Outstanding Books for Second Graders


I have just finished up my “Reading and Writing Through the Year” shared reading curriculum for second graders.  And whew!  It was quite a project!  The curriculum takes you through an entire school year of teaching students to comprehend fiction and nonfiction texts, as well as respond to those texts in writing.  Each week has 2-3 lessons written out for you, and then suggestions for books and materials for the remainder of the week.

One of the best things about writing this curriculum was that it gave me a chance to do some research and learn more about outstanding children’s literature.  I have my all-time favorite books, of course, but for this curriculum, I really wanted to incorporate a variety of award-winning, truly excellent books.  So I perused a few books on children’s literature, searched online, and scoured book reviews to find the best of the best.  There are so many wonderful children’s books out there that of course it was impossible to include all the great ones!  But here is a list of the 45 outstanding books that I used to create lessons.  I have organized them by the second grade Common Core standards, so if you use my curriculum, note that these are not listed in order!  The actual curriculum does contain a list of the texts in order (and a additional list of even more suggested texts for each skill).

RL.2.1 (Ask & answer questions)
Fortunately(Remy Charlip)
The Sign Painter(Allen Say)

RL.2.2 (Retell & moral)
They Thought They Saw Him(Craig Kee Strete) – no moral, but good for retelling
Too Many Tamales(Gary Soto)
Tops & Bottoms (Janet Stevens)
The Empty Pot (Demi)
Stone Soup (Jon J. Muth)

RL.2.3 (Character challenge / problem & solution)
The Empty Pot(Demi)
Thank You, Mr. Falker(Patricia Polacco)
The Name Jar (Yangsook Choi)
Chrysanthemum (Kevin Henkes)
Halmoni’s Day(Edna Coe Bercaw)

RL.2.4 (Poetry)
A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children(selected by Caroline Kennedy)
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children(selected by Jack Prelutsky)
Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings(Shel Silverstein)

RL.2.5 (Story structure)
Nate the Great and the Monster Mess(Marjorie Weinman Sharmat)
The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash(Trinka Hakes Noble)
Boxes for Katje(Candace Fleming)

RL.2.6 (Point of view)
The Pain and the Great One (Judy Blume)
Mirette on the High Wire(Emily Arnold McCully)
My Name Is Yoon(Helen Recorvits)
Fox and His Friends (Edward Marshall)

RL.2.7 (Using illustrations & words)
Strega Nona(Tomie dePaola)
Boxes for Katje (Candace Fleming)
Little Red Riding Hood(Jerry Pinkney)

RL.2.9 (Compare & contrast stories)
Little Red Riding Hood(Jerry Pinkney) AND Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China(Ed Young)
The Boy Who Cried Wolf (Aesop’s Fables)(Mary Berendes) AND The Wolf Who Cried Boy(Bob Hartman)
Cinderella (Cynthia Rylant) AND The Talking Eggs(Robert D. San Souci)

RI.2.1 (Ask & answer questions)
Mummies, Pyramids, and Pharaohs: A Book About Ancient Egypt(Gail Gibbons)

RI.2.2 (Main idea/topic)
Ice Cream: The Full Scoop(Gail Gibbons)
Snowflake Bentley (Jacqueline Briggs Martin)

RI.2.3 (Connection between ideas)
When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson(Pam Muñoz Ryan)
Sunken Treasure (Gail Gibbons)
Germs Make Me Sick! (Melvin Berger)

RI.2.5 (Text features)
Manatees/Manatíes (Animals That Live in the Ocean/Animales Que Viven En El Oceano)(Valerie Weber)
I Am a Whale: The Life of a Humpback Whale (I Live in the Ocean)(Darlene R. Stille)
Bats (Nocturnal Animals)(J. Angelique Johnson)

RI.2.6 (Author’s purpose)
Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum(Meghan McCarthy)
Bats(Gail Gibbons)

RI.2.7 (Images in a text)
How Big Were Dinosaurs?(Lita Judge)
The Milk Makers(Gail Gibbons)

RI.2.8 (Author’s reasons)
Be a Friend to Trees (Patricia Lauber)

RI.2.9 (Compare & contrast texts)
How Big Were Dinosaurs? (Lita Judge) AND Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs (Kathleen V. Kudlinski)
The Milk Makers (Gail Gibbons) AND Clarabelle: Making Milk and So Much More(Cris Peterson)

If you are looking for some guidance in teaching the Common Core reading standards and getting kids to respond to texts in writing, check out the curriculum (click on the image below).

If you are looking for reading workshop strategy minilessons that go along with the curriculum, I have units that correspond with the curriculum {click HERE for Unit 1}.

If you have other wonderful books to add to the list, please feel free to comment below!  Happy teaching!


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7 years ago

Hi Alison, seems like you’re the right person to ask… I need to do a unit on ccss RI.2.9 using books at level H. What titles would you suggest. I’m looking for two non-fiction texts on the same topic that are of high interest to a second grader. Thanks in advance!!!

Jessie DeLapp
6 years ago

Hi! I adore this resource and have used it religiously this year. I have shared it with my teammates to use as needed and I also would like to share with the first grade team at my school, IF there were a first grade common core version of this same thing. Is there, by chance, a list for first grade reading standards as well? Thank you so much!

5 years ago

I am a third grade teacher and really love how you suggest to set up a balanced literacy block. I am structuring my block using your schedule. We are using the Jennifer Seravallo reading strategies for my mini lesson. I use a basal reader for my shared reading. You had mentioned that you have students work independently on the shared reading assignment while you pull a guided reading group. I would love your help in explaining how this works each day of the week. 🙂


I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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