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Seven Books for Your Upper Elementary/ Middle School Reader

If you’re the parent of an upper elementary or middle school student, your child is most likely either a bookworm or a reluctant reader. If your child loves to read, this list of books will be a welcome addition to his bookshelf. If your child claims to be a nonreader, this list will provide a variety of options to pique his interest in reading.

When a child has acquired the skills needed to be a successful reader, he needs to be surrounded by books he enjoys, books to keep him interested in reading. There are tons of great books for these young readers to choose from. The trick is to find the ones your child will enjoy, the ones guaranteed to have him reaching for a book daily.

I would caution parents of upper elementary or middle school students to not focus on reading levels. The most important gift you can give your child at this crucial point in his reading journey is to allow him to read what interests him as you present reading as something to enjoy rather than a chore to suffer through. This attitude will go a long way toward helping your child become an adult who reads.

Here are some books for you and your child to consider

1. Hatchet is the first book in Gary Paulsen’s five-book series Brian’s Saga. If your child loves adventure or the outdoors, this book will be compelling. While it deals with real issues such as divorce and survival, readers will enjoy experiencing the main character’s transformation. These books are long enough to deliver an excellent story while being short enough not to overwhelm a reluctant reader.

2. Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham is an excellent mystery with a thirteen-year-old protagonist that young readers will be able to relate to. Readers will be drawn into this story as well as the others in this series. These books are well-written, providing plenty of intrigue which will keep the reader turning page after page until he reaches the end of the story.

3. Wonder by R.J. Palacio is the perfect book for this age group because it deals with the insecurities experienced by most middle school students. This book, through excellent storytelling, gently teaches its reader the importance of kindness and the power of empathy as he reads about the unique struggles of the protagonist.

4. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is an exciting book for older students in this age group. Originally released as a trilogy, there is now a fourth book which is a prequel to this futuristic world. Each book will take your child on a dystopian adventure. Its teenage protagonist reveals her true character as she is forced to make tough decisions. This futuristic genre has been widely duplicated, so your child will have plenty of other reading choices once he finishes this trilogy.

5. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick has everything a middle school student enjoys. Your child will read about annoying sibling troubles, friendship issues including a first crush, and the everyday life experienced in a typical middle school setting. What sets this book apart is the changes that takes place in the heart of the protagonist as he experiences his brother’s cancer diagnosis. This book will hold your child’s attention as he gets drawn into the world of this family Sonnenblick has so masterfully created.

6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is the perfect segue to more sophisticated reading material. The size of this book might intimidate most young readers, but more mature children will quickly get drawn into this historical fiction story. Sharing about what life was like for a child who lived through a difficult time in our history, this expertly written novel will open up a world of reading your child may have never experienced before. It would be an excellent book to read at the same time as your child, giving you opportunities for meaningful conversations as the two of you get lost in the same fictitious world.

7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first in the seven-book world created by C.S. Lewis. This series, The Chronicle of Narnia, will take your child through a fantasy world which will share Christianity with your child. This first book takes your reader on an adventure with four siblings who find themselves in a new and exciting world. These books are a perfect way to introduce the excitement of reading a series to your young reader.

There are numerous excellent choices when it comes to helping your child decide which books he wants to read. Please don’t forget about graphic novels which most definitely count as reading. Audiobooks are another great choice for your multi-tasking child or the reader who doesn’t enjoy sitting still while holding a book in his hands.

It’s easy to assume your child will no longer enjoy you reading aloud to him at this age. While he may be too big to climb into your lap for you to read to him these days, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much both of you will enjoy a routine of a chapter a night together.


Sandy Brannan, author of Becoming Invisible, So Much Stays Hidden, Masquerade, and Frozen in Time, teaches middle school and high school English. Sandy's idea of a perfect day is one spent creating memories with her grandchildren. This usually includes coloring and reading a lot of books. You can read more of Sandy's work on her blog at

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