Best Read Alouds for 6th Graders

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Are you looking for the best read alouds for 6th graders? Find highly recommended 6th grade read aloud book for your 6th graders (ages 11-12) on this list of books endorsed by teachers, including me.

If you’re looking for all book recommendations for 6th grade that children can read independently, go to this page: Books for 6th Graders (11-Year-Olds.)

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
  • or another purpose?

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

7th and 8th Grades
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)


The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett
(For this book review, I’m not going to tell you too much about the story– because it would spoil your reading experience.) Kemi adores her close-knit family, her African American artist mom, her baby sister, a baby sibling on the way, and most of all, her beloved Nigerian dad. When an asteroid threatens everyone on Earth with imminent death, Kemi and her family leave for her cousins’ house, where she starts a time capsule. The exceptional storytelling is emotional (I cried SO MUCH) and important with themes of family, racism, and values. A must-read, must-experience-for-yourself-kind-of book.

Not an Easy Win by Chrystal B. Giles
The strong first-person voice draws you into Lawrence’s life, starting right after he’s been beaten up by a group of bullies, blamed for the fighting, and kicked out of the mostly-white school. His mom doesn’t care, and his granny doesn’t believe him. In fact, his Granny tells him he can’t stick around the house. An older neighbor takes Lawrence to his work at the local rec center where Lawrence helps him, does online school, and learns how to play chess. Playing chess requires focus and control, not just in the game but with his emotions, too–even when a kid at the rec center steals his stuff. Through the wisdom of his neighbor and learning to focus on chess, Lawrence finds purpose and inner fortitude that leads to his success in life and in chess. 

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. 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.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
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
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.

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. Not even Ellie’s dad stands up to her own mom’s cruel treatment of Ellie. Fortunately, Ellie finds an understanding therapist who helps her move from powerless to powerful. 

Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
With themes of grief, family, poverty, poetry, the power of writing, and friendship — this beautiful story captures your heart with a struggling, heroic main character whose hopeful journey makes you believe in humanity again. After Isaiah’s dad dies, his mother stops working and starts drinking too much. The family of three now lives in a smokey motel where Isaiah watches his 4-year-old sister when his mom is passed out. He finds strength and inspiration in his father’s journaled stories about Isaiah Dunn Superhero and eventually, begins to write poems again in his own journal…poems.

Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen
This is a compelling, disturbing, and hopeful childhood story of hardship and survival with moments of kindness and time in nature that sustain the neglected, determined young boy. I highly recommend this book for readers who like survival stories.

100 Best Books for 6th Graders (Age 11 – 12) MAYBE HE JUST LIKES YOU

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee
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. This is one of the essential books for 7th graders; it should be shared widely with middle school boys and girls. 

A Duet for Home by Karina Yan Glaser
A powerful story with complex, three-dimensional characters about grief, family, community, and homelessness. When their family becomes homeless after her dad dies, June helps her little sister and non-speaking mom get settled at Huey House. Despite the shock of their new situation, June finds kindness from many of the people at the shelter. But when Mrs. G, their social worker gets fired for not agreeing to the city’s new homeless policies, June helps organize a protest and discovers that home isn’t a place and family isn’t always blood.

Shark Teeth by Sherri Winston
A deeply moving story of 12-year-old Sharkita, who has been in and out of foster care since she was three and is the primary parent for her two younger siblings, one of whom has special needs. Returning home from foster care, Sharkita hopes things will be different but is waiting for her mama to be herself again, leaving them alone for days and drinking too much. When her best friend convinces Sharkita to go out for twirling with the cool new Vice Principal coach, it’s the first time she’s done something for herself and not her siblings. Then, when the unthinkable happens, Sharkita’s life of constant crisis and debilitating anxiety is revealed…and maybe the worst thing ever will lead to something better.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

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.

Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo
When Charlie’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.

Medusa (The Myth of Monsters, 1) written by Katherine Marsh
Ava and her brother are forced to attend a special boarding school, Accademia del Forte, for descendants of the Greek monsters meant to reform them and the other monstrous students. When the school takes away Ava’s new friend Fia’s voice, Ava, a descendant of Medusa, starts to question who the monsters really are…and if the stories of the gods and goddesses are true. To help her friend Fia get back her voice, Ava and their fury friend Arnold travel to meet Medusa, then Hecate, Hestia, and Metis. They learn that Zeus retold the stories to favor him and to oppress powerful women. A twisty, exciting feminist mythological adventure.

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.

Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan
Get ready for action, intrigue, plot twists, and super-cool technology! Ana’s freshman class at her specialized marine and naval academy are the only survivors when the academy is blown up. As the class races to board their field trip ship, their chaperone reveals several essential secrets…Jule Verne’s novels based on Captain Nemo are true, Ana’s the only surviving relative of Captain Nemo, and they will be attacked by the land school if they don’t get to safety immediately.

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera 
Petra is on a spaceship traveling to a new home after the Earth is destroyed. When Petra awakens, she learns that her parents have been killed and her brother is missing, plus all the other humans’ memories have been erased. Except not hers. Petra is determined to foil the sinister Collective’s plan to control everyone, but she plays the part of a mind-controlled teenager and secretly shares Mexican cuentos with the other Zetas. Her determination will save not only the Zetas but possibly an entire civilization of settlers. Petra is a brave, fierce girl who shows us that we are less than human without art, music, and stories.

Historical Fiction

Allies 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!

Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Nielsen deftly captures the history of Lithuania’s book smugglers as well as the fundamental truth that books give readers freedom from oppression; books keep alive a language, culture, and identity, no matter how hard someone tries to erase it. Audra doesn’t know her parents are book smugglers until they are arrested by the Cossacks. She flees to their contact’s house, not wanting anything to do with smuggling books. Part of her reluctance is because she herself can’t read or write but she slowly learns and develops a passion for stories. Not only that, she became a clever smuggler.

When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler
Inspired by the author’s family history, three friends in Vienna, Leo, Max, and Elsa, can’t imagine just how much war, location, and ideology will separate them. Because Leo and Elsa are Jewish, their path includes ghetto housing, escape, and prison camp. But, Max is not Jewish and his main goal is to get the approval of his brutal Nazi father. To do so, he gladly pursues Nazi beliefs and actions, despite the nagging voice that reminds him that his friends weren’t “dogs” or less than human. The story weaves together the three children’s stories in a heartbreaking, beautiful ending that will leave you thinking about humanity, morality, hope, and love.

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?

Brothers Keeper by Julie Lee
Based 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.

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.

The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks
Written like an adult suspense novel, this is one of the best edge-of-your-seat mystery books for middle-grade that I’ve ever read. The author jumps around showing various incidents and people. You’ll have no idea what is going on or what will happen next. A boy with no memory is found at the National Gallery staring at a Degas sculpture. Strangely, this boy does know a great deal about art and artists. Soon we learn he’s being hunted by a team of professional bad guys.

The Liar’s Society written by Alyson Gerber
Wetherby is a girl whose sailing skills land her a scholarship at the prestigious Boston School, the school her deceased father attended Boston School. But she gets in on a lie. At the school, Jack is a rich kid whose driven, perfectionist father owns everything, including an island. He and Weatherby get paired up in a sailing team. Both kids are invited to be part of a secret society, which turns out to be made up of other kids who’ve lied, cheated, and stolen, like Jack and Wetherby. Is it the school’s infamous secret society? Excellent pacing, a compelling story, and rising tension make this a page-turner filled with secrets, truths, and danger. A must-read!

More 6th Grade Read Aloud Books

Because of Mr. Terupt by Bob Buyea

Boy, Everywhere by A.M. Dassu

Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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  1. 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.