Good realistic fiction books for kindergarten to 3rd graders. These books are suitable for beginner readers age 5-8 year-olds.

realistic fiction books - kindergarten to 3rd graders - featured image

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Best Realistic Fiction Books for K-3rd Graders (Picture Books)

Beautiful illustrated realistic fiction picture books for beginner readers of kindergarten to 3rd grade.

Those Shoes

Realistic fiction picture book

Those Shoes. Jeremy wants a new pair of shoes like the one everyone has at school. He is determined to have that, while his grandma tries to explain that they may have just enough for ‘need’ and not ‘want’. In the end, Jeremy does realize what is truly valuable in life – a loving family, friendship. A must-read book for today’s kids brought up in the consumeristic world.

Third Grade Angels

Third Grade Angels - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Third Grade Angels. George has entered the third grade. When his teacher Mrs. Simms holds a competition to award the best-behaved student- George, is determined to win the first prize. But being well behaved all the time is not easy. Should he be nice even outside school as well? Even to his annoying little sister?

A warm story every child in a new grade would relate to. The chapters end with a cliffhanger to keep students hooked for more.


Skinnybones - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Skinnybones. This book from Barbara Park has been a favorite of children and teachers for thirty years and sold 1 million+ copies.

Alex Frankovitch’s big bragging mouth gets him into trouble. How would he come out of this mess now? Find out in this laugh riot storybook. The protagonist’s character is etched well. He is a troublemaker at school and funny.

The topic of bullying is covered from a fun angle. It is an excellent book for the classroom.

Going Places

Realistic fiction picture book

Going Places. There is a go-kart contest at school, where kids received identical kits to build one, race, and win. However, Maya does not copy others. Using her imagination and teaming up with another friend, she creates something different looking.

This is a good relatable story – encouraging kids to think out of the box. This contemporary realistic fiction book is suitable for 5-8 year-olds.

Freedom Soup

Realistic fiction book for grades 1-3

Freedom Soup. Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the Freedom Soup – just like the one her own grandmother taught her when she was a little girl.

The soup is made as a celebration of the Haitian Revolution.

While the soup is being made, To Gran is telling Belle about her roots, history of Haiti, her family, etc. A book celebrating love and cultural traditions passed through generations.

The Paperboy

Realistic fiction book for grades 1-3 - The paperboy

The Paperboy is a Caldecott Honor- award winning picture book. A boy leaves early morning to deliver newspapers, accompanied by his dog.

As they continue the routine day after day, the child and the dog share a special bond in the solitude of early morning when everything else is asleep.

Grace for President

Realistic fiction book for grades 1-3 - Grace for President

Grace for President. The United States has never had a female president. A surprised Grace, hearing that, decides to break that and become the first female president.

To practice, first, she plans to participate in the school’s mock election.

However, it is just not easy to break the deep-rooted patriarchy, even at the school level. But, Grace is determined and is ready to put in the hard work she needs to win.

I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem

Realistic fiction book for grades 1-3 on Self Esteem

I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem This book tells kids to love themselves first, no matter what.

Narrating the story through the viewpoint of a boy and a girl, the author states different scenarios that may not seem ideal – but still one should always love self.

Get chosen last in the sports team, maybe not as good as others in running and many more. It is a timely book teaching about self-esteem.

Bad Bye, Good Bye

Realistic fiction book for grades k-3 on changes

Bad Bye, Good Bye. Changes are hard, especially moving places. The story narrates how a boy is sad about waving byes to all familiar things.

However, his mood lightens up upon meeting new friends, new sets of welcoming surroundings, etc. It is suitable for early elementary kids going through changes in life.

Soccer Star

Realistic fiction book for K-3 on soccer

Soccer Star. Paulo plans to become a famous soccer star one day. Once he achieves success, his mother can finally stop working these long hours.

But for now, Paulo is busy the entire day working in a fishing boat and helping in other household work, and taking care of his younger sister. While his other teammates are also busy doing other chores to support the family.

This story showcases the need for dreaming and keeping hope alive through challenging situations.

The ending of the sister kicking the winning goal, when a teammate is hurt, perfectly scores a point about gender equality. A perfect read-aloud and independent read for kids 5 to 8-year-olds.

New Kid

New Kid - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

New Kid. Jordan Banks likes to draw cartoons. However, his struggle starts when his parents enroll him in a new prestigious private school.

Being one of the only few kids of color is not easy. Read on how Jordon navigates this change in life with usual middle school problems.

The book has Jordon’s drawings throughout that are honest and hilarious. The story showcases the struggle of kids from diverse backgrounds to fit it beautifully.

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story. The story narrates the tale of four kids and how their life intertwines before and after the tragic September 11, 2001 event. These four kids come from completely diverse backgrounds. One is struggling with an absentee father, while another’s dies in a car accident.

The other two kids have their challenges starting in a new school, with one being a Muslim girl with a headscarf. Read on to see how their stories intersect, and their lives change. The writing is honest and emotional.

This one is a perfect book for kids who have never known about the ‘before’ part of this tragic event.

Fish in a Tree

Fish in a Tree - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Fish in a Tree. The name of the book says it all. This heart-touching story is about a dyslexic girl Ally. Her father’s frequent transfers never let her stay in a single school for long.

In all the new schools she goes to, she avoids reading and writing by creating distractions. She is low in confidence about her capability, and her dyslexia never gets diagnosed.

The story starts when a new teacher joins the school, and he realizes the truly creative potential Ally has.

The book shows how a kind and good teacher can change children’s lives for the better. This one is a good read for struggling early elementary graders.

A Different Pond

A Different Pond - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

A Different Pond. This one is a touching story about a Vietnamese immigrant father and son, who go fishing early in the morning.

The catches were not for recreation, rather meant to feed the family.

The illustrations by Thi Bui weave life into the story. A poignant book- subtly touching subjects of diversity, different culture, immigration, etc. A heart-warming story for kids 5 to 8 year-olds.

How to Steal a Dog

How to Steal a Dog -image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

How to Steal a Dog. A homeless girl wants to secure a house for herself, her mother, and her little brother. An opportunity presented itself when she sees a missing dog picture with a reward.

The only thing she has to do now is to find the ‘right’ dog or maybe ‘borrow’.

The story consequently touchingly narrates the moral conflict the child faces, and the hard choice she has to make.

It is thought-provoking and inspirational. The sensitive subject, which many kids face in their life, is handled beautifully by the author.

It is an insightful easy chapter book for beginner readers.

Measuring Up

Measuring Up - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Measuring Up. This book gives a pleasant twist to the topic of diversity. Cici moves from Taiwan to America and makes new friends at school.

However, she wants to surprise her grandmother on her birthday by buying a flight ticket for her. To earn money, she enters a cooking competition at school.

Read the story to find out what happens during this competition. Between her Taiwan food cooking for the American friends, and her bossy teammate, she has a lot on her plate.

The book subtly touches on the topics of making friends, family love, food, culture – without being too preachy. A feel-good storybook.


WALK - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

WALK. The best learnings happen outside the classroom in the real world, as the boy Jamie Bacon discovers.

When Jamie grudgingly agrees to go on a 500 miles walk in Spain as part of their homeschooling plan, he had no idea how his view would change forever.

Join the little boy in his walking adventure as he marvels at the architecture of castles, churches, caves. Janie meets pilgrims on the way and learns about legends and history.

He also discovers the heroic side of himself while he ends up saving a puppy, a child, helps his mother out of a panic attack, and more.

The book throws a sweet surprise in the end. It is a story for inquisitive and adventurous kids.

One for the Murphys

One for the Murphys - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

One for the Murphys. This one is a powerful story about a tween girl named Carley. She is in foster care. Carley learns to take care of her emotional and physical well-being by putting a wall around.

However, when placed in the foster care of the Murphy family, she comes to realize how true love and family feel.

The journey of Carley is believable and handled with lots of vulnerability, love, and care. The ending is realistic and not the typical happily ever after.


Watercress - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Watercress. A girl learns about her family root and heritage while the entire family stops to collect wild watercress on an Ohio roadside.

A beautifully illustrated tale about immigrant children growing up in America and discovering her motherland roots. The simple story is for early Elementary kids.

White Water

White Water - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

White Water. A fiction story set in the year 1962 – a racial segregation era in America. The story is simple.

A black boy drinks the water of a fountain to quench his thirst. And realized that it tasted dirty. His longing for the water from the ‘white fountain’ showcases the division that existed in society.

The story is based on the real-life childhood experience of the author.

My Papi Has a Motorcycle

My Papi Has a Motorcycle - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

My Papi Has a Motorcycle. A small child Daisy waits every day for her father to come home and take her on a motorcycle ride around the city.

Through the changes happening around the city, the girl realizes that this is her home. Irrespective of all the changes, this remains the place she loves.

With vivid illustrations, the book depicts a vibrant city. This picture book is for early elementary kids.


Twins - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Twins. This story is about twins Maureen and Francine. They are best friends and do everything together.

But just as middle school starts, Francine tries to fit in with the crowd and carve a place for herself. Find out if the pressure of middle school will break the girls’ bonding.

Career Day

Career Day - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Career Day. A child – Simone, learns about the options she has in the STEAM career. A beautifully illustrated book for children, especially girls, to follow their dreams.

Binny’s Diwali

Binny's Diwali - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

Binny’s Diwali. A book for kids about the Indian festival Diwali. This book depicts the parts of Diwali- the current generation of children can relate to.

It is a visual treat, as the festival of Diwali is.

The Sweetest Season

The Sweetest Season - image of a realistic fiction book for 1st, 2nd, 3rd graders

The Sweetest Season. How does everyone’s favorite maple syrup get made? Follow the story of a father and daughter as they harvest sap from trees for maple syrup.

The rhyming book is enjoyable to read. And the pictures depict the early springtime in the forest beautifully. A beautiful picture book for 5 to 8-year-olds.

How to introduce the realistic fiction books to Elementary Kids?

Here are few ways parents and educators can introduce realistic fiction books to kids.

  • Always proofread the book before handing it over to the child to decide if the content matches the child’s emotional maturity level.
  • Discuss with your kid the topic handled in the book, and make him or her know that you are available for a talk if needed.
  • Ask questions frequently to understand if the child could comprehend the subject matter as intended.
  • Follow up with another book of the same and next level if your child enjoyed reading this book. Or bring down a level if the content was too mature.
  • Explore variety when choosing books.

Why is realistic fiction a good genre?

The realistic fiction stories cover a broad range of topics reflecting everyday happenings, issues, resolutions. The characters are relatable and stories believable, making it easier for the readers to connect to them. This genre makes it easier to educate and drive home a point about any issue.