60 of the Best Books for Second Grade

By | October 15, 2020

Second grade is the sweet spot when it comes to reading. Students have acquired enough skills to work independently but are still full of wonder and curiosity. If you’re looking to update your collection of second-grade books, here are 60 of our favorite recent titles and series to inspire your blossoming readers.

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Best Second Grade Books - My Papi Has a Motorcycle

A young girl tells the tale of a motorcycle ride around her neighborhood with her Papi. Lean on this title for studying character traits and emotions and as a fresh, diverse mentor text for personal narrative writing.

The illustrations in this new title from two-time Caldecott medalist are gorgeous, as are the book’s themes of connectedness and inclusivity. Share this book to open community-building conversations or to support your social studies curriculum. Having students write their own “If you come to…” letters would be an awesome writing prompt, too!

When Kora-Jalimuso’s teacher and classmates can’t pronounce her name, her mother gives her the most empowering, uplifting advice of all: Tell them her name is a song. Share this affirming story at the start of the school year or to lead off conversations about celebrating identity. Every classroom needs this book!

Not Norman: A Goldfish Story is a longtime read aloud favorite. Now there’s a sequel that makes us love that glug-glugging goldfish and his endearing owner even more! The pair is excited to perform a routine of tricks at Pet-O-Rama—until an unexpected case of goldfish stage fright. The details are perfect for supporting kids’ narrative writing, too.

This sweet intergenerational story celebrates how simple shared experiences can bring people together. As Khalil digs for buried treasure and Mr. Hagerty digs for vegetables, the pair finds a new friendship. We also love how this title helps kids learn to define and give examples to explain vocabulary words.  

Lina wakes up on the morning she’s meant to visit her grandmother to help cook grape leaves, only to discover a fresh blanket of snow. Her walk to her grandmother’s house inspires a poetic list of ways to “hear” snow-capped observations for her grandmother, who is blind. Use this text to support both narrative and poetry writing, or simply enjoy it on the first snowy morning of the school year.

Best Second Grade Books - Giraffe Problems

From the team behind the spot-on Penguin Problems comes this story that teaches you to be proud of your individual strengths and use them to help others. Giraffe hates his neck because it’s “too necky,” but a new friend helps shift his perspective.  

Best Second Grade Books - The Patchwork Bike

A group of siblings crafts a bike from items found around their home and village and delight in the results. This title has tons of uses for writing craft mini-lessons, too.

Best Second Grade Books - Fruit Bowl

We love a good double-duty read-aloud for our second-grade books. This one shares plenty of facts about fruits vs. vegetables, but also has broader themes of inclusion and open-mindedness. Tomato lobbies for a spot in the fruit bowl even though the other fruits say he doesn’t belong.

A misheard lesson has Little Chicken looking for elephants in stories instead of the “element of surprise” her teacher described. Just like the original fan favorite, this sequel fits well into a study of story architecture—or read it just for fun. 

This title is a helpful resource for discussing gender identity. When Susan’s little sister Jackie gets a short haircut, shops in the boys’ clothing section, and asks to be called Jack, Susan has a range of emotions. Ultimately, though, she realizes Jack is her sibling no matter what.  

  

This pair of titles tells the story of three newly-arrived immigrant children and the peers who must welcome newcomers to their school community. Presenting the two books together offers a unique chance to examine an experience from multiple perspectives.

14. Hey, Wall by Susan Verde

Ángel notices an ugly, neglected wall that spans an entire city block near his home and organizes a neighborhood effort to create a mural that celebrates their community. Inspire students with this kid-powered story of art and activism.

This autobiography shares how Ashima Shiraishi became one of the world’s top rock climbers—as a teenager!  It’s an inspirational story that will wow kids (and teachers) and is a unique addition to a biography genre study.

Follow a young writer’s illustrated thought bubbles and tips as she works through the narrative writing process from the seed of an idea to drafting, revising, and editing, and then to showcasing her work. Share this to inspire a budding author, or use it during a fiction writing unit.

How to Help Your Writers Avoid Plagiarism and Write Better Papers

Make an important concept memorable with this fun, interactive title. The savvy robot characters also teach kids about respecting others’ opinions too.

18. Life by Cynthia Rylant 

A gorgeous story told through the eyes of animals, that reminds us that life is full of change and wonder.

From the popular author of Skippyjon Jones comes this tale of Sarabella, a girl with her head in the clouds. A lovely story for daydreamers who don’t necessarily fit the standard educational mold.

A beautiful story about a father and son navigating life in a new culture.

21. I Am a Bear by Jean-Francois Dumont

A story of compassion and empathy that gently addresses the issue of homelessness.

A young boy moves to a new place and discovers an unlikely friendship.

Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela knows her name is long, but she doesn’t know why, until her dad tells her about all the family members it honors. Get students talking about the stories behind their own names.

24. The Cool Bean by Jory John and Pete Oswald

If you loved The Bad Seed and The Good Egg, you need to meet The Cool Bean! Who knew legumes could be such good models for how it’s “cool to be kind?”

Every Fan Brothers book is gorgeous, but this is one of our favorite second grade books to mull over with students. One morning, William notices a mysterious topiary out his window. Soon, there are changes all over town.

From the team who created The Invisible Boy (a classroom must-have for all ages) comes this title perfect for discussions about listening. Owen McPhee talks ALL the time, but when he gets laryngitis, he learns that being quiet can be powerful, too.

This unsung hero title is a hushed, beautiful story about a girl who walks her neighbor’s dog. It’s filled with examples to use in narrative writing mini-lessons.

Rot, a homely mutant potato, is definitely not the cutest thing in the world. But that doesn’t stop him from having the confidence to be himself.

We reference it all the time, but how long IS five minutes, really? Well, that depends on whether you’re waiting in line or playing your favorite game! Add some fun to your math lessons about telling time by sharing this little gem.

This story tackles the mind-boggling concept of huge numbers. A wonderful book for science, math, or read-aloud.

Storyteller and author Pura Belpré was the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. Treat yourself and your class to this gorgeous and inspirational biography that offers just the right amount of detail for a classroom read-aloud and discussion. (Plus, motivate your students to explore other Pura Belpré Award titles!)

How often do we stop and think about how things we use every day, like soap or screws, work? This title explains it all, with labeled diagrams perfect to teach students about using nonfiction text features for reading and their own writing.

In 1930, Otis Barton and Will Beebe made the first-ever deep-sea dive in a contraption they invented themselves. How cool is that?

How much do you actually know about fungi and their role in our environment? Learn alongside your students with this engaging nonfiction romp. The “Meet a Mycologist” section at the back may incite new career aspirations for science-buff students, too.

Did you ever think of seed dispersal as involving “hitchhiking,” “catapulting,” or “parachuting?” Robin Page’s fresh, informative text and collage illustrations will get students thinking about grade-level science concepts.

This author and disability activist has spinal muscular atrophy, and he tells kids all about it in plain, relatable language. The photographs, especially those showing him horsing around with his brother, are fantastic. 

37.  Money Math by David Adler

Content-area book guru David Adler addresses money identification and beginning addition and subtraction. Break out the piles of change!

This series combines science, silly humor, and just enough gross facts to delight any young reader.

Best Second Grade Books - Hidden Figures

This book tells the story of four mathematicians who played a critical role in NASA’s early space launches.

Told by the artist’s sister, this story follows Keith Haring’s rise to fame as a pop artist.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg overcame discrimination against Jews, women, and working mothers to become one of our country’s most inspiring symbols of justice.

Share this biography of an Indian environmental activist with students when you talk about the role of plants in an ecosystem. After reading, go outside and plant some native plants in your own habitat!

The Best 3rd Grade Books To Share With Your Students

Best Second Grade Books - On Duck Pond

We still read Owl Moon every single year, but we also love Jane Yolen’s more recent nature offerings as one of our favorite second-grade books. Here, her signature poetic and precise language chronicles the brief moment when a child walks a dog past a pond.

An explanation of the Big Bang is tricky when explaining to children. But, packing it into artfully-illustrated and eloquent verse? That’s impressive.

As anyone who has studied a bird’s nest up close knows, animal structures are amazing. Each poem describes how an animal creates a home for its young.

Read about a family’s camping experience, as described by different members. This fun title also includes a handy guide for teaching kids about different forms of poetry. Check out Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse  starring the same characters, as well.

 

Yasmin has plenty of spirit and a talent for looking on the bright side. This early chapter book series starter adds to the small-but-growing list of kid lit titles starring contemporary Muslim Americans.

Second graders love this fantasy series about a princess who lives in the clouds and wields ton of cool weather-related powers. And teachers shouldn’t be discouraged by all the pink! The series has diverse characters and relatable themes to discuss with kids.

 

Desmond stays busy investigating paranormal activity in his town. His friend Andres admires his bravery, but prefers less excitement. This engaging and funny illustrated series is great for hooking new chapter book readers.

 

Told in the context of her Japanese-American culture, Jasmine’s challenges reflect those of many eight-year-olds, like proving she’s as capable as an older sibling, trying to find her unique talents, or convincing her parents to fulfill her biggest wish.   

Your students will love the hilarious tales of these characters who look and smell like bad guys but are trying to change their image.

52. Mighty Meg books by Sammy Griffin

Best Second Grade Books - Mighty Meg

These stories about a girl-turned-superhero are both engaging and accessible to second-grade readers. Meg is nervous about using her newfound powers, but her desire to help others gives her courage.

 

We love how Monica Brown highlights feisty, bicultural female characters. Lola Levine encounters her share of everyday kid challenges and navigates them with grace and spunk.

 

Favorite characters continue their STEM adventures in chapter book format. If you love sharing Andrea Beaty’s picture books about second-graders in Miss Lila Greer’s class, you’ll definitely want these spin-offs for your students to enjoy independently.

The newest installment, Sofia Valdez and the Vanishing Vote is just right for reading around election day. Civic-minded Sofia helps navigate a mysterious voting snafu as Miss Lila Greer’s students vote on a class pet.

Boys and girls alike love this series full of sports action and mystery starring fraternal twins Zach and Zoe.

Whimsically illustrated and cleverly written, kids love the hilarious adventures of Narwhal and his sidekick, Jelly. These are particularly great for lower second grade readers who want to read chapter books.

Best Second Grade Books - My Pet Human

Independent kitty Oliver is looking for the perfect human companion. When he meets Freckles, he’s pretty sure he’s found the right candidate to train for the job.

 

Mac Barnett tells his childhood story—as a spy for the Queen of England. It’s a spoof, of course, but there are real themes here, too. This series would be a great fit for advanced but reluctant readers, or as fun read alouds (especially if you’re a kid of the 80s and treasured your Gameboy as much as the author).

Omar is a fun-loving and imaginative kid navigating relatable kid challenges like starting at a new school and trying to earn money. These fast-paced illustrated chapter books work well as read alouds or as independent reading. You’ll especially want to check them out if you’re working on incorporating more literature featuring Muslim characters into your classroom library.

60. Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Best Second Grade Books - Bob

If you’re looking for a mesmerizing chapter book read aloud, consider this tale of Livy and Bob, the mysterious golem living in Livy’s grandmother’s closet who just wants to find his home.

What are your favorite second-grade books for the classroom? We’d love to hear about them in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook. 

P.S. Check out our book lists for the other elementary grade levels here:

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