5 Helpful Ways to Find Perfect Books for Elementary Students

Inside: How to find books for elementary students that they will love.

Sometimes I meet with a student to talk about their reading plan, and I run into some disheartening observations and conversations. It is frustrating when students are:

Reading the same books over and over again (past the point where this is a good thing).

Holding a full book bin and declaring “I don’t know what to read.”

Book hopping faster than a frog hops on lilypads.

These are sure signs that the student’s book bin needs a refresh.

This child definitely needs help finding some more just right books.
There’s no mistaking when it’s time to refresh a book bin! Photo by Felix.

Fill Those Bins

I’ve taken the time to get to know my students with a reading interest inventory along with mandatory assessments. I know the types of books my students should love. However, it can be very challenging to keep up with making sure all the book bins are filled with engaging, just-right books.

I needed more guidance.

Students needed to be more proactive.

And I needed more books. (Truthfully, wanted might be the more accurate verb here.)

But which books? After over 30 years of teaching, my classroom library is already bursting at the seams.

Luckily, I have a passion for books, discovered some helpful websites, and found a couple of sneaky ways to get some new books into students’ hands.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Website

Three things I can never have enough of are time with loved ones, dark chocolate, and books for elementary students.

The Three sites below show unique ways to find books that will perfectly match your students’ interests. Get ready to say goodbye to book hopping and hello to enthusiastic reading.

These sites are great for:

  • Gathering new titles to match your students’ interests
  • Sending to parents to help with reading at home
  • Turning your students loose to be in charge of their own reading

Tight budget? No worries, most of the titles you find on these sites will likely be available in your school and/or local library.

1. Spaghetti Book Club

Spaghetti Book Club features book reviews for kids by kids. No matter how much parents and teachers try to influence students, we can’t hold a candle to the influence of peers.

The book reviews are broken into grade levels. Within each grade level is a list of alphabetized book reviews. With a simple click, students can read a review from their peers.

The reviews themselves make for a great option during reading time!

Reviews for books for elementary students
Sample of a review from Spaghetti Book Club

Try it – Have your students write reviews to post on Spaghetti Book Club.

What Should I Read Next? is a favorite recommendation to parents. It’s simple, helpful, and addicting.

Just type in a book title, and you will receive a list of books for elementary students with a similar feel, storyline, and text complexity.

I always recommend this site to parents who are concerned that their child is only interested in reading one book or series over and over.

What should I read next is a great site for parents, teachers, and students.
Just type in a title and see what pops out.

3. Toppsta

Toppsta is a combination of the first two websites. You can type in a book title and find a review.

However, Toppsta has additional features.

  • A list of books by the author
  • A list of books by the illustrator
  • A list of similar books by different authors
  • Information about the author and illustrator

When I typed in Diary of a Worm, the book list was aligned, and my Amazon wish list grew.

It's fun to see other children's book alternatives for Toppsta.
A great book list based on Diary of a Worm

Books for Elementary Students Off the Web

Sometimes it’s nice to have the students do the work for you. After all, what teacher wouldn’t like a portion of their three-ton work loaded lightened a bit?

Raving Recommendations

When I read and recommend books to students, I get a wave of students who want to read the book next. However, when students give a book talk, they get a tsunami of positive responses!

Here’s how book talks work.

  1. Students sign up to do a book talk.
  2. They share a few sentences about the book and why they like it.
  3. They recommend an audience (students who like mysteries, funny books, etc.)
  4. The book goes into a recommended area in the classroom.
  5. On book shopping days, these books are always the first to go!
Peer reviews of books for elementary students can get students begging to read the book next.
Peer book reviews can inspire others to REALLY want to read the book next.

Try it – Have students share book recommendations with the class.

Perfect Partners

This year, I had some new inspiration. During parent/teacher conferences, two sets of parents shared the same concern.

Their children were high readers who were reading the same books over and over (Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate). I agreed with parents that they needed to diversify their reading selections.

I met with both students separately. After some strong encouragement, I got new titles into these boys’ hands.

Ultimately, we made a deal that they could alternate an old favorite with a new pick.

Later, I partnered the students up to exchange ideas. Now they enthusiastically share books. Their new favorite is the Mac B. Kid Spy series.

Book partners can recommend new children's book choices to each other.
Book partners are a great way to raise reading enthusiasm! Photo by Master1305.

Going Backwards

As a second grade teacher, I know the importance of being an expert in finding appropriate books for elementary students.

It’s always nice to arrive at a place where your students are proactive and find books they love. Now I know how to help students find irresistible books in a snap and avoid the dreaded book hopping.

Before you get here, it’s important to know your students as readers. My free Reading Engagement Bundle is made for that!

Here’s what’s included.

  • A reading interest inventory – No more guessing which books your students will love
  • An engagement inventory – Find the sneaky fake readers
  • Five small group lessons – Dive deep and give your students a purpose for reading
  • 12 prompts to get your students back on track in a snap

Once you fully know your students as readers you can work together to fill their books and enhance their reading lives!

Complete the form below to have the entire Reading Engagement Bundle sent straight to your inbox!

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Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.