Engaging Books for Project Based Learning


I’m a huge advocate of literacy within project-based learning. It provides a context for reading and discovering new information. The following books are books that I love to use for project-based learning! You can get more information on starting project-based learning in your classroom by clicking here.

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You don’t have to purchase them through my links, but if you do, it’s much appreciated! 

Books for Project-Based Learning

What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur? 

What School Library Journal says: “The sixth title in this series, this book aims to foster a positive entrepreneurial spirit in young readers. It offers a fun approach to a difficult concept, beginning with an explanation about what an entrepreneur should not be about (money, elitism) and moving forward to exploring more inspiring motives (problem-solving, curiosity, the desire to help others). Featuring diverse characters, the illustrations provide most of the story line, with a young girl named Rae looking for an inventive solution for dog washing. Young readers will delight in the wacky ideas (a dog-washing robot) and will feel a sense of accomplishment and wonder with Rae’s success in the final spread. The text does employ important but challenging vocabulary words, such as entrepreneur, initiative, and innovative.”

How I use it: Many of my PBLs are centered around financial literacy and entrepreneurship. I use this book to introduce key vocabulary words and get students excited about the PBL when we do our Lemonade Stand, Fast Food Restaurant, or Donut Shop PBLs.

Screenshot of the cover of the book What Does It Mean to Be an Entrepreneur?

Related Resources

The Water Princess

What School Library Journal Says: “Badiel is helping to raise awareness and funds to bring clean drinking water to the people of Burkina Faso and other countries in Africa. While the text is informative and poetic, it is the imagery that will stick with readers. Reynolds’ evocative watercolor, gouache, and digital ink paintings capture the glow of the hot sun, sparkle in the night sky, and will transport children to Princess Gie Gie’s imagined kingdom. Kids will have to look to the author note and elsewhere for more specifics and possible solutions. VERDICT: A lovely picture book, filled with messages of perseverance and hope.”

How I use it: I use this book for science-centered PBL. This is one of many books that talk about an important problem: access to clean drinking water in third world countries. After we read this story, we start our inquiry to come up with innovative ways to provide people with clean drinking water.

Screenshot of the cover of the book The Water Princess

If I Built a House

What Amazon says: “In If I Built a Car, imaginative Jack dreamed up a whimsical fantasy ride that could do just about anything. Now he’s back and ready to build the house of his dreams, complete with a racetrack, flying room, and gigantic slide. Jack’s limitless creativity and infectious enthusiasm will inspire budding young inventors to imagine their own fantastical designs.”

How I use it: We’ve done many math PBLs where building a house or designing a layout for a business has been forefront. This book gives students the inspiration to step outside the box and come up with some wacky, unique ideas for their projects!

Screenshot of the cover of the book If I Built a House

The Most Magnificent Thing

What Amazon says: “The girl has a wonderful idea. She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!? But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.”

How I use it: This is my #1 pick for a mentor text to use when I’m introducing students to critique and revision within our PBLs. It helps start an excellent discussion on perseverance. I also use it to teach students how to step away from their projects and then come back later to try again when they have a fresh perspective.

Screenshot of the cover of the book The Most Magnificent Thing

Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding

What School Library Journal Says: “Bubbly redhead Ruby takes readers on a journey through an imaginary world replete with talking penguins, snow leopards, robots, and foxes who unwittingly teach her basic coding concepts. When Ruby’s father travels out of town, he leaves her with a challenge: to find five gems. Armed with four scraps of paper, she uses her analytic skills to draw a map of the imaginary world where the gems are hidden, and children follow Ruby as she looks for them. The hunt for each gem involves a loose tie-in to a host of coding concepts, such as sequencing, patterns, loops, and pattern recognition. Notably, though, none of these terms are used in the actual text of the story; instead they are discussed at length in the post-story “Activity Book” section. Colorful and cheerful illustrations offer enticing Easter egg clues to observant readers throughout in both the story and the “Activity Book.””

How I use it: I use this book specifically for PBLs where I want to include gamification (where students create games or I use a game to drive the project) or coding. If you really want to start incorporating more technology into your PBLs, I recommend this book + a coding activity to fulfill your 21st century competencies element.

Books for Project-Based Learning

What To Do With a Box

What Amazon Says: “If you give a child a box, who can tell what will happen next? It may become a library or a boat. It could set the scene for a fairy tale or a wild expedition. The most wonderful thing is its seemingly endless capacity for magical adventure, a feature imaginatively captured in cardboardesque art by Chris Sheban and rhythmically celebrated in this poetic tribute by renowned children’s author Jane Yolen.”

How I use it: In some of my PBLs, we actually build the final product. I have students bring in materials from around the house like cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, fabric scraps, and rags. We read this book to introduce my talk on how we can be innovative with everyday household items when building a product for our PBL.

Books for Project-Based Learning

What books do you use during project-based learning? Join the PBL Facebook group and share with us!


April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 


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