who they want to be in this world.  And it’s not their friends and not their parents who make those choices: it’s them.

The only warning this book come with is “Keep the handkerchiefs handy.” If you’d like to read more about Wonder, click here

The Giver, Newbery Medal winner (1994) Author: Lois Lowry


Lois Lowry wows again in this dystopian novel. Jonas an eleven-year-old lives in a controlled society. A transition ceremony for eleven-year-olds- where they are allocated areas of training, based on previous performances awaits him. He is both nervous and excited. A new visitor in his home is baby Gabriel who refuses to settle into the norms set for infants in the society. Jonas’ father is a caregiver for the infants and he worries about Gabriel. Jonas is selected as a keeper of memories and his training turns all he knows about his community on its head. Jonas has to take some key decisions based on this new information that will forever alter his and Gabriel’s life. Written in 1993, The Giver helps young readers look at the world around them and ask pertinent questions about the society they live in and their role in it.

Holes, Winner of the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award, Author: Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats by Louis Sachar is the winner of the 1999 Newbery Medal for most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. It also features on most well-read books in the 10 to 12 category. The language is simple as in all great children’s books. The narrative has an adventure, pathos, comedy and twists that make this a super fun book. The author has etched all characters extremely well and has skillfully blended the past and the present seamlessly.


Stanley is wrongly convicted of stealing a pair of sneakers and is sent to a juvenile camp where the primary work is to dig holes. The land is bare and the warden is unfair. Stanley has to contemplate on his circumstances and decide what to do. All in all a book that cannot be left unread.A more in-depth post about Holes can be found here.

The Graveyard Book, winner of the Newbery Medal, Carnegie Medal and is a Hugo Award, Author: Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman alone could think of setting up a child’s story in a graveyard, with ghosts as principal characters. Winner of the British Carnegie medal and the American Newbery medal, The Graveyard Book is an awesome fantasy novel for fifth graders. Bod, short for Nobody is raised and trained by ghosts when he escapes the assassins of his parents.


Bod is quite unaware of his unusual circumstances. He befriends ghosts and people alike. He acquires special powers. He has several adventures, but he must come face to face with Jack Frost, the killer of his dear parents and possible assassin of himself.Patrick Ness in his review of The Graveyard Book in the Guardian, and I quote

We are deep in Neil Gaiman territory here, and it's hard to think of a more delightful and scary place to spend 300 pages.”

If you'd like to read more about this book before you get your copy, click here.

Each of these books have very interesting plots, character developments and use of language. They will draw the young reader in and introduce them to new words and settings. These books are great as classroom texts and are perfect for class discussions. Discussions can revolve around not just the plot but contexts, messages, and imagery. The key theme covered in all the books in this list are courage under fire; all the books are inspirational and will motivate the child to consider their responses in any given situation. They are all truly step-up books, that will be cherished by children long after they have moved on from the fifth grade.