7 Best Fiction and Nonfiction Book Pairings for Older Students

Today, let’s chat about my top picks for fiction and nonfiction book pairings tailored for the older crew. Specifically, those spirited 4th to 7th graders. Guiding these students into the magical realms of both fiction and nonfiction is a special task. As they navigate this pivotal age range, I’ve found that while fiction tends to steal the spotlight, coaxing a 6th grader into exploring nonfiction can be quite a rewarding challenge.

In my experience, the key to successful book pairings for this age group lies in aligning the reading choices with their individual interests. To spice things up, I often turn the decision-making process into a fun activity. I often conduct a poll to unravel the topics that spark their curiosity and get them excited. So, together, let’s unravel how book pairings captivate our older students as they journey through fiction and nonfiction texts!

Oh and before we jump in, if you’re looking for fiction and nonfiction book pairings for your students in the lower grades, make sure to reach 5 Best Fiction and Nonfiction Book Pairings for Younger Students. Now without further ado, let’s dive into this topic!

Why Book Pairings Are Beneficial for Older Students

As students venture into the upper elementary and middle school years, the impact of book pairings becomes an invaluable ally in their literary journey. Here’s why this works wonders with our 4th to 7th graders.

1. Holistic Learning Experience

Book pairings create a holistic learning experience that goes beyond the confines of traditional lessons. By combining fiction and nonfiction on the same topic, students are immersed in a comprehensive exploration. They gain a well-rounded understanding of the given topic.

2. Book Pairings Enhance Critical Thinking

The comparative nature of book pairings strengthens critical thinking skills. When students engage with both fiction and nonfiction perspectives, they naturally begin to analyze, compare, and contrast information. This process encourages them to think more deeply about the content.

3. Catering to Diverse Interests

Older students have a vast array of interests waiting to be kindled. Book pairings allow us to tailor lessons that cater to these diverse preferences. Whether it’s sports, space, or current world events, matching fiction and nonfiction books ensures that every student finds a topic that relates to their individual passions.

4. Bridging Imagination with Reality Through Book Pairings

In the upper grades, students are at a unique stage where their imaginations are still vibrant, yet they’re increasingly drawn to real-world knowledge. Book pairings bridge the gap between the whimsical realms of fiction and the factual landscapes of nonfiction. This provides a seamless transition that captures their evolving interests.

5. Fostering a Love for Both Genres

At this age, students often lean toward fiction due to its storytelling allure. However, exposing them to well-curated book pairings nurtures an appreciation for the informative depths of nonfiction. It’s about striking a balance and instilling a love for both genres to ensure students become well-rounded readers.

7 Best Fiction and Nonfiction Book Pairings for Older Students

Before we begin exploring the chosen book pairings, I want to share that each pairing bridges the gap between fiction and nonfiction. My students have enjoyed these books during their library time with me. I love engaging with them, listening to their connections, and guiding them through their comparisons as the world of reading opens up to them! If you’re looking for new ways to excite your upper elementary readers, these lists will be a surefire way to do so!

Swans – Amazing Animals

By: Valerie Bodden (NONFICTION)

In this nonfiction text, Bodden unveils the secrets of swans, from their striking physical characteristics to their remarkable behaviors in different ecosystems. Your readers will be enthralled by vivid descriptions of swans gracefully gliding across tranquil lakes and their intricate courtship rituals.

She sheds light on their unique adaptations, migratory patterns, and the crucial role they play in maintaining ecological balance. Each page invites curious minds to learn about the diverse species of swans and their distinctive features.

Book pairing match:

The Trumpet of the Swan

By: E. B. White (FICTION)

Step into the magical world created by E.B. White in “The Trumpet of the Swan,” where the protagonist, Louis, a trumpeter swan, faces a unique challenge. He is born without the ability to vocalize. White’s storytelling unfolds a captivating narrative as Louis, armed with determination and a love for music, embarks on a quest to find his voice. As Louis navigates a world where communication is key, the novel becomes a celebration of overcoming obstacles and finding one’s place in the grand orchestra of life.

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams 

by: Lisa Cline-Ransome (NONFICTION)

Get ready for an ace of a read with Lisa Cline-Ransome’s nonfiction gem, “Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams.” Dive into the riveting narrative of two powerhouses who didn’t just conquer the tennis court but redefined the game. Venus and Serena Williams often hailed as not just tennis legends but among the greatest athletes in history, didn’t start at the top. Oh no, before the glitz and glam, they were just two little girls with huge dreams.

Fiction and nonfiction book pairings like Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams and Sisters First bring to life the bond between sisters and focus on real world sisters who overcome immense challenges.

As your readers flip through the pages, they’ll witness the evolution of a dynamic duo. Venus and Serena, two peas in a pod, best friends and sisters on a mission to leave an indelible mark on the sports world. Cline-Ransome’s storytelling brings to life the journey of these game-changers, unveiling the grit, determination, and unwavering bond that propelled them from childhood dreams to global icons.

Book pairing match:

Sisters First 

by: Jenna Bush Hager & Barbara Pierce Bush (FICTION)

Step into the heartwarming world of sisterhood with the fiction tale “Sisters First” by Jenna Bush Hager & Barbara Pierce Bush. Imagine a young girl’s wish coming true as a new sister enters her life. In this enchanting narrative, the newborn may not be able to do much initially, but as time unfolds, a magical bond blossoms between the big and little siblings.

As your readers immerse themselves in the pages, they’ll witness the inseparable connection that grows. The story unfolds to reveal the extraordinary impact of sisterhood. By each other’s sides, the sisters discover depths within themselves they never knew existed. They become not only smarter, kinder, and braver but forge a bond that goes beyond the ordinary. Through the ups and downs, they navigate life as forever sisters first. Using these books together will help your students see the unique bond that siblings have, and how it shapes our lives.

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents 

by: Kate Messner (NONFICTION)

Next up, your readers will explore the world of leadership and limitless possibilities with Kate Messner’s nonfiction masterpiece, “The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents.” This inspiring and informative journey through America’s presidential history opens young minds to the captivating tales of past leaders while sparking curiosity about the future.

Messner’s narrative unfolds as an exploration of potential, posing the thought-provoking question, “Who will be the NEXT president?” The book invites young readers to envision themselves in the shoes of future leaders, igniting dreams and aspirations. With a fascinating historical backdrop, Messner reveals intriguing facts about the lives of past presidents and the diverse paths that led them to the highest office.

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America's Presidents and My Teacher for President are great fiction and nonfiction book pairings to have older students read during an election year or when you are focusing on learning about the U.S. government.

From the early days of George Washington to the more recent presidency of JFK, Messner beautifully illustrates that the journey to leadership can take various forms. As she paints a vivid picture of the spirit of future leaders alive today, readers are encouraged to dream big and recognize that change-makers may be among them.

Whether shooting hoops like Barack Obama or nurturing gardens like Dwight D. Eisenhower, these future leaders, with a passion for solving problems, reading books, making art, or already initiating change, embody what it means to aspire to the highest office in the land. Messner’s narrative is a call to action for the dreamers, thinkers, and changemakers of tomorrow.

Book pairing match:

My Teacher for President 

By: Kay Winters (FICTION)

As election season buzzes in the air, Kay Winters’ delightful fiction tale presents a nomination that teachers and students alike will wholeheartedly endorse. In the meantime, meet Oliver, a student whose classroom takes a whimsical turn as he pictures his teacher as the ideal candidate for the presidency.

Just in time for the excitement of elections, Oliver’s teacher becomes the focus of his imaginative campaign. Through Oliver’s eyes, readers are introduced to the qualities that make his teacher a perfect presidential nominee. She not only harbors a love for white houses but is also accustomed to being followed everywhere. This is a trait Oliver deems crucial for a leader. Attending numerous meetings, finding jobs for people, and advocating for peace, Oliver’s teacher embodies the qualities that make her the ideal candidate in his eyes. Your students will love reading this one alongside its nonfiction paring to compare and contrast presidential qualities.

George and Martha Round and Round 

by: James Marshall (FICTION)

Up next on our list, is the delightful world of James Marshall’s fiction gem, “George and Martha Round and Round.” Two lovable hippos, George and Martha, take center stage with their heartwarming and enduring friendship.

Do you have students who love animals? Include the fiction and nonfiction book pairing Owen & Mzee The Language of Friendship and George and Martha Round and Round in your library.

In this narrative, your readers are invited into the adventures of George and Martha in which two hippos bond goes beyond the ordinary. As the pages turn, Marshall unfolds the moments that define their friendship, from laughter to shared secrets, the ups, and the downs. George and Martha are a dynamic duo whose camaraderie stands as a testament to the strength of true friendship. With humor, Marshall makes readers of all ages smile at the quirky antics and connection between these two beloved hippos.

Book pairing match:

Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship 

by: Isabella Hatkoff (NONFICTION)

Your readers will follow a heartwarming journey with Isabella Hatkoff’s nonfiction sequel, “Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship.” This is an exciting follow-up to a New York Times bestselling story because it’s about an orphaned baby hippo named Owen and his 130-year-old giant turtle companion, Mzee. In this book, our readers learn the language of love, friendship, and nurturance that connects these two incredible creatures.

As they turn the pages, Hatkoff unfolds the narrative of Owen and Mzee’s first year together while showcasing their ways. The book not only captures the endearing moments of their companionship but also explores the unique “language” they have developed. It’s a silent yet profound form of communication.

Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky

By: Faith Ringgold (FICTION)

Journey through history with Faith Ringgold’s fiction masterpiece, “Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky.” In this tale, Cassie, who once soared above New York in “Tar Beach,” takes flight once more. This time with her brother Be Be by her side. As they encounter a train full of people, Be Be decides to join them but the train departs before Cassie can climb aboard.

Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky and A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman are wonderful fiction and nonfiction book pairings to include in your classroom or school library.

With Harriet Tubman as her guide, Cassie’s adventure unfolds as an exploration of the real Underground Railroad. Ringgold skillfully weaves a narrative that retraces the steps of escaping enslaved people. By doing so, Ringgold provides your readers with a window into the historical struggles and triumphs of those seeking freedom. As the story ends, Cassie’s reunion with her brother adds a touch of warmth and hope to the tale. Cassie’s journey becomes a testament to the resilience and bravery of those who traveled the perilous path to liberty.

Book pairing match:

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman

By: David A. Adler (NONFICTION)

David A. Adler’s nonfiction gem unveils the extraordinary life of a confident and fearless woman who left an indelible mark on history. From her rebellious childhood to her daring escape from slavery, Tubman’s journey becomes an inspiring narrative that rings with courage and resilience.

As your readers dive into the pages, Adler skillfully recounts Tubman’s unwavering commitment to freedom. While heading North in search of a life unshackled, Tubman risked her own safety time and again to lead others out of the clutches of slavery. The book describes the remarkable dedication she showed. She also guided almost three hundred individuals along the network of safe havens known as the Underground Railroad.

The One and Only Ivan

By: Katherine Applegate (FICTION)

This is a fan favorite in my school library amongst my students! They journey into the world of Ivan, the silverback gorilla. This heartwarming tale has an engaging narrative that introduces readers to the ins and outs of Ivan’s life while causing a spectrum of emotions.

As the story unfolds, your readers are introduced to Ivan’s life within a confined shopping mall habitat. Applegate’s storytelling expertise breathes life into Ivan’s character. She describes the emotional depth of a silverback gorilla grappling with solitude and captivity. Ivan’s resilience becomes a central theme, highlighting the strength that resides within these remarkable creatures.

Fiction and nonfiction book pairings like The One and Only Ivan and Gorillas help students learn about the real life characteristics of gorillas and then fall in love with the fictional book even more.

The narrative takes a turn when Ruby, a baby elephant, arrives at the mall, sparking a sense of responsibility and companionship in Ivan. Through the lens of their evolving friendship, the story addresses themes of empathy, courage, and the enduring spirit that binds diverse beings together.

Book pairing match:


By: Seymour Simon (NONFICTION)

This comprehensive journey complements the fictional odyssey of Ivan, adding a layer of understanding to the intriguing lives of these incredible creatures. Simon seamlessly combines expertise with an engaging narrative style. He invites readers to learn about gorillas’ behavior, habitats, and unique traits.

Simon’s expedition unfolds as a narrative that unravels the mysteries that hide gorillas in the wild. Your readers can access a wealth of fascinating facts, from their social structures to their remarkable intelligence. His ability to share information in an accessible manner ensures that readers of all ages can appreciate the gorilla life.


By: Sara Pennypacker (FICTION)

Sara Pennypacker’s “Pax” is an emotional tale of friendship, loyalty, and the enduring bond between a young boy and his fox. This work of fiction explores the connection between humans and animals. While doing so, it also takes your readers on a journey that is heartwarming and thought-provoking.

Pax and Red Fox: Fascinating Animal Facts are perfect fiction and nonfiction book pairings to include in your library for students who love learning about nature and animals.

The narrative revolves around Peter, a young boy, and Pax, the fox he rescues and raises as a companion. Pennypacker weaves a story that expands past the traditional boundaries of human-animal relationships. Throughout the story, she explores communication and understanding that exist between different species.

Book pairing match:

Red Fox: Fascinating Animal Facts

By: Tyler Grady (NONFICTION)

Your students will take a trip into the wild world of the red fox with Tyler Grady’s engaging book. Geared towards young readers, this nonfiction text presents an interesting exploration of one of nature’s most fascinating creatures. Grady reveals intriguing facts about red foxes, from their distinctive appearance and behaviors to their role in the ecosystem. My kiddos love the large print and vibrant illustrations that make it an accessible and visually appealing resource. “Red Fox” is an informational journey that also invites your readers to discover the wonders of the animal kingdom. Along the way, develop a deeper appreciation for the incredible diversity of our planet.

Embracing Book Pairings for Your Older Students

Wow! We covered quite a few topics and several book pairings that I hope you can take back to your library! The impact of book pairings goes far beyond the pages. Fiction and nonfiction stand as pillars, and each offers a unique set of talents for our students to view the world. They create bridges of understanding and ignite curiosity in both younger and older students alike by connecting to their interests. Through the careful selection of diverse titles and carefully pairing them, you have the incredible opportunity to mold minds, build critical thinking, and instill a lifelong love for learning.

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