Let’s face it—getting your children to read can be quite the challenge. But it’s worth the effort. As they enter middle school, a passion for reading will help expand their vocabulary, widen their imagination, and teach them valuable lessons about empathy and friendship. Reading is an important activity for all age groups, and can be a great way to give middle schoolers more independence. Sometimes, all it takes is the right book to turn a reluctant reader into a page-turning, adventure seeker. 

How do you get middle schoolers to read?

By appealing to your child’s passions and highlighting relatable and interesting narrators and protagonists, books can open young readers' minds and push their imagination and creativity. Finding the right story can unlock the inner reader in any child, but don’t be afraid to read together even as they grow up. These books are sure to have your children reaching for the bookshelf and developing a personal love for reading that could last their entire lives.

Fun fantasy and fiction

Escaping to another world is a great way for young readers to keep coming back to their favorite books. Fast-paced fantasy novels and series are typically an easy and accessible transition to more mature novels.

1. The Serpent’s Secret

by Sayantani DasGupta

Everything seems normal for Kiranmala until she finds out she is a real Indian princess and must save her parents from ancient demons. A great pick for any Rick Riordan fan with plenty of magic, riddle-solving, and fantasy.

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2. The Smartest Kid in the Universe

by Chris Grabenstein

A fun and imaginative story for any middle-school. The Smartest Kid in the Universe follows Jake, a slacker who mistakenly swallows jelly beans that are actually prototypes of Ingested Knowledge, giving him inexplicable mental abilities. The adventures that ensue are clever, gripping, with plenty of action to keep young readers on the edge of their seats as well as brain teasers to keep readers even more involved in the story.

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3. Spy School

by Stuart Gibbs

Graphic novels are a great way to engage uncertain or distractable readers. The first in a nine-book series, Spy School follows an under-qualified, undercover middle-schooler in the gripping world of secret agents.

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4. Bayou Magic

by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Set in the wake of the Gulf Oil spill, it’s Maddy’s turn to spend the summer with her grandmother in the bayou. Plucked from the city, she discovers mermaids and magic and becomes a hero in a terrific coming-of-age story. 

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5. A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle

A true classic that stands the test of time. This novel has all the witches, time travel, and space exploration to keep a curious adventurer hooked from cover to cover.

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Realistic interpretations of middle school

The relatability factor can make or break a child’s relationship with a book. Here’s a diverse selection of characters and stories who help encapsulate the many forms a middle school experience can take.

6. Dress Coded

by Carrie Firestone

Fed up with unfair enforcement of dress code policy, an eighth-grade girl starts a podcast—and a rebellion with her closest friends. Praised by activists and feminists everywhere, Carrie Firestone’s novel will empower any young reader.

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7. The Crossover

by Kwame Alexander

Perfect for any sports lover, The Crossover utilizes both free verse and hip-hop poetry in a coming-of-age tale about basketball. A beautifully crafted way to get your young athlete interested in poetry.

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8. Fish in a Tree

by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Ally has changed schools throughout her life, each time fooling her classmates and teachers by hiding her dyslexia. Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s novel celebrates a brilliant and unique mind, whose clever narration will draw in young readers.

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9. The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Lucy Wu deals with all the troubles that any sixth-grade might encounter. Forced to share a bedroom with a long-lost aunt, and having to stop playing basketball to focus on Chinese school, this middle-grade novel addresses the humor and the hardship that are so real to the middle-school experience.

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Diversity and Inclusion

Introducing your children to diverse perspectives and experiences can help them become more thoughtful and accepting. Books are a wonderful medium to do so. It’s important to seek out representation—whether it touches on race, sexuality, disability, or any combination—in the stories that your children are engaging with.

10. When Stars are Scattered

by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

Set in a refugee camp in Kenya, this graphic novel will keep any child engaged through its devastating yet humorous look into the lives of refugee children and its stunning illustrations.

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11. Wonder

by RJ Palacio

Fifth-grader Auggie has been homeschooled his entire life due to severe facial deformity. Now enrolled at Beecher Prep, Auggie faces immense changes as his classmates can’t see past his face. Wonder includes various narrators and seeks to understand the realities of school and differences.

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12. My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope

by Diane Guerrero and Erica Moroz

Actor Diane Guerrero (of Orange is the New Black) tells her own childhood story of growing up in Boston and being suddenly separated from her undocumented immigrant parents. Both uplifting and heartbreaking, Guerrero’s story introduces young readers some of the realities that many Americans face.

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13. Rules

by Cynthia Lord

Twelve-year-old Catherine struggles to live a “normal” life with much of her family’s attention directed toward her brother’s autism. This realistic and heartwarming story will help generate conversations about living with disabilities. 

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14. See You in the Cosmos

by Jack Cheng

A hit for any adventure-seeker, See You in The Cosmos follows eleven-year old Filipino American Alex Petroski (and his dog, Carl Sagan) across the southwest United States as he seeks to record what life on Earth is like and send his findings out to space in a Golden iPod. Jack Cheng’s story will appeal to any science lover, showing the power of exploration and relationship building.

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No matter what your child is most interested in, sitting down with any great book is an amazing way to fill their free time in an interactive and educational way. Whether they dream of far-away fantasy worlds or just want to feel heard and represented in the characters and stories on the page, opening up your child to creative and meaningful books will aid in their overall development. 

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