Favorite Books for Middle Schoolers

As parents and homeschoolers, we understand the importance of nurturing a lifelong passion for literature and finding the right books can make all the difference. This is especially important during those middle school years as your kids begin to read more hearty chapter books on their own.
Today we’re giving you strategies to ignite a love for reading during this age and share an exciting list of books that helped our kids fall in love with literature.

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

Episode 042:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

As parents and homeschoolers, we understand the importance of nurturing a lifelong passion for literature and finding the right books can make all the difference. This is especially important during those middle school years as your kids begin to read more hearty chapter books on their own. The fundamental skill of reading serves as a gateway to academic achievement, personal growth, and lifelong learning and by immersing themselves in the world of books, middle schoolers can develop crucial skills, expand their knowledge, and unlock a world of opportunities. 

We talk about Charlotte Mason often on our podcast as we’ve both subscribed to this homeschool method. She was a 19th-century British educator and believed in the power of living books and a more holistic approach to education. Living books are key to a Charlotte Mason education. These are well-written, engaging books that come alive and captivate the reader’s imagination. Facts and other information are often more easily retained when learned in this story form rather than using dry textbooks with no context. 

We encourage you to take your kids and visit libraries and explore bookstores. Create a home library with all your favorites and make it easily accessible. By surrounding them with a wide range of quality literature, you are taking the first step to encouraging a lifelong love of reading. You can create a reading culture within your home by setting aside dedicated time for reading. Designate a cozy reading nook and model the love of reading by reading alongside your children. Let your kids see you reading often, as well!

Reading opens the door to a wealth of information and ideas. It allows students to explore different cultures, historical events, scientific discoveries, and social issues. By immersing themselves in books, middle school students expand their knowledge, broaden their perspectives, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Middle school marks a pivotal stage for refining reading skills. Regular reading practice helps kids bolster their vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and critical thinking abilities. These skills lay the groundwork for success across various academic subjects and sets the stage for more complex content as they enter high school.

Reading forms the backbone of achievement in all disciplines. Whether it involves deciphering math word problems, analyzing historical texts, or comprehending scientific articles, proficient reading skills are indispensable. Middle school will introduce students to more complex texts and engaging with more complex content, it really empowers kids to navigate and tackle academic challenges with confidence.

The significance of reading extends beyond subject-specific knowledge. It plays a vital role in language development and communication skills. By immersing themselves in diverse genres and styles, students are exposed to a range of sentence structures, vocabulary, and writing techniques and fortifies their overall communication skills. These skills prove invaluable for problem-solving and decision-making in so many aspects of life.

We understand that for some kids in this age bracket, reading may not be a favorite activity. Especially if your child was pulled from a school environment that didn’t foster a love of reading but you can help guide them to discover the joy of reading. It’s also totally ok to do these books as read aloud if you have a kid that isn’t a strong reader. You can also listen to audio books or include graphic novels.  Explore different genres like adventure, mystery, fantasy, or even graphic novels. That’s one reason that we came up with this fantastic list. There’s something for everyone! 

Time can be a challenge too, so try setting aside a specific reading time each day. It could be during a quiet moment before bed or during a cozy weekend afternoon. Make it a habit, and soon you’ll find yourself eagerly anticipating that special reading time. 

Remember, reading is not about speed; take your time to enjoy and savor the story. Also, help them to not be discouraged by the size of a book. Some of those books are really intimidating when you look at how fat they are. So, with those larger novels, you will want to teach them to break it into smaller chunks, reading a few pages at a time, and before you know it, they have finished the whole book. 

Middle school serves as a crucial phase for cultivating a love for reading that extends far beyond the school years. By encouraging regular reading habits and nurturing a passion for books, you can instill a lifelong love for learning and personal growth.  Books are such a wonderful source of inspiration!

Our Favorite Books List: (12:58)

The following books we list have captured the hearts and imaginations of not only our kids, but we love them too. We are including a variety of books from magical worlds to thought-provoking themes. These have become cherished favorites throughout our homeschooling journey. So grab a cozy spot, dive into these captivating books!

“The Penderwicks” by Jeanne Birdsall. 

The series follows the adventures of the Penderwick family, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, along with their father. The books are set in the fictional town of Cameron, Massachusetts and chronicle the Penderwick sisters’ escapades and their interactions with various characters they encounter.

“The Borrowers” by Mary Norton

This is a series of children’s fantasy novels that focuses on a family of tiny people who live secretly in the houses of “human beans” and “borrow” items to survive.

“Gone-Away Lake” by Elizabeth Enright.

This book (and its sequel) tells the story of two cousins, Portia and Julian, who discover an abandoned community called Gone-Away Lake during their summer vacation.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling

This timeless classic introduces young readers to the power of imagination and the joy of following Harry’s incredible journey. 

* J.K. Rowling’s hateful statements have steadily grown more blatant over the years and it caused us to be conflicted on whether we wanted to recommend this book series. But ultimately, we wanted to mention it because these books were cherished for years in our homes and the story is not a hateful one, and worthy of mention. 

“Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome. 

It introduces the Walker children—John, Susan, Titty, and Roger—who sail a small boat called Swallow on the fictional lake called Wild Cat. They encounter another group of children, the Blacketts, consisting of Nancy and Peggy, who sail their boat, Amazon. The two groups of children engage in imaginative and exciting adventures, including sailing, camping, treasure hunting, and forming rival pirate crews.

“The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan

 Riordan introduces mythology in a fun and accessible way. All of our kids were obsessed with Greek mythology. This is an epic adventure of mythical proportions! Tag along with Percy Jackson, a half-blood hero, as he battles monsters, uncovers divine secrets, and gets caught up in all sorts of hilarious and dangerous situations. We discussed in our learning disabilities episode how Rick’s own child suffered from dyslexia just like the demigods he depicted in his books.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

Step through the wardrobe and embark on an epic adventure in a land of mythical creatures and epic battles. We adore the way Lewis weaves together fantasy and moral lessons, creating a thrilling read. 

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Follow Katniss Everdeen as she battles it out in a deadly televised competition. This thrilling series will keep your middle schooler on the edge of their seat.

“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Introduce your child to the captivating world of Middle-earth with Bilbo Baggins’ thrilling adventure. Tolkien’s rich storytelling and vivid descriptions will transport readers to a land of dwarves, dragons, and daring quests. 

“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio

Prepare to have your heart melted! This is such a heartwarming and thought-provoking book that tells the story of Auggie, who is a boy with a facial difference navigating the challenges of middle school. We love how it promotes empathy and acceptance and the power of kindness and friendship.

“The Giver” by Lois Lowry

This dystopian novel was one of my personal favorites. Imagine living in a society where everything is controlled, even your emotions. It’s mind-blowing as the main character, Jonas, unravels the truth about his seemingly perfect world. It’ll make you question everything you thought you knew!

“The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

Step into the shoes of Anne Frank and experience her remarkable journey during World War II and the holocaust. Through her personal diary entries, you’ll get a glimpse of her fears, hopes, and dreams. It’s a powerful and moving account that will stay with you. This memoir gives a glimpse into a dark period of history while emphasizing the strength of the human spirit. 

“The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart

 Meet a group of exceptionally gifted children who are recruited to infiltrate a secret society and save the world from a nefarious villain. Packed with puzzles, wit, and teamwork, this series will keep you guessing until the very end.

“The Maze Runner” by James Dashner

This is a dystopian novel where Thomas wakes up in a mysterious maze with no memory of his past. It’s an entire series and fantastic.

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

Prepare to laugh, cry, and be moved by the touching story of Hazel and Gus, two teenagers living with cancer. 

“The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton

Rival gangs and teenage struggles in this timeless coming-of-age novel set in the 60s. Friendship, loyalty, and social class Lucan resonate with young readers today. 

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Enter the magical world of an abandoned garden and witness the transformative power of nature. This timeless classic celebrates the beauty of friendship, resilience, and the wonders of the natural world. 

“Holes” by Louis Sachar

 This is a hilarious and twisted adventure! The main character gets sent to a camp where he has to dig holes every day. But there’s more to it than just digging—there are secrets to uncover, friendships to be made, and unexpected surprises that’ll totally keep your kid reading!

“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle

This science fiction classic tackles themes of love, courage, and the power of individuality. 

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

This book is set in the future where child prodigies are trained to save humanity, Ender emerges as a brilliant strategist. 

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

Follow the delightful and imaginative Anne Shirley as she finds her place in the world of Avonlea. Montgomery’s vivid descriptions and Anne’s infectious spirit make this classic a joy to read. 

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

This is a moving story set in Nazi Germany follows Liesel Meminger as she steals books and finds solace in the power of words. Appropriately for the times, Death is our narrator and a major character. It’s really such a good book and makes you realize that there really are good people in the world.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Experience the transformational journey of Scout Finch as she learns about racial injustice and the power of empathy. Lee’s masterpiece tackles profound themes with grace, making it an essential read for every young mind. 

“The Girl Who Drank the Moon” by Kelly Barnhill

This is a fantasy tale about a young girl named Luna, a witch, and a magical forest. Such an enchanting story. explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the power of stories. It’s a bit dark in the beginning but the story is beautifully written and great for all ages. This would be a good read aloud for those who aren’t quite reading yet too. 

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket

Join the Baudelaire siblings, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, as they navigate a series of unfortunate events after their parents’ tragic death. This darkly humorous series is filled with quirky characters, clever wordplay, and mysterious plots. Also a movie and a show.

“The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate

Such a heartfelt story of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in captivity in a shopping mall. The book is written from Ivan’s perspective. Your kids will learn about friendship, freedom, and the importance of compassion. This story was written simply enough for young readers to read on their own. Yet, well written enough to enable meaningful discussions around whether humans are good or bad.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

It’s 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s has big ideas and a suitcase full of special things! The book is such a heartwarming story and shows life in the 1930’s through the eyes of a young boy. It shows the tragedy and the joyfulness of this era. You will fall in love with Bud.

The Secret Lake: A Children’s Mystery Adventure by Kanen Inglis

I love time travel books. The Secret Lake follows Stella and Tom on an amazing journey as they begin a new life after moving from Hong Kong to London. Living in a townhome community with a large garden the two overcome summer boredom and homesickness by following the comings and goings of their neighbor’s disappearing and reappearing dog, Harry. Little did they know their furry friend would lead them on a wild journey through time tunnels and across a secret lake to friendships unimagined, intrigues and heroic rescue missions.

Additional books that promote inclusivity and diversity in literature: (29:55)

Books, especially those with diverse characters and narratives, are powerful tools for fostering empathy and understanding. Promoting diversity and inclusivity in literature is essential to ensure that all young readers can see themselves reflected in the stories they read. 

Here are some exceptional books for middle schoolers written by people of color or featuring diverse characters:

  1. “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson: This memoir in verse shares the author’s experiences growing up as an African American girl in the 1960s and 1970s. It addresses meaningful topics like identity and the power of words.
  2. “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds: The first book in the “Track” series, it follows Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw, a talented runner dealing with his troubled past while discovering the potential within himself.
  1. “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros: This oat a coming-of-age story of Esperanza, a young Latina girl living in Chicago, as she tries to find her place in the world.
  2. “Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai: This award-winning novel in verse chronicles the experiences of a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl named Hà as she and her family flee Saigon during the Vietnam War and settle in Alabama.
  3. “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander: Wow! This book is awesome! It’s filled with slick wordplay type poetry and clever font techniques. It follows twin brothers Josh and Jordan as they face challenges on and off the basketball court. Sibling rivalry and identity- it’s so good! Seriously, don’t discount it because it’s written in poetry word style. 
  4. “The Gauntlet” by Karuna Riazi: This middle-grade fantasy adventure draws inspiration from Arabian folklore and follows a Bangladeshi-American protagonist named Farah as she embarks on a treacherous board game-based quest to save her brother.
  5. “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia: Set in the 1960s, it follows three African American sisters who travel to Oakland, California, to spend the summer with their estranged mother and become involved in the Black Panther movement. It’s so good and is one of the readers in Byl
  6. “Stella by Starlight” by Sharon M. Draper: Set in the segregated South during the Great Depression, the story revolves around 11-year-old Stella as she grapples with racial injustice and finds the courage to speak up.
  7. “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang: This empowering novel explores the life of Mia Tang, a 10-year-old Chinese American girl who helps her parents manage a motel and faces challenges while fighting for justice and equality.
  8. “We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden: This nonfiction book examines the history of systemic racism in the United States, providing crucial context and fostering conversations about race, justice, and equality.

These books offer authentic voices, diverse perspectives, and stories that resonate with young readers from various backgrounds. They celebrate diversity and provide windows into different cultures and experiences, fostering empathy, understanding, and a sense of belonging.

Amber O’Neal Johnston of “A Place to Belong” also maintains a large list of diverse titles at her website

A Place to Belong >>

Reading stands as a cornerstone of middle school education, unlocking the potential for academic success, personal growth, and lifelong learning. By embracing the written word, students develop critical skills, expand their knowledge, sharpen their minds, and cultivate empathy.

As we empower middle schoolers on their literary adventures, we equip them with the tools they need to navigate life, both academically and socially.  Hopefully you’ll find some new favorites on this list or are nodding your head in agreement over books that are already on your shelf at home. 

There’s no way we can cover all our favorites in one podcast episode so we will be creating an entire page listing. All our favorites with a short synopsis to find just the right one for your middle schooler, Please feel free to add titles in our comment section on social media.  We’d love to keep adding to this list.

This Week’s Freebie:

Scroll to Top