Elementary Short Stories To Get Your Students Excited About Reading

Girl smiles at classmate while working on CommonLit lesson.

These short stories from amazing authors like Gary Soto, Amy Tan, and Ralph Fletcher will help your students fall in love with reading!

A love for reading begins with captivating stories. These short stories from CommonLit feature young protagonists that are grappling with problems that your students will easily relate to. These texts feature teen heartbreak, the complexities of friendship, the desire to fit in, and the yearning for independence from one’s parents.

We hope you and your students love these short stories!

Top Picks for Elementary

"The Retake" by Chris Low (3rd Grade)

In this empowering short story, Andy struggles to pass a geography test and feels frustrated that trying to memorize the locations of states isn’t working for him. His teacher realizes that Andy learns differently and shows him how being active can help him study. I love reading this story with students at the beginning of the year to build their confidence by showing them that everyone has different ways of learning.

"A Secret Code" by Christine Henderson (3rd Grade)

In this sweet short story, Amy is worried about what her new classmates will think when they find out her parents are Deaf. It turns out that Evelyn, her new friend, thinks it’s super cool that Amy and her parents talk with their hands. Evelyn even asks Amy to teach her sign language. This is a beautiful story to show students that true friends like you just as you are.

"Funeral" by Ralph Fletcher (5th Grade)

This amazing memoir, written by Ralph Fletcher, takes place on the day that a young Ralph’s family moved from his hometown of Marshfield. On this last day, his friends plan a heartfelt and touching “funeral” for their friend that they know won’t be able to spend time with them anymore. During this “funeral,” Ralph grapples with these friendships that are ending and new friendships that await him on the horizon. This is a meaningful story to show students how changes can be difficult, but they can help you appreciate what you have.

A screenshot of the CommonLit text "Funeral"

Top Picks for Middle School

Seventh Grade” by Gary Soto

This is a humorous short story for middle school that I would always teach at the beginning of the year when I taught 7th grade. The main character of the story is a goofy and lovestruck boy named Victor. On the first day of the new school year, he goes to outrageous lengths to impress his crush, Theresa. Your students will love this engaging and silly story that will open the floodgates for classroom discussions.

Inside Out” by Francisco Jiménez

In this heartfelt and inspiring memoir, Francisco Jiménez shares an experience from his childhood as a first-grader who did not yet speak English and struggled to connect with his peers at school. He recounts the story of his first few months at school, including a fight he got in, a friend he made, and how he slowly began to feel more comfortable in school as the year progressed. This short story with dialogue about friendship emphasizes the importance of building community and making new classmates feel included. It is a great story to teach students about overcoming obstacles and becoming more confident.

A screenshot of the CommonLit text "Inside Out"

Top Picks for High School

Rules of the Game” by Amy Tan

In this excerpt from the well-known novel The Joy Luck Club, Waverly is determined to learn how to play chess. Over time, she becomes a skilled player and wins lots of tournaments. Waverly’s mother, though, pushes her to practice more and more. Waverly feels suffocated by her mother’s pride and chafes against the pressure. This is a great text with a coming-of-age theme for students who are growing up and potentially experiencing changes in their own relationships with their families.

Safety of Numbers” by Lucy Tan

High schoolers will relate to the narrator of this short story, who is trying to balance her mother’s demands and her growing sense of independence. As the narrator prepares for the SATs, she decides that after the test, she’ll head to New York for an adventure with her best friend. Many students will relate to the narrator’s realization that it’s important to balance playing it safe and taking risks in life.

Next Steps

Looking for more short stories to get students excited about reading? Browse the CommonLit library!

Interested in learning all about CommonLit’s free online reading comprehension program? Join one of our upcoming webinars.

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