10 Books Every Middle Schooler Should Read

Teachers say these books captivate and delight middle school students while also increasing knowledge in key areas like history, cultures, and science.

Most teachers hope to find their students bending back the binding on a great chapter book and spending days caught up in a story that captivates as much as it teaches. When that moment of magic-wand curiosity, inspiration, and deep thinking envelops a student, something important shifts in the room … and in the student’s mind. But what are the books every middle schooler should read to elicit that feeling?

We asked teachers and experts in our social network to share the novels they bring to their fourth through eighth grade students time and time again. Their choices not only inspire but teach cross-curricular content.

Here are the trusty chapter books every middle schooler should read (and will enjoy).

 

1. The Phantom Tollboothbooks every middle schooler should read the phantom tollboth by Norton Juster

“I cry every time I read it,” says Meghan Robison, a veteran middle school teacher and now integration specialist. “There is so much in this book that every time I read it, I catch something new.”

It follows a boy named Milo as he travels in an electric car to places like Dictionopolis, a land of words, and Digitopolis, a land of numbers. Robison says the literary techniques and wordplay will engage students at different stages. And while it is centered on the love of numbers and words she says, “it also teaches bravery, determination, and friendship.” Robison advises saving this story to wrap up the school year.

Cross-curricular impact: Math, Grammar, Social and Emotional Learning

Related Lessons, Classroom Activities, and Projects:

 

books every middle schooler should read wringer2. Wringer
by Jerry Spinelli

When boys in Palmer’s town turn 10, they are expected to become “wringers,” ending the lives of pigeons wounded in a town event. At the far edge of age nine, Palmer not only abhors the tradition, he is hiding a pigeon in his room. Powerful themes of bullying, peer pressure, and courage make this a moving story for older middle school students.

Robison likens this book to The Hunger Games and has found that male students, in particular, connect to the themes of boyhood friendships and pressures.

Newbery Award-winning author Jerry Spinelli offers a unique style of writing that is compelling, says Debbie Brown, a retired fourth and fifth grade teacher and differentiation coach.

Cross-curricular impact: History, Anthropology, Social and Emotional Learning

Related Lessons, Classroom Activities, and Projects:

 

books every middle schooler should read bud not buddy3. Bud, Not Buddy
by Christopher Paul Curtis

The author of the oft-taught Newbery Honor winner, The Watsons Go to Birmingham, unfolds the story of an 8-year-old on a Depression-era trek to find the man he believes to be his father. With only his scrappiness and a poster that created a stir with his mother before she died, Bud (not Buddy) sets out from a foster home in Flint, Michigan, in search of a mysterious upright-bass player.

“The author has a gift for dealing with important issues with great style and humor,” Baldwin says. “His books can be loved by kids as young as fourth grade. Older students would gain a deeper understanding of the real-world events and appreciation of the author’s craft.”

Teacher Ashley Stockdale Dennis of Tennessee concurs. “This book hits all the literature standards, but also pulls in history, math, and science. Plus, my students love the story!”

Cross-curricular impact: Social Studies, Cultures, Music and History

 

books every middle schooler should read bridge to terabithia4. Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson

Two competitive fifth graders develop an extraordinary bond while creating an imaginary sanctuary in the woods called Terabithia. This is a story about acceptance, imagination, and freedom. Jess and Leslie’s tale is packed full of humor, intense emotion, and even grief after an accident changes everything. Author Katherine Paterson, who twice won Newbery Medals and National Book Awards, creates a world within a world that pulls intently at the heartstrings.

Cross-curricular impact: Social Studies, Cultures, Grammar, Social and Emotional Learning

 

books every middle schooler should read the wish giver5. The Wish Giver: Three Tales of Coven Tree
by Bill Brittain

This Newbery Honoree depicts three children’s misadventures when a stranger visits the Coven Tree church and offers to make wishes come true. Consider the character studies Three Tales prompts and how read-alouds using different voices can be incorporated into the book unit, suggests Robinson

Cross-curricular impact: Social Studies, Social and Emotional Learning

Related Lessons, Classroom Activities, and Projects:

 

books every middle schooler should read wednesday wars6. The Wednesday Wars
by Gary D. Schmidt

Holling Hoodhood is a seventh grader in the late 1960s. While the Vietnam War consumes his father’s attention, Holling is locked into Wednesday lessons with a teacher who insists he read the plays of Shakespeare. This Newbery Award–winning book gets high marks for wit and making a complex sociopolitical era accessible for present-day middle schoolers.

Drawing on pop culture, politics, and news that defined the time, the book offers cross-curricular opportunities in English, social studies, music, and government, says teacher Kitty Palmer.

Cross-curricular impact: Literature, Social Studies, Government, Music, Social, and Emotional Learning

Related Lessons, Classroom Activities, and Projects:

 

books every middle schooler should read the witch7. The Witch of Blackbird Pond
by Elizabeth George Speare

It is colonial Connecticut in 1687. Headstrong Kit Tyler has just been uprooted from tropical Barbados to live with her aunt and uncle in a Puritan home. Displaced and wanting to belong, Kit befriends a widow who is accused of witchcraft, causing more upheaval for her and the community.

“A wonderful introduction into colonial America and issues about religious freedom, superstitions, and life in that time of our history,” says Baldwin. “The story also has romance, adventure, and suspense. I loved reading it as a student and teaching it early in my career. I hope it doesn’t fall by the wayside. It’s worth the effort to read.”

Teacher Robbie Lyles Shehane agrees, adding that it offers the opportunity for rich hands-on projects. “I used it to teach history to fifth graders,” she shared. “We learned to make candles and soap. We used the stockade concept to explore punishment fitting the crime.”

Students can relate to the period text by focusing on prejudicial themes and how society treats people who seem different.

Cross-curricular impact: Social Studies, History, Cultures, Social, and Emotional Learning

 

 

books every middle schooler should read walk two moons8. Walk Two Moons
by Sharon Creech

Salamanca “Sal” Tree Hiddle’s mother is missing. She sets out on road trip with her grandparents to follow her mother’s steps in hopes of finding her.

Not only does this book stand out because it centers on a girl (with strong Native American ancestry) on a quest, but also because of the beautiful heartbreak and literary technique. Baldwin says it took her several reads to fully embrace the ending—and that the investment was worth it.

“[It is] funny, sad, touching, extremely well written. I didn’t want to believe the ending,” Baldwin explains. “After reading it the second time, I found all the foreshadowing. This is an amazing road-trip story with the girl’s quirky grandparents.”

Cross-curricular impact: History, Social Studies, Social, and Emotional Learning

Related Lessons, Classroom Activities, and Projects:

 

books every middle schooler should read the watsons9. The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis

“I love utilizing multicultural books so children see characters that look like and have a similar background as themselves, their classmates, and their neighbors and friends,” says literacy specialist and children’s author Kathryn Starke.

She chooses The Watsons Go to Birmingham to enhance social studies units on the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.

“I find this book is best for students from fourth to sixth grades since they understand the historical significance and can engage in conversations regarding past to present,” she advises. “Children are both honest and curious, which leads to great questions, thoughts, and expressions.”

Cross-curricular impact: History, Social Studies, Social and Emotional Learning History, Social Studies, Anthropology, Social and Emotional Learning

Related Lessons, Classroom Activities, and Projects:

 

books every middle schooler should read anne frank10. The Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank

The journal of Anne Frank during the years when her Dutch Jewish family was in hiding has become a classic student read. Then a few years back, pop singer Justin Bieber visited her landmark home and scribbled in the guest book that he hoped Frank would have been “a Belieber.” This pop culture controversy brought back to the spotlight the questions Frank privately posed nearly 70 years ago about self-centeredness, awareness, and compassion. Frank’s diary is a timeless look at one girl’s curtained perspective on a world at war, people, and hope for a freer life.

Cross-curricular impact: History, Social Studies, Social and Emotional Learning History, Social Studies, Social and Emotional Learning

WeAreTeachers Staff

Posted by WeAreTeachers Staff

One Comment

  1. […] naturally I did a quick Google search for the recommendations of other teachers. Here’s the list I started […]

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