Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to catch up on some reading! But if your students tend to gravitate toward fiction, like my own kids, you might be looking for some nonfiction gems to help balance out those summer reading lists. So let’s check out some summer-themed literary nonfiction books for kids in grades 3-5 that are SURE to be a big hit for summer school, tutoring, and vacations!
For each of these narrative nonfiction books, I’m sharing a quick synopsis with some related topics and SEL areas. All of these will work well as mentor texts, in guided reading groups, or as an addition to your library.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a small commission at no cost to you, which helps me maintain this website.
Shark Lady by Jess Keating
The story of Eugenie Clark, a scientist who spent her life studying sharks in an effort to cast them in a more positive light in the eye of the public.
- women’s history
- animals, oceans
- perseverance & making a difference
Whoosh! by Chris Barton
The story of how engineer Lonnie Johnson (accidentally) invented the Super Soaker!
- engineering design
- STEM (robotics, cooling systems)
The Floating Field by Scott Riley
The story of a group of Thai boys who, inspired by the World Cup, formed their own soccer team. In need of a place to play, they built their own floating soccer field.
- STEM (reusing and recycling, islands, oceans, tides)
- problem-solving & creativity
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
The story of how inventor George Ferris came up with the Ferris wheel, which he debuted at the 1893 World’s Fair.
- amusement park rides
- STEM (wheels and simple machines, engineering, the design process)
- believing in your dreams
Surfer of the Century by Ellie Crowe
The story of Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku, who popularized surfing in the early 20th century.
- surfing, swimming, sports
- hard work & following your passion
Pedal Power by Allan Drummond
The story of how residents in Amsterdam protested for, and achieved, safer biking on city streets.
- bicycling, transportation
- political activism
- fighting for change & teamwork
The Case for Loving by Selina Alko
The story of the Loving family’s fight to change Virginia’s laws against interracial marriage, resulting in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia (1967).
- civil rights
- perseverance & fighting for change
The Leaf Detective by Heather Lang
The story of Margaret Lowman, a scientist who investigated rainforest canopies.
- women’s history
- ecosystems, rainforests, trees
- conservation of Earth’s resources
- overcoming obstacles
Buzzing with Questions by Janice N. Harrington
The story of Charles Henry Turner, the first Black entomologist.
- entomology (the study of insects), biology
- scientific observation and discovery
- curiosity & perseverance
Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin
The story of the Galápagos Islands, a treasure trove of diverse life off the coast of Ecuador.
- volcanos, the formation of islands, Earth’s changes
- ecosystems and organisms
- change over time
If the narrative nonfiction genre is new to your students, be sure to sign up below for a free anchor chart!
I hope you’ve found some titles you’re excited to add to your classroom or home library! These summer literary nonfiction books will make great additions to your ELA lessons and summer reading lists!