IB PYP Learner Profile Booklist – Upper Primary Collection

Maggie Hos-McGrane
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The Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report indicates that 83% of students aged 6 – 17 love being read to, and yet less than 1 in 5 parents of children aged 9 – 11 read to them.

Even though upper primary students are often confident and competent readers,  it’s still important for teachers to read aloud to them frequently. This is a great time to choose books that will provide thought-provoking discussions around learner profile attributes, while also focussing on international-mindedness.

Students in Upper Primary question their values as they mature. Books provide a safe and inclusive space to have discussions about larger issues while maintaining an air of comfort for the students. In the current reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes a great time to encourage our upper primary students to think of their larger role as international citizens and books become a great way of encouraging these connections.

My approach while creating this booklist

This booklist consists of both classic and new-age children’s literature.   While making this list, I made sure to look for books that tied back to concepts addressed in many schools’ programmes of inquiry – such as peace and conflict, and environmental sustainability.

There are books about migration, refugees and dealing with culture shock as well as books that present coming of age stories that deal with dilemmas around values and friendships.  In addition to genres introduced in the earlier book lists, I’ve added several fantasy books and historical fiction, as well as a graphic novel.

In addition to fiction, there is also a sharp focus on non-fiction genres like memoirs, biography and books that are based on true stories. They give students a chance to explore difficult emotions and can help them accept their feelings and that of others. It will also aid them in opening and openly communicating their emotions.

Many of the books in this list have been translated into different languages – making them accessible to our EAL students.  

Classroom strategies

Author Michael Rosen advocates that teachers should continue to read to their students well into their teens.  When doing read alouds with older primary children, I often make the sessions interactive especially when the books are heavy with dialogue. I narrate the story and have various members of the class read the speeches of the characters in the story. This makes it an immersive and engaging experience for students. When students read aloud,  they develop their speaking skills. This is important because the way we speak is very different from the way we write.

In order to write continuous prose we need to be immersed in it, and the best way to do that is to hear it read out loud. If the text is challenging, reading aloud helps students by allowing their short-term memory to focus on comprehension. I find that book groups are very effective, students can read a book in small groups in their class.  Sometimes this is guided reading, where students are put in groups according to their reading levels, and other times it is more interest-based such as an online book club.

I’ve also worked with teachers who got involved in the Global Read Aloud where teachers chose a book to read with students during a 6-week period. They later connected with other classes to discuss it virtually. 

Another great strategy I’ve used is to have older primary students buddy up with a class of younger students to read books to them.  If the focus is on the learner profile books, the older children should be familiar with the attributes and should talk to the younger students about how they associate themselves with the attributes.

Strategies to use these books effectively

  • To make reading inclusive for all learners, consider using audio books. These help second-language learners and struggling readers access literature and enjoy books. Studies show that combining print and audio increases recall by 40% over print alone.
  • Encourage metacognition and have students come up with questions before and after reading to increase their comprehension.
  • Graphic organisers may act as useful tools to help students process information visually and spatially.  While reading, you can also ask students to jot down anything they don’t understand or want to discuss later on a sticky note.
  • To ensure that students are applying the Learner Profile Attributes lens while reading, let them be inspired by the work of community trailblazers who embody the attributes. You can use these Learner Profile Trailblazer posters to spark student interest. Let them discuss what it might mean to live the attributes before they start reading.

If you’re teaching remotely

With careful planning, you should be able to mimic much of what you do in the classroom, for remote learning too. Encouraging metacognition by asking questions before and after reading, can be executed easily through remote learning too. For example, on Toddle

  • Share the book you will be reading with the class a few days ahead of beginning the exercise. You could also share a schedule for when each chapter will be read so students are prepared for the learning.
  • This schedule could go out with a few thinking questions as provocation before the reading begins. 
  • Vary how students will read- You could read a few chapters using Toddle’s audio recording functionality. Students could partner with each other to read or even read independently. 
  • Throughout the reading exercises, encourage metacognition and comprehension by using Toddle’s classroom discussion feature to ask questions and allow students to discuss their thoughts on questions with each other. 
  • You can also give students thinking prompts to answer after they’ve read the book. Students can write their reflection on Toddle and share it on their portfolio

Reading is a skill that our students will take with them all through their lives. By actively picking works of fiction and non-fiction, like those suggested in this list, we could instill the IB Learner Profile Attributes in our students, fostering international mindedness.


Tracking Trash
This book focuses on the work of scientists who track the trash that is adrift in the oceans and the ecological problems it causes. It demonstrates the importance of gathering data to solve problems and of educating people about acting to conserve the environment. The book is full of photos, information and ideas for reducing ocean pollution, and would work well with a Sharing the Planet unit.
By Loree Griffin Burns
Journey To The River Sea
After the death of her parents Maia is sent to live with her distant relatives in Brazil. She reads about the Amazon and is curious about what she will find there. This is an adventure story about how Maia befriends the local people and eventually sets off down the river into the Amazon jungle. She is determined to embrace the experience and is fascinated by all she discovers.
By Eva Ibbotso
Phyllis Wong And The Forgotten Secrets Of Mr. Okyt
Phyllis is a young magician who lives in her grandfather’s home and solves mysteries that baffle the neighbourhood police. Phyllis and her friend Clement have to work out various clues and come up with theories about how a group of thieves are operating.
By Geoffery McSkimming


Noodle Pie
Andy, an Australian boy, goes back to his father’s homeland of Vietnam where he experiences culture shock as nothing is as he expected. The story is told through Andy’s eyes. and deals with cross-cultural awareness and family customs and how finally Andy is able to get his family to see things in a different way.
By Ruth Starke
Christophe’s Story
Eight year old Christophe arrives in England having fled Rwanda. At school he finds it hard to express himself with his limited English, but does tell the story of why he had to flee Africa. Christophe doesn’t want to read, as to him stories were always told orally so as not to lose their spirit. He is happy for his story to be written down, however, so that others can hear it. This would be a good book to introduce narrative storytelling or autobiography.
By Nicki Cornwell
The Trumpet Of The Swan
This book works both as a read aloud for younger children and as a chapter book for older primary readers. Louis, a trumpeter swan, has no voice and cannot make a sound, however he decides this will not keep him from living his life and develops many other skills. Louis’s father eventually steals a trumpet for him so that he can woo Serena, the beautiful swan he falls in love with.
By E. B. Whit


Kensuke’s Kingdom
Michael, an 11 year old boy, and his dog are washed up on a remote island after falling off his parents’ boat while on a round the world trip. Michael has few survival skills, but meets Kensuke, an old man who has lived on the island for over 40 years. They become friends and Kensuke helps Michael to stay alive. The story is told from Michael’s perspective, and deals with issues such as friendship and respect.
By Michael Morpurgo
Number The Stars
This book is historical fiction set during World War II that tells the story of how the Danish people smuggled thousands of Jewish people to Sweden after their country was invaded by the Germans. The story is told through the eyes of Annemarie, a 10 year old girl, whose family help her best friend and her family to escape. The story deals with friendship, love and courage.
By Lois Lowry
Bridge To Terabithi
This story celebrates the friendship between Jess, a young boy, and Leslie, a girl who has just moved in as his neighbour. After some initial problems, a friendship develops and the two children build an imaginary kingdom of Terabithia in the woods. This is a coming-of-age story and is a great book for exploring the development of character.
By Katherine Paters


Where In The World
Ari and his mother move from Germany to Australia after his father dies, and Ari struggles with losing his familiar life and the people in it. Ari has two loves - his music and his grandfather who taught him to play the violin and to compose music. However when Ari’s grandfather dies he starts to question his love for music. Eventually, through sharing his music with others, he comes to accept his new life. This coming of age story is told using flashbacks.
By Simon French
This book is set in the Caribbean where Riccardo has been chosen to sing in the Calypso Monarch Final competition, but this falls on the same day as the Calypso Cricket Club are playing their most important game. The main theme is that it is necessary to persevere in order to triumph against adversity. The book contains many Caribbean songs and rhymes.
By Bob Cattell And John Agard
Me, All Alone, At The End Of The World
This story celebrates the beauty of being alone and enjoying life’s simple pleasures. The young boy is happy with his life until Mr Shimmer arrives with the aim of bringing some fun to the end of the world. The boy is initially enthusiastic about the changes, but comes to miss his previous life and the peacefulness of the natural environment.
By M. T. Anderson


Stormy Night
This is a graphic novel about a girl who cannot sleep on a stormy night because she is thinking about some of life’s big questions. The girl asks a question and on the opposite page is an illustration about her question. It would be a great book to use as a provocation to spark PSPE discussions about things that young people could be concerned about such as body image and feelings. There are no answers in the book, but the questions and worries may be common to many young people.
By Michele Lemieux
Hitler’s Daughter
This is the story of a game played by four friends who amuse themselves by telling stories while waiting for the school bus. Anna tells the story of Hitler’s daughter who was kept in hiding because she did not match the Aryan ideal. The book is written from the point of view of Mark, one of the friends, who starts to reflect on whether you can love someone who does bad things, and on how you can decide on what is right and wrong.
By Jackie French
A Saint In Brown Sandals
Written as a diary, Rabi records the events of her days in Ghana, friendships and betrayals and how she wants to be pretty and popular like other girls at school. As she writes, she comes to a growing sense of self-awareness and of the things that she values. She has to decide whether or not to be the same as her classmates, and ultimately what sort of person she wants to become.
By Elizabeth-Irene Baiti

Open minded

Grandfather’s Journey
This beautifully illustrated biography would work well with a unit on migration as it deals with issues of homesickness and a love for different countries. Grandfather travels in the USA as a young man, but then returns to Japan to raise his family and feels torn between two cultures. The story covers three generations and it is a great book for children who have experienced belonging to more than one culture or country because their parents have moved. We learn about how our choices can affect us and our loved ones.
By Allen Say
Mrs. Katz And Tush
Larnel, a young AfricanAmerican boy, develops a friendship with his elderly Jewish neighbour Mrs Katz when he asks her to adopt an abandoned kitten called Tush. When Larnel visits after school to help look after Tush, Mrs Katz tells him stories about coming to America from Poland and they discover similarities between their cultures and that both of them have a heritage that involves suffering and triumph over adversity.
By Patricia Polacco
To The Boy In Berlin
The story is told as a series of emails between Henni in Australia and Leo in Germany, both of whom are thirteen. Henni is trying to solve a historical mystery that she encountered on holiday, and Leo is helping her. The book contains primary source materials such as diaries, letters and photos. The book deals with the issues of conflict, refugees, multiculturalism and racial disharmony and tensions in the present day as well as in the past.
By By Elizabeth Honey And Heike Brand


Rose Blanche
This story portrays the horrors of war through the eyes of a young German girl. Rose observes the changes happening around her and one day sees a boy being shoved into the back of a truck. She follows the truck to a concentration camp where she finds many other children. Secretly she begins to bring food to these children. The book contains fantastic illustrations and the harrowing story of the Holocaust is explored in an ageappropriate way that would work well in a peace and conflict unit of inquiry.
By Christophe Gallaz And Roberto Innocent
Red Scarf Girl
This book is set in Shanghai during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966 and is the memoir of a 12 year old girl whose world falls apart when the government decides to abolish the “four olds”. Ji-li’s family start to suffer as their freedoms are taken away and Ji-li has to make difficult choices as she starts to question the Revolution, then to oppose it. Readers may be able to draw parallels with what is happening in some parts of the world today
By Ji-li Jiang
Abdullah’s Butterfly
Abdullah lives in Malaysia with his mother and grandfather. The family are poor and rely on Abdullah to catch and sell butterflies in order to get money for his grandfather’s porridge. While doing this, Abdullah meets a tourist who tells him butterflies should be free and that it is cruel to sell them, however when she hears his story she comes to understand and respect his way of life.
By Janine M. Fraser

Risk takers

Peak is a school assignment, written as a journal, about a 14 year old boy who climbs Mount Everest. After illegally climbing a New York skyscraper, Peak is sent to live in Kathmandu with his dad who runs an expedition company, and who decides that his son will be the youngest person to climb Everest. This is a death-defying climb and Peak needs to grow in maturity, question his values and find balance in his goals for life.
By Roland Smith
The Goat Who Sailed The World
This is a historical novel written from the point of view of a goat who sails on Captain Cook’s Endeavour to provide fresh milk, and from Isaac, a 12 year old crew member. Cook’s voyage, shipwreck and other adventures are mostly told from the goat’s perspective. This would be a good book to read during a Where We Are in Place and Time unit that focused on exploration and discovery.
By Jackie French
Island Of The Blue Dolphins
Based on a true story, Karana, a 12 year old girl, is stranded on a Pacific island for 18 years after her tribe decides to leave. This is a story of survival as Karana needs to learn how to keep herself alive through many predicaments and to combat loneliness. The story is one that empowers young girls to believe they are capable and resilient.


One Hen
Based on a true story, the book tells the story of a boy from Ghana who has to leave school after his father dies to help support his family. Kojo has the idea of taking a loan from the village co-op to buy a hen, and by selling the eggs this then earns enough money to buy more hens, pay his school fees and eventually allows him to purchase a farm. This book would work well in a How We Organise Ourselves unit on running a small business.
By Katie Smith Milway
The Librarian of Basra
This is the story of a librarian in Iraq who decided to take matters into her own hands and move the books in her library to a safe place when she was refused help by the government. Coming up with creative solutions, she smuggled out over 3,000 priceless books and prevented them from being destroyed, showing that one person can make a difference in her community in order to preserve its history and culture.
By Jeanette Winter
Alexander Graham Bell: An Inventive Life
This is a biography of the inventor Alexander Graham Bell. The book describes his childhood in Scotland and explains how his interest in science began. It lists his many inventions and experiments as double page spreads, including his work with deaf people. This book would work well in a How The World Works unit where the focus is on the impact of scientific and technological advances. The layout of the pages is appealing with a mixture of photos, scientific documents, illustrations and text.
By Elizabeth MacLeod


Drawing From Memory
This book is a graphic memoir as the author describes his childhood and his training as an artist when he was apprenticed to a cartoonist in Japan during World War II. Through his rigorous drawing classes and studies, the author comes to develop his talent and to understand himself and his heritage. The main theme is that you should follow your dreams and not allow others to dissuade you. The book contains maps, photographs, paintings and cartoons.
By Allen Say
If The World Were A Village
This is a great book for supporting international mindedness and can be used with a number of different units of inquiry as it is full of insights about the world’s population - imagining it as a village of just 100 people. It deals with issues such as languages, health, energy, water and food and both positive and negatives are presented. The book is available in 17 languages.
By David J. Smit
From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Eleven year old Claudia and her younger brother Jamie run away and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Claudia is obsessed with art and the pair have a number of adventures, solve a mystery and learn a lot about themselves and life. The book is narrated as a letter from an old lady to her lawyer about changes she wants to make in her will - the reasons for this become apparent later in the story. The book is set in the 1960s, which leaves ample scope for discussing how things have changed today.
By E. L. Konigsburg

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Maggie Hos-McGrane
Maggie Hos-McGrane
Maggie has been an educator for over 30 years, 25 of these in international schools in Europe and Asia. She has taught students from age 3 to 18 in the IB PYP, MYP and DP programmes. Maggie has presented at international conferences including ISTE, Learning2, ECIS, AASSA and EARCOS, in Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America. She is passionate about the power of coaching to transform teaching and learning in schools. Maggie is a Google Innovator and has published several books about digital citizenship and technology integration as well as a recent book about coaching your colleagues in school. Maggie’s blog, Tech Transformation, has been read by over a million educators worldwide. In 2012 Maggie was recognized as one of the 365 heroes of education by Anthony Salcito, the Vice-President of Worldwide Education at Microsoft.
Disclaimer - This resource has been produced independently of and not endorsed by the IB. Toddle’s resources seek to encourage sharing of perspectives and innovative ideas for classroom teaching & learning. They are not intended to be replacements for official IB guides and publications. Views and opinions expressed by the authors of these resources are personal and should not be construed as official guidance by the IB. Please seek assistance from your school’s IB coordinator and/or refer to official IB documents before implementing ideas and strategies shared within these resources in your classroom.