Recommended Books for Year 3: This can be a tricky year. Most children are still transitioning to become confident, independent readers, and it is crucial that books that allow children to be successful are plentiful in year 3 classrooms. If the books are too ‘aspirational,’ this can prove a stumbling block for children at this age. So a balance is essential between quick wins and forward-looking books that show children the delights of reading in all of its diversity. Children’s understanding is likely to be ahead of their reading attainment, so reading books aloud and sharing in groups and book clubs allows for the discussion of deeper themes. Series fiction is important too. Revisiting familiar characters and story worlds decreases the cognitive load and also encourages children to develop reading preferences. Introduce children to picture books, first-chapter fiction, graphic novels, poetry and nonfiction. Inclusivity is an important consideration for all of our selections.
Most of the books in this list have full reviews that you can read for more detailed information and our evaluation.
Individual books and special easy-purchase collections are available from our bookselling partner Best Books for Schools.
The book selection for our recommended reading lists is overseen by Just Imagine Director Nikki Gamble, a former teacher and university lecturer, co-author of Guiding Readers and author of Exploring Children’s Literature. The views of our review panel inform our choices. The panel is convened, and reviews are edited by Jo Bowers, a former teacher and university lecturer specialising in literacy and children’s literature.
Our top picks from recent titles
Sona Sharma a Friend Indeed
By Chitra Soundar. Illustrated by Jen Khatun. Published by Walker Books.
Sona Sharma, who lives in India, learns all about school elections. This is one book in a lovely young fiction series in which children learn about life in India, including the universal themes of friendship and family.
Elisabeth and the Box of Colours
By Katherine Woodfine. Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. Published by Barrington Stoke.
The childhood of French portrait artist Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun inspires this lovely story. It works well as a class read and for independent reading.
Press Start: Super Rabbit Boy Powers Up
By Thomas Flintham. Illustrated by Thomas Flintham. Published by Nosy Crow.
This is the first book in a series of young graphic novels inspired by Nintendo Game Boy. The full colour images and subject appeal will make this a popular choice in the class book collection.
Worst Class in the World in the World Goes Wild
By Joanna Nadin. Illustrated by Rikin Parekh. Published by Bloomsbury.
We love this hilarious series. A sure fire choice for encouraging even the most reluctant readers in your class. We’ve had great success with this stories in our HaHaBoing reading club.
Big Sky Mountain: the Beach Otters
By Alex Milway. Illustrated by Alex Milway. Published by Bonnier Books.
A gripping adventure for nature lovers. The short pacy chapters and copious illustrations will support newly independent readers.
By Liz Flanagan. Illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton. Published by UCLAN.
The first book in the Wildsmith series has plenty of themes that could be discussed including issues around conservation and displaced families, so it would be a good choice for a read-aloud or a group reading book for year 3. Also for class book corners for year 4.
By Nick East. Illustrated by Nick East. Published by Hachette.
This funny, fast-paced spy adventure series will keep independent readers in year 3 turning the pages. They are bound to want the other books in the series too.
Ivy Newt and the Storm Witch
By Derek Kielty. Illustrated by Magda Brol. Published by Scallywag Press.
What an absolute delight this new series from Derek Kielty is. Heavily and charmingly illustrated by Magda Brol and with a map and gallery of characters to support the reading. This could be read aloud to the class(use a visualiser to share the images) or for group or independent reading.
A Rabbit Called Clover
By Helen Peters. Illustrated by Ellie Snowdon. Published by Nosy Crow.
One of the books in Helen Peters’ Jasmine Green series of animal books. Helen Peters is a super storyteller and this story evokes a range of emotions. Ellie Snowdon’s black and white illustrations are supportive of children gaining independence and fluency. One for the class reading corner.
By Ross Montgomery. Illustrated by Marisa Morea. Published by Barrington Stoke.
A hilarious riff on The Boy Who Cried Wolf – in this instance the sheep who cried wolf. Knowing children in year 3 will be rooting for William who tries to alert his flock to the dastardly intentions of the school headmaster – a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Great fun and full-colour illustration.
By Burhana Islam. Illustrated by Farah Khandaker. Published by Knights Of.
The first of three stories about Yusuf and his family from Burhana Islam. Yusuf’s older sister is getting married. He’s ready for the delicious food, the fun with his cousins and the many presents… but he’s NOT ready to take her place as the responsible one. Laugh out loud funny. Humour is a great way to engage younger readers.
Woodland Magic - The Stranded Otter
By Julie Sykes. Illustrated by Katy Riddell. Published by Templar Publishing.
A lovely series for children from around 6 upwards. ‘Nature Keepers’ are tiny secretive creatures whose daily tasks centre around caring for the environment. This book can be read as a standalone but it is the third book in the series if you like to read books in order. It addresses some powerful themes which could be discussed with a class or group. However, it is also well-placed in the class reading corner for independent reading.
Dragon Storm: Connor and Lightspirit
By Alastair Chisholm. Illustrated by Eric Deschamps. Published by Nosy Crow.
In the land of Draconis, there are no dragons. Once, there were. Once, humans and dragons were friends and created the great city of Rivven together. But then came the Dragon Storm, and the dragons retreated from the world of humans. This is the seventh book in the action-packed fantasy series.
Space Blasters: Suzie Saves the Universe
By Katie and Kevin Tsnag. Illustrated by Amy Nguyen. Published by HarperCollins.
A lively adventure in Space for Suzie Wen, who loves inventing gadgets. This book has positive STEM messages for girls and an adventure everyone will enjoy. Our reviewer, Jane Atkin, writes, This was great fun to read, and I can imagine that a space mad Year 3 or Year 4 reader will be thrilled to find out about Suzie’s adventures in space. For independent reading. There are more out of this world adventures so Suzie enthusiasts to read.
By Liz Flanagan. Illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton. Published by UCLan.
This new series from Liz Flanagan tells the story of Rowan, whose escapes into the dark forest when her city is at war. Her she learns about her Wildsmith identity and her role in protecting the forest’s fantastical creatures. Our reviewer, Stephen Dilley writes’ Liz Flanagan keeps the action moving but does allow time to explore characters’ emotions – particularly Rowan’s growing awareness of her responsibility to the animals in her care and her acceptance that she will need to put their needs before her own.’ A lovely book to read aloud to a class in year 3 or 4.
Classic and established favourites
The Ice Palace
By Robert Swindells. Published by Penguin Random House.
Ivan lives in a land where the winter is dark and fearful. Starjik, King of Winter, steals Ivan’s little brother and Ivan braves the bitter cold to find him. This classic fantasy based on a traditional story is a lovely read aloud for a year 3 class.
The Worst Witch
By Jill Murphy. Published by Penguin Random House.
Lovable but disaster-prone Mildred is a trainee at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches, but she’s making an awful mess of it. She keeps getting her spells wrong and crashing her broomstick. Jill Murphy’s series about a school for witches has been a favourite class read-aloud for many years
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night
By Allan Ahlberg. Illustrated by Janet Ahlberg. Published by Penguin Random House.
A small boy who has been kidnapped by brigands, passes a dark and stormy night in their cave weaving for them incredible stories of their own exploits. Through the stories, he solves his own problem and manages to escape. A book that embodies the saying ‘stories take us places’. An enjoyable book to share with your class.
Riding a Donkey Backwards
By Sean Taylor. Illustrated by Shirin Adl. Published by Otter-Barry Books.
Why does Mulla Nasruddin spoon yoghurt into the river? What is the reason he rides his donkey backwards? Why does he paint a picture that is blank? These short stories that contain snippets of wisdom, riddles and jokes introduce children to the folkloric character of Nasruddin who is known throughout the Middle East.
After the Fall
By Dan Santat. Illustrated by Dan Santat. Published by Andersen Press.
After the fall, Humpty Dumpty is a broken egg. Life is tough: he’s so afraid of heights. Inspired by bird watching, he decides to try and overcomes his fears. Resilience pays off – a great mindset message for readers in year 3, when persistence is often needed. A picture book that works for this age.
Charlie Changes Into a Chicken
By Sam Copeland. Illustrated by Sarah Horne. Published by Penguin Random House.
Charlie McGuffin has an incredible secret . . . He can change into animals. All sorts of animals: a flea, a pigeon, even a rhino. The trouble is, he can’t decide when – it only happens when he gets worried. This brilliant laugh-out-loud story is a good choice for bringing a class together. Underneath the humour are some serious themes about anxiety, which affect us all at some point.
The Wild Robot
By Peter Brown. Illustrated by Peter Brown. Published by Bonnier Books.
When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is – but she knows she needs to survive. A beautifully and enigmatically written and illustrated novel that works well as a class read-aloud. There are lots of opportunities for discussion themes such as what it means to be human, a topical issue as our developments with AI accelerate.
The Boy Who Grew Dragons
By Andy Shepherd. Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie. Published by Bonnier Books.
A charming story about a young boy who picks a strange fruit in his grandad’s garden and is surprised when it hatches into a baby dragon. Funny and heartwarming it’s a perfect choice for a read aloud in year 3. Confident readers will enjoy reading the story themselves. The text is well-supported by Sara Ogilvie’s characterful illustrations.
The Lost Happy Endings
By Carol Ann Duffy. Illustrated by Jane Ray. Published by Bloomsbury.
What would happen if we lost the happy endings to stories? A wonderful story about the power of stories with poetic text by Carol Ann Duffy and emotional illustration by Jane Ray, with magical contrasts of light and dark. It is a picture book that children can read independently, but it’s a story that will be enriched by sharing and talking with the class or a group.
The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon
By Mini Grey. Illustrated by Mini Grey. Published by Penguin Random House.
Children will be very familiar with the nursery rhyme ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, but in this story, set in the 1920s, the dish and the spoon end up travelling to New York. We follow their rising and falling fortunes before the redemptive feel-good ending. A classic picture book take on Bonnie and Clyde, and although younger readers won’t get all the references to silent movies, there is plenty to explore in the text and images. A delight for children to share in small groups and with the class. This book is one of our choices for our Take One Book resource.
By Eva Ibbotson. Illustrated by Sharon Rentta. Published by Scholastic.
How do you smuggle a family of yetis from Tibet to England? When Agatha Farlingham is kidnapped by a yeti on a mountain in Tibet, she soon discovers that the hairy monster is clever and noble. His children are in danger from the modern world, and he needs her help. Children will enjoy this compelling adventure with its ecological themes. The darker themes that relate to Ibbotson’s own family experience in World War II are there for older readers. A magical warm-hearted class read-aloud.
Emil and the Detectives
By Erich Kastner. Published by Penguin Random House.
The classic prototype story of a child detective. Emil and his group of newfound friends plot to outwit a thief who has stolen Emil’s money. Humourous adventure in which good prevails and the hero, Emil gets a handsome reward. A good choice to read aloud to a class.
The Iron Man
By Ted Hughes. Illustrated by Chris Mould. Published by Faber.
Like all fables, The Iron Man is a story that can be read and enjoyed by a wide age range, and it will carry different meanings according to age and experience. Readers in year 3 will enjoy this story which deals with the important theme of how we respond to people/things we don’t understand. The illustrated version by Chris Mould adds appeal for today’s children.
By Jeannie Baker. Illustrated by Jeannie Baker. Published by Walker Books.
This wordless book by Jeannie Baker is about the regeneration of a neighbourhood through growing and gardening. All ages can appreciate it but it sits well here in year 3. Children will enjoy looking at this book in pairs and small groups. The wordless genre allows all children to participate and offers opportunities for rich language development, irrespective of reading attainment.
The Lion and the Unicorn
By Shirley Hughes. Illustrated by Shirley Hughes. Published by Penguin Random House.
When Lenny’s father goes to fight in the Second World War, he gives his son a brass badge with two animals engraved on it: a lion for bravery and a unicorn for courage. Then, Lenny must go away, as he is evacuated from his home and family to escape the bombing. This longer picture book introduces children to the history of the Second World War in an approachable format and through the eyes of a child of similar age. Told with compassion and stunningly illustrated.