All of these books are compelling and well-written so next, you’ll want to consider the purpose of your read aloud book.
Here are some things to consider as you’re choosing a title. Are you looking to….
develop a specific topic or theme
expand cultural awareness
introduce a new genre
introduce a new author or a book series
Start with this list to find the best possibilities for middle grade books that 6th-grade teachers say are the best read aloud choices for their classes.
The Best Read Aloud Books for 6th Grade (Ages 11- 12)
Realistic: Coming of Age
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Aven Green makes up creative stories for why she doesn’t have any arms. Especially now in Arizona where her parents are the new managers a rundown theme park. She befriends a boy at school who, like her, feels different and isolated from the other kids. His name is Connor and he has Tourette Syndrome. Together he, another new friend named Zion, and Aven investigate a storage shed at the theme park which leads them to Aven’s biological past. This story is about restorative friendship, facing your fears, and discovering your true potential. What’s more, the physical and mental diversity is shown with strength and compassion.
Angry with grief, Arthur throws a brick at Junk Man’s head. The judge sentences Arthur to work for the Junk Man as a punishment. For work, he must collect any of the Seven Most Important Things. Transformed by the experience, Arthur becomes an advocate for the Junk Man’s art. Although this is fictional, it is inspired by the true story of American folk artist James Hampton whose work is in the Smithsonian.
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
This is one of the BEST books I’ve ever read! Doug is a boy who can’t read well, has no friends, and lives in abject poverty with an abusive dad and older Vietnam vet brother. What saves Doug is a connection to a kind librarian who shows Doug the bird paintings of Audubon, helping him see the world differently and discover his place in it. Transformative!
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Ghost accidentally gets on a track team and it’s life changing. His coach becomes a mentor and father figure who pushes Ghost to take responsibility for his mistakes (stealing sneakers) and to start dealing with the ghosts of his past. Well-written with a hopeful message about growing up and growing into yourself.
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
This story of suffering and rising is beautiful, moving, and life-changing. 12-year old Willow is a genius with limited social skills whose adopted parents die in a car crash leaving her both confused and without any support to make sense of the world. But Willow pushes on and finds an unexpected new family in the back of a nail salon.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
This incredible story grips the coward in us all as we relate to Leo who shares how he loves and fails to stand up for Stargirl, the most unique, ukulele-playing girl that Mica High has ever seen. Her strangeness at first is delightful to other students including Leo, but when she cheers for both basketball teams, even the opposition!!, her classmates shun her. Leo included. When Stargirl disappears, Leo regrets his behavior but it might be too late to make amends. Ultimately, this is one of my favorite stories for this age group because it deals with kindness, peer pressure, acceptance, and individuality.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden
This is a well-written story with an emotional poignancy about poverty and relationships. Zoey is trying to stay hidden to survive her life living with her and her siblings, mom, and her mom’s newest boyfriend in his trailer. She cares for her siblings while her mom works, trying not to make a mess or too much noise. A kind teacher at school encourages Zoey to join the debate club. This activity eventually gives Zoey the courage and perspective to talk to her mom about her mom’s boyfriend and a scary situation when her friend is threatened with a gun. This talk changes everything. (Also on: Books That Facilitate Empathy: Poverty)
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullally Hunt
Both Ally and her older brother have hidden that they can’t read. It’s not until Mr. Daniels helps Ally learn to read that she discovers her true value. It’s a beautiful, emotional story that will help kids who might not understand how it feels to have dyslexia.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
Angry at the world, 15-year-old Cole beats a classmate into a coma and brain damage. To avoid the jail time, Cole agrees to spend a year by himself on an island in Alaska, thinking he’ll escape as soon as possible this form of Native American justice. But after Cole almost dies, he decides to give the year-long process a chance. Throughout the experience, you’ll feel Cole’s pain and anger deeply which makes his healing and transformation that much more powerful. While this is a powerful character arc, there are many incorrect and harmful stereotypes that I’ve just now been made aware of. I’d recommend that if you read this, read this with a critical eye and make it a learning experience.
Realistic: Current and World Events
A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
Sudan’s reality, past and present, collide in this beautifully written true story. In 1985, we follow the harrowing journey of a young boy who, after his village was attacked, walks miles and miles to a refugee camp. In 2008, we read about a girl who must walk two hours morning and night to get fresh water. Above all, their stories are compelling; you won’t be able to put this book down or take clean water for granted again. A must read.
The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
Set in India, Viji writes this story as letters to her little sister Rukku who has intellectual disabilities starting with when they run away from an abusive father and sick mother to the big city. There, they meet kind brothers and live with them under a bridge, scrabbling to survive by collecting trash. Their days are hard but Viji learns how much more capable her sister is then she previously thought. Unfortunately, her sister Rukku gets a terrible cough and fever. Viji might need to trust someone to get Rukku help. It’s an honest, eye-opening story that reveals the plight of many homeless children in India.
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
In this surprisingly thoughtful story from Rumplestiltskin’s perspective, Rump discovers the difference of who he is versus who others say that he is. After Rump learns that he’s trapped in his mom’s magical “rumple”, it explains why he feels compelled to make straw into gold for any trade that someone offers him. Of course, this is what the miller takes advantage of, leaving Rump without options or control over the trades. With the help of his troll friends, his friend Red, and his aunts, Rump finds a way to stop the magical curse and give the queen back her child. You’ll find plenty of themes to discuss with 6th graders from this fractured fairy tale.
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
A mysterious nobleman takes Sage and three other orphans for training to impersonate the kingdom’s missing prince. Despite the obvious deceit and competition from the other orphans, Sage can’t leave, now trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation which has more plot twists than you can imagine. His wit, skills, and defiance might just be what saves him in the end and helps him uncover the truth of the real missing prince. This read aloud choice gets 6th-grade kids hooked on the entire series.
Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo
The Iron Trial (Magisterium) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Even though Callum tries to fail the entrance trials, he gains admittance to the school his dad says is evil. But the Magisterium school is not as bad as he expects. Call learns more about his elemental powers, he forges bonds of friendship with his teammates, and rescues a wolf puppy who is infused with the evil magic of Chaos. Kids love this book series, choose this book in order to introduce the series.
Refugee by Alan Gratz
One of the most popular read aloud books for the upper grades, follow three distinct stories showing kids displaced from their countries, on the run, and in danger. First is a young Jewish boy who escapes from Nazi Germany on a ship to Cuba, only to be turned away from the Cuban port and sent back to Europe. Next is a Cuban girl in the 1990s who, with her family and neighbors, flees in a homemade raft to the United States at great peril. Finally, is a story about a Syrian boy whose home is bombed in a country at war. He and his family travel a great distance to find a country that will allow them shelter. Gatz skillfully connects all three stories with a satisfying, realistic conclusion.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
A Newbery Honor winner and a favorite read aloud book for many grade levels, including 6th! Ada and her brother escape their mother’s abuse when London children evacuate during WWII to live with a grieving woman in a small country town. It’s difficult for both the woman and children to trust each other but slowly the trust grows. As it does, all three regain something lost — hope and love. Honestly, I can’t recommend this book enough, it will touch your heart at such a deep level. Don’t miss the equally heartwarming sequel: The War I Finally Won.
Framed! A T.O.A.S.T. Mystery by James Ponti
Captivating from the first page, 12- year old Florian Bates uses his brilliant, observing brain to implement T.O.A.S.T. (the Theory of All Small Things) to notice important things that other people miss. Including the FBI when there’s an art heist at the museum his mother works. The FBI hires Florian to help unravel a mysterious art heist. With the help of his best friend, Margaret, Florian keeps up with homework while investigating the enormous crime syndicate behind the heist. A fast-paced and interesting choice that will introduce readers to a new series.
More 6th Grade Read Aloud Books
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