The Common Core includes a list of exemplar texts to illustrate the level of complexity and quality that students should engage with in a given grade band.
You can go beyond the exemplars with our list of classic fiction arranged according to grade level bands and genres.
The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders
Jack Prelutsky (Greenwillow Books, 2005)
Poems about people and animals in far-flung places
Touch the Poem
Arnold Adoff (Blue Sky Press, 2000)
These seasonal-themed poems appeal to the five senses.
Douglas Florian (Greenwillow Books, 1999)
Poems and pictures capture how winter feels to a small child, from “sloppy slush” to wind “that hustles rusty leaves along.”
Jeremy Tankard (Scholastic, 2007)
This refreshingly original picture book will help students giggle away their sour moods as they become successful readers.
Ian Falconer (Atheneum, 2000)
The charming story of Olivia, an energetic young pig who unwittingly gets into trouble
The Three Ninja Pigs
Corey Rosen Schwartz (Putnam, 2012)
A fractured fairy tale that combines smart-aleck dialogue and tongue-in-cheek rhymes
Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick, 2003)
A frustrated young artist is advised by her teacher to “make a mark and see where it takes you.”
David Shannon (Blue Sky Press, 1998)
Follow David through his mischievous day. Illustrations support the text, helping young students feel like successful readers.
The Snowy Day
Ezra Jack Keats (Puffin reprint, 1976)
In this classic picture book, a boy finds many ways to have fun when his city turns into a winter wonderland.
Norman Bridwell (Scholastic)
Enjoy the big red dog’s many adventures, from celebrating his birthday to visiting the firehouse. Compare and contrast his experiences for Common Core skills practice.
Fly Guy (series)
Tedd Arnold (Scholastic)
With large type and hilarious illustrations, these Geisel Honor-winning beginning reader adventures about a boy and his pet fly are a perfect entry-point to reading.
Baseball Saved Us
Ken Mochizuki (Delacourte, 1999)
When Shorty and his family are forced into a World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans, they boost everyone’s spirits by playing baseball.
Sleds on Boston Common: A Story from the American Revolution
Louise Borden (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2000)
A lyrical reworking of an apparent 1774 encounter between boys out sledding and British soldiers
The New Kid on the Block
Jack Prelutsky (Greenwillow, 1984)
Prelutsky’s hilarious collection of poems includes kid favorites about homework, siblings, food, and more.
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 1975)
Readers will meet unforgettable characters, including a boy who turns into a TV set and a girl who eats a whale.
Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon
Paula Danziger (Puffin, 2006)
A spunky third-grader tries to cope when her best friend moves away.
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Beverly Cleary (HarperCollins, 1992)
Even though Ramona feels quite grown up, her teacher still considers her a nuisance. Why?
Patricia Polacco (Puffin, 1997)
A grandmother helps her granddaughter overcome fears about a storm by helping her prepare a special cake.
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti
Gerald McDermott (Henry Holt & Co., 1972)
This story of Anansi, a lovable trickster who triumphs over bigger foes, comes from West Africa.
The Sea King's Daughter: A Russian Legend
Aaron Shepard (Atheneum, 1997)
The enchanting story of Sadko, a legendary Russian musician in a medieval city
The Phantom Toolboth
Norton Juster (Yearling, 1961)
An ingengious fantasy that centers around Milo, a bored 10-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollboth sitting in his room
The Tail of Emily Windsap
Liz Kessler (Candlewick, 2004)
After taking swimming lessons, a girl discovers that she’s actually a mermaid.
Patricia Beatty (Troll, 1996)
A New York City boy runs away to join the Union Army during the Civil War.
Elijah of Buxton
Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic, 2007)
Born into freedom in a Canadian settlement of runaway slaves, Elijah embarks on a dangerous journey to the U.S. to free other captives. A Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award Winner.
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg
Rodman Philbrick (Scholastic, 2009)
In this picaresque, Mark Twain-like adventure, an orphan sets off to follow his only brother into the thick of the Civil War. A Newbery Honor Book.
Poetry for Young People
Langston Hughes (Sterling Children's Books, 2013)
A newly-published collection of 26 poems by the great African-American poet is accompanied by vibrant illustrations.
Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook
Shel Silverstein (HarperCollins, 2005)
This playful book is populated by the likes of Runny Babbit, Toe Jurtle, and Ploppy Sig, among other amusing characters.
Blue Balliett (Scholastic, 2004)
Newsweek hailed this smart, bewitching mystery as a “Da Vinci Code for tweens.” Readers use critical thinking skills to solve hidden puzzles.
Freak the Mighty
Rodman Philbrick (Scholastic, 1993)
Two boys—a slow-witted giant and a tiny Einstein in leg braces—team up to confront the bullies.
Island of the Blue Dolphins
A 12-year-old girl is stranded alone on a Pacific island.
The Lemonade War
Jacqueline Davies (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)
Sibling entrepreneurs learn about themselves and each other as they compete to earn more money before the first day of school.
Cynthia Lord (Scholastic, 2006)
In this heartwarming, Newbery Honor-winning novel, a girl learns to accept, and even appreciate, her autistic younger brother.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Bantam, 1992)
Marty fights to protect a beagle from the mean-spirited owner who abused it.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (series)
Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books, 2007)
Hilarious tales of boys on the brink of adolescence
Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger (series)
Louis Sachar (HarperCollins, 1996)
The adventures keep coming in the world's wackiest school.
Abe Lincoln in Illinois: A Play in Twelve Scenes
Robert Emmet Sherwood (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2007)
The life of Lincoln, as told in a 1939 Pulitzer-Prize-winning drama
Aristophanes (Dover Publications, 2012)
Disenchanted with the corruption of their native Athens, a pair of friends unite with the birds to found an idyllic city in the clouds. Widely acknowledged as Aristophanes' masterpiece.
Eoin Colfer (Miramax, 2002)
Technologically advanced fairies work hard to conceal their existence from humans, but a genius 12-year-old is onto them.
The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
C. S. Lewis (HarperCollins, 2010)
A series of seven books, originally published between 1950 and 1956, tells the gripping story of children in Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals.
Harry Potter (series)
J. K. Rowling (Scholastic)
This extraordinarily popular series of seven fantasy novels recounts the adventures of a young wizard and his quirky friends.
Pam Munoz Ryan (Scholastic, 2000)
During the Great Depression, tragedy forces Esperanza and her mother to leave Mexico for California, where they struggle to make new lives as farmworkers.
Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon & Schuster, 2002)
The 1793 yellow fever epidemic turns a Philadelphia teen’s life upside down.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown, 2012))
A Native American teenager growing up on a reservation decides to attend an all-white high school.
The Hunger Games (series)
Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2010)
This trilogy set in post-apocalyptic North America revolves around a teenage girl who is forced to participate in a televised fight to the death.
Stormbreaker (Alex Rider series)
Anthony Horowitz (Puffin)
Follow Alex Rider, a 14-year-old British spy, as he ingeniously solves a series of mysteries.
The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou (Random House, 1994)
The former U.S. poet laureate comments on love, traveling, and aging.
Out of the Dust
Karen Hesse (Scholastic, 1997)
Luminous poetry conveys the struggles of a girl in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. A Newbery Medal Winner.
Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller (Penguin, 1996)
A struggling salesman is disillusioned by life and his family.
August Wilson (Consortium, 2007)
A black family tries to put down roots in an industrial U.S. city in the 1950s.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare (McDougal Littel, 2002)
In this comedic work, fairies interfere with the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta.
The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger (Back Bay Books; Reissue edition, 2001)
Sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield roams New York City after being expelled from prep school.
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes (Mariner Books, 2005)
The beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an unusual lab mouse
The Grapes of Wrath
John Steinbeck (Viking, 1939)
This Pultizer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family driven from their homestead and forced to travel west.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Carson McCullers (Mariner, 2004)
A man who can neither hear nor speak becomes the confidant for various misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s.
Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck (Penguin, 1993)
Two workers try to fulfill their dreams during the Great Depression.
The War of the Worlds
H.G. Wells (Ballantine, 1953)
Londoners panic when extraterrestrials arrive on Earth.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Robert Frost (Henry Holt, 1979)
Frost acknowledges the fleeting nature of youth and innocence.
Edgar Allan Poe (KCP Poetry, 2006)
The narrator dwells on his lover’s death and convinces himself that his grief will never subside.
And Still I Rise
Maya Angelou (Random House, 1978)
The narrator discusses how grace and confidence trump oppression.
Sun Under Wood
Robert Hass (Ecco, 1999)
A second, highly-acclaimed volume of poetry from a former Poet Laureate
Where I Live: New & Selected Poems, 1990-2010
Maxine Kumin (W. W. Norton & Company, 2011)
Exquisite observations about farm and family life in New Hampshire
Brighton Beach Memoirs
Neil Simon (Plume, Reprint edition, 1995)
Fifteen-year-old Eugene Jerome and his family fight hard times and each other—with laughter, tears, and love—during the Great Depression.
Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare (Scholastic, 2004)
This timeless romantic tragedy tells the story of lovers who defy their feuding families rather than live apart.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Tennessee Williams (New Directions, 1947)
When a fading Southern belle visits her sister in a raucous area of New Orleans, her delusions of grandeur lead to mental and emotional turmoil.
Toni Morrison (Random House, 1987)
This Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel was inspired by the true story of an escaped slave who killed her daughter rather then let the child be recaptured.
Charles Dickens (Puffin, 2010)
A chance encounter with an escaped convict dramatically alters the course of a young orphan’s life.
The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead Books, 2003)
Amir must deal with long-buried guilt about his past when he returns to his native Afghanistan to help his friend’s son.
The Last of the Mohicans
James Fenimore Cooper (Bantam Classics, 1982)
A historical novel set during the French and Indian War.
Sense and Sensibility
Jane Austen (Penguin Classics, 2003)
This story centers on two very different sisters and their efforts to balance passion with reason.
Sharon Olds (Knopf, 1992)
The death of her father sparks an extraordinary attentiveness in this remarkable poet.
White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006
Donald Hall (Ecco, 1999)
A wonderful introduction to the work of a former Poet Laureate