The Best Read Aloud Books for 6th Grade

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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 both teachers and from me.

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
something else?

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.

More Read Aloud Book Lists:

5th Grade
4th Grade
3rd Grade
2nd Grade
1st Grade
Families with Kids of Different Ages


The Best Read Aloud Books for 6th Grade (Ages 11- 12)

Realistic: Coming of Age

a middle grade book that will make sixth graders think deeply
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.

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. I highly recommend this essential book; it should be shared widely with middle school boys and girls. 


books about poverty
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!


The Best Read Aloud Books for 6th Grade
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.


powerful coming of ages middle grade book
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.

read aloud book list for sixth graders 11-12 years old
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.


read aloud book list for sixth graders 11-12 years old
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)


read aloud book list for sixth graders 11-12 years old
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.
good books for 12 year olds
Genesis Begins Again
by Alicia D. Williams
Don’t miss this important story about self-worth, beauty, and colorism. Genesis hates that her skin is so dark; she knows her grandma and father hate that about her, too. In her self-loathing, she believes that if only she were lighter-skinned, she’d be pretty and have all the things that go along with being pretty. She tries lemons, baking soda, milk, a brillo pad, bleach, and even a special cream she orders online using her mom’s credit card. Meanwhile, Genesis’ family is in crisis. They’ve been evicted from yet another house in Detroit because of her father’s gambling and drinking. At their new house in the fancier suburb of Farmington Hills, Genesis learns her father isn’t paying the rent there either. But she doesn’t want to move…it’s the first time she has friends. Plus, at her new school, an insightful music teacher introduces Genesis to jazz legends like Billie Holliday. Because of this, Genesis finds her voice both literally and metaphorically. This book belongs on every library shelf– it’s excellent! It will start the conversation about who defines beauty and how we can do better individually and as a society.

The Best Read Aloud Books for 6th Grade
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


sixth graders love this read aloud about current issues
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This book is brilliantly written for so many reasons. First of all, because it addresses the very real issue of police violence against black children but it does not vilify or stereotype. Second of all, the author shows us the complexity of issues and the humanity of a police officer from the perspective of his daughter. After Jerome is unjustly shot, he becomes a ghost. Sarah, the police officer’s daughter, sees and talks to him but he can also see other ghost boys who were killed in racially motivated violence. It’s a well-written, fast-paced story about important current events.



thoughtful read aloud about Sudan
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.
This story is a beautifully written slice-of-life, growing-up story with authentic characters and relatable themes of family, LGBTQ+, and big life changes. When Bea’s parents get divorced, her dad helps her focus on the things that won’t change — like her parents love for her — even though many other things will and do change. To help her feel safe, Bea keeps a list of things that WON’T change in a special journal. (Which, by the way, is a great idea!) When she learns that her dad and his boyfriend are getting married and that she’ll get a new sister, she’s excited. But her new stepsister isn’t excited to be sisters, not at all, at least not right away. It’s a bumpy journey that shows the ups and downs of divorce and changes as well as how much easier it is when you have loving parents.
good books to expose children to world cultures and poverty
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.


books for sixth graders 11-12 years old
Amal Unbound
 by Aisha Saeed
Amal’s life is turned upside down when she offends a regional Pakistani overlord and is forced to leave her home and school to work in his home as a servant — indefinitely. She finds her inner strength and fights back, freeing herself and the other household slaves. The author deftly sets the scene of rural Pakistan. Readers will feel transported, feel the injustice, and cheer for Amal’s bravery.



The Best Read Aloud Books for 6th Grade
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.

good fantasy book series for sixth graders
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.

When Charlie Hernández’s house burns down and his parents go missing, he’s sent to a foster home. That’s bad. But it gets worse when he grows horns and wings and meets the MYTHS in real life — like calacas, mukis, and El Justo Juez. Fortunately, a persistent classmate named Violet Rey (also his crush) helps Charlie follow the clues to find his parents and learn if he’s the prophesied Morphling meant to save the world. This story is immediately engaging with the perfect balance of action, dialogue, & description interspersed with Spanish words and phrases.


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.


Historical Fiction

by Alan Gratz
Written from many different voices about one day in history, readers easily can see the massive amount of cooperation, planning. and troops from different countries involved in D-Day (when the Allies invaded France at Normandy.) We hear from an American teenage soldier who was born in Germany, a French Algerian girl whose mom is a recently captured spy,  a Canadian paratrooper who lands in the wrong spot, and an American black medic. It’s violent and disheartening yet despite terrible losses, racism, and injuries, the fighters persist despite everything to accomplish their goal — to take back the area for the Allies. What an incredible retelling of this day!

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 reada loud book choice that will introduce 6th grade readers to a new series.


More 6th Grade Read Aloud Books

Ungifted by Gordon Korman
Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
Crash by Jerry Spinelli
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
House Arrest by K.A.Holt
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
6th grade read aloud books
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2 Responses

  1. Julie Spak says:

    Hi, I am a mystery reader for my son’s 6th grade class and I have 30 minutes to read aloud. Any ideas/advice? My son is a bio/nonfiction guy but I want to appeal to all the kids in the class.
    With appreciation,
    Julie Spak

    1. Oh, how fun! I would recommend Knucklehead by Jon Scieska. It’s his memoir and organized into short stories/chapters about his crazy childhood. It’s HILARIOUS and appealing to everyone. The teacher will probably want to borrow it as a mentor text to teach memoir and voice.

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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