When you select a 6th grade read aloud book for your 6th graders (ages 11-12), use this list to find the best recommendations from other teachers and from me.
All of these books are compelling and well-written so before you decide what to read, 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
- something else?
Start with this list to find the best possibilities for middle-grade books for 6th-grade read-aloud choices. (Teacher and kid-approved.)
More Read Aloud Book Lists
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 of 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.
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!
House Arrest by K.A. Holt
You’ll feel so many emotions reading this tender, heartwarming story that shows a brave boy who feels anger, fear, worry, and love over his challenging situation. Timothy is under house arrest for the next year, living with a brother who needs constant medical care, and feeling so much pain over his big life changes. Part of his year-long punishment is to meet with a probation officer, meet with a therapist, and write in a journal which is the book we’re reading. When his little brother gets assigned an abusive new nurse, Timothy feels like even if he gets thrown in juvie, he must do something drastic to help his brother. Written in poetic verse, this book speeds along and pulls your heart along with it.
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.
Starfish by Lisa Fipps
Heartbreaking and inspiring, this poignant story in verse shows a girl who learns, after years of fat-shaming and bullying, to define herself not based on what others say but on who she really is. Ellie’s nickname is Splash because of her size but Ellie loves swimming; it’s her safe escape where she feels the most comfortable. Her biggest bully? Her mother–who won’t buy her new clothes because she thinks it encourages Ellie’s weight gain and is pushing for gastro-bypass surgery. Not even Ellie’s dad stands up to her mom’s cruel treatment of Ellie. Fortunately, Ellie finds an understanding therapist who helps her move from powerless to powerful. “As I float, I spread out my arms and my legs. I’m a starfish, taking up all the room I want.“
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.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dees
Middle schooler Mila is feeling trapped— a group of basketball-playing boys is getting too close, grabbing her, touching her, and then telling her that she’s imagining it. Ignoring doesn’t stop the behaviors, neither does telling an adult, telling her friends, or wearing baggier clothing. Now her toxic friend Zara is acting mad and jealous that Mila’s getting the boys’ attention. Unexpectedly, Mila finds her strength when she starts karate classes. That helps her find what works to put a stop to the harassment.
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 List of Things that Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
Treasure of the World by Tara Sullivan
An engrossing and unique story about a girl’s struggle to realize her own dreams while still helping her family survive. Ana’s a poor girl living in a small Bolivian mining town. When her abusive dad forces Ana’s sickly younger brother into the mines, he falls ill so Ana drops out of school and goes to the mine in his place. Then, after a mine collapse makes Ana’s life even more difficult. She scrambles to find work, thinking that her dreams of school and a different life are over. Until she thinks of a way to work and pass school…
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.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this book. Amari is an exciting action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari whose beloved older brother has vanished. But, she gets a virtual message from him revealing that she’s a magician like him and at his bequest, gets to attend a secret school. There, she discovers she’s actually a dark magic magician (which is outlawed) but she’s determined to prove she isn’t evil, stay in the school, and find her brother.
Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
In this surprisingly thoughtful story from Rumplestiltskin’s perspective, Rump discovers the difference between 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.
Allies by Alan Gratz
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
An absolutely wonderful, heartwarming historical fiction story with close-knit siblings who stick together and eventually find their forever home. Evacuated from London during WWII these siblings need to find a new home. Unfortunately, their placements are horrid. It’s only the library and the kind librarian who help them survive the bullying and hunger. Unfortunately, the librarian is deemed “unsuitable” to be their foster mother since her missing husband is German. When things go from bad to worse in their latest home, can the children fight for a home with the librarian no matter what the town thinks?
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.
Brothers Keeper by Julie LeeBased on her grandmother’s escape from North Korea, this historical fiction story is a powerful read that captures the fearful culture of North Korea, the marginalization of females, and the bond between siblings. As war erupts between North and South Korea, Sora and her family decide to flee from North Korea while they still have a chance. But she and her little brother are separated from their family. As they continue south, they experience death, kidnapping, starvation, killings, winter’s brutal cold with the Red Army marching right behind them. Even worse, her brother, Youngsoo, is getting sicker and sicker…
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. You’ll love fast-paced and interesting read aloud book choice that will introduce 6th grade readers to a new series.
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson, illustrated by Chloe Bristol
Elizabeth, an orphan, is unexpectedly sent to a large, stately hotel with a kind, grandfatherly proprietor for Christmas vacation. There, she discovers a magical book, a sinister couple, a family mystery, and a new friend who loves puzzles as much as she does. The writing is mesmerizing, the mystery is fascinating, and the characters are enchanting.