I’m a life-long reader. I was that kid who couldn’t put a book down. In sixth grade alone, I tore through every book Agatha Christie ever wrote. When I had kids, I just assumed I’d given birth to fellow readers. Imagine my surprise when, as my boys entered elementary school, they preferred (gasp!) playing at the park with friends to being holed up with a book.
When my oldest was in third grade, I was so grateful when Harry Potter fever hit him hard. But once the series was done, so was he—at least for a while. And then some very inspiring teachers introduced first my older son, and then my younger son, to books that got them hooked. If you’re having trouble finding books that engage your middle schooler, my best advice is to turn to your tween’s teacher or your local librarian. But for today, here are the books recommended by teachers who turned my own boys into book lovers.
Teacher-Recommended Books for Tweens and Teens
Dustin Brantley Askvik, a longtime fifth grade teacher in Alameda, CA, challenges his fifth graders with books that are also perfect for middle school tweens and teens, with the whole class reading Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimen, Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi.
Books to turn non-readers into book lovers:
Mr. Brantley also shared his personal favorites for readers of any age, but especially fifth graders and middle schoolers:
And the most popular kids’-choice books in his classroom library are:
The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Phantom Tollbooth by Katherine Patterson
Iron Thunder by Avi
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Fabelhaven by Brandon Mull
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Amulet (graphic novel series) by Kazu Kibuishi
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (According to Mr. Brantley, “Every reluctant reader I have had has eaten this series up.”)
Best Books for Sixth Graders to Help Them Explore
Common Sense Media explains that, “As tweens start figuring out the world and their place in it, well-told stories can help them explore different places, feelings, issues, and eras.” Their best books for sixth graders include:
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Flemming
Loving Vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell
Wait for Me by Caroline Leech
The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan
Set a Great Example to Encourage Your Young Reader
There’s so much great fiction and non-fiction out there for middle school readers, so go over these titles with your child—and remember the lists above are by no means exhaustive; we’ve no doubt left off at least a few of your old favorites. You’re sure to find something that catches your young reader’s eye. Then lead by example. Set aside some quiet time where you and your child each read your own book—what teachers call “silent sustained reading.” Let your child see you being a reader. Start with even 20 minutes a day and build up. You may find it becomes your family’s favorite time together.
For these and more great book ideas for your middle school student, check out Elfster’s entire Books for Middle Schoolers Gift Guide. Share your favorite finds with us on Elfster’s Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfster.