Yes, reading aloud to middle school students in 7th and 8th grade benefits them just as much as in elementary school. Immeasurably.
Besides the enjoyment kids get when listening to a story (who among us doesn’t love a good audiobook?), you can introduce your 12- and 13-year-old readers to a new author or book series, expose them to an important topic or issue, study a component of writing and author’s craft, and share an underappreciated genre.
What will your purpose be for reading aloud to your middle school students?
Middle School Read Aloud Books for 7th and 8th Grade
Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber
REALISTIC / BODY DYSMORPHIA & DISORDERED EATING
Sarah’s mom’s dysfunctional relationship with food is affecting Sarah– who now thinks that her slowness in basketball is related to eating too much or too many “unhealthy” foods, instead of being from the normal growing pains of puberty. She’s confused, starving herself, and stressed out. (Her mom has HUGE food issues — she doesn’t buy food, often forgets to feed Sarah, gives Sarah passive-aggressive, incorrect messages on what being healthy means, and binges on hidden candy around the house.) Finally, a friend pushes Sarah to get help…and, help is just what Sarah needs to understand the truth about her body, what health truly is, and how her mom’s disordered eating has affected her. Girls and boys need this book — they need to know that body image issues and eating disorders happen to other kids, too, that puberty changes their body, and there is NO shame in getting help.
House Arrest by K.A. Holt
REALISTIC / VERSE
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. He lives with a brother who needs constant medical care and feels so much pain and confusion 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.
Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Joseph is an abused boy with a violent father, a parent at age thirteen, and is now living as a foster kid with Jack’s family on their organic farm. As he learns to trust them, we slowly learn about Joseph’s deep love for a rich girl named Maddie, his daughter named Jupiter who he’s never seen, and his shattering heartbreak. This is an amazing story– painful yet filled with redemption and hope — beautifully written and one that will give middle school readers so much to ponder.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay
Worth reading and rereading because there are layers upon layers of meaning, skillful writing, and a haunting truthtelling that resonates with us all. Ever since Conor’s mom gets breast cancer, a wild, ancient tree monster visits Conor’s nightmares. The monster demands that Conor admit the truth but Conor refuses. Meanwhile, in the awake world, Conor moves in with his cold, unfriendly grandmother. The metaphorical nightmare echos Conor’s real-world experiences as we journey with him into pain, loss, and eventually, healing. Astonishing and powerful, this is one of the best books I’ve EVER read.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
REALISTIC / PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES
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.
Restart by Gordon Korman
After a bad fall, Chase has no memory of who he is or was. But he soon realizes that he used to be a cruel troublemaker. Now that he has a second chance, he can decide who he’ll be with his fresh slate. Because he’s enjoying his new life in the film club and the new (“nerdy”) friends he’s made and doesn’t really want to go back to his old self. This thought-provoking novel shows that who we are is a choice. It’s also an easier read for 7th and 8th graders that will engage reluctant readers especially.
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.
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitch Smith
REALISTIC / SHORT STORIES
These exceptionally written, interconnected stories are about kids and their experiences with the powwow, cultural aspects of the Native communities, growing up, and belonging. They’re wonderfully written and wholly engaging. At first, each story seems distinct, but the stories intersect with graceful wonder. It’s a beautiful collection of stories that amplifies Native voices and gives non-Native folks a view of the modern-day lives of Indigenous kids and their families.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
REALISTIC / VERSE
Writen in verse, this powerful story takes place in 60 seconds. 15-year-old Will is about to get revenge for his brother’s murder. But so much can be revealed and can happen in 60 seconds…Will he murder someone or listen to the secrets he doesn’t know about his brother?
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen
REALISTIC / POVERTY
Felix doesn’t want to tell anyone that he’s been living in a van. His mom, Astrid, is worried about social services taking him so he keeps quiet even though he really wants a bathroom. His hope is that he can win his favorite TV game show so they’ll finally have enough money to get an apartment. One of the things I loved about this story is how it shows a child’s love for a parent despite all the parent’s flaws–and his mom has many like lying and not holding down a job. It also depicts homelessness as circumstances beyond a child’s control — which is something most kids don’t know or think to consider. This well-written book is beautiful, important, and highly recommended for 7th and 8th graders.
REALISTIC / VERSE
REALISTIC / SOCIAL JUSTICE
The Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen
Yared’s Uncle Moti moves them around frequently so when Yared gives his real name during an augmented reality game, he doesn’t think the soldiers that arrive are after him. But they are. And everything he believed about his life turns out to be a lie…including his identity. Yared partners with another game player, the Ibis, to escape the troops and the giant monster and find the truth. The two clever, quick-witted kids face incredible danger, insurmountable odds, and a galaxy-spanning war but Yared has been trained for this and he is ready to fight. Set in a futuristic Ethiopian empire, this exciting adventure grabs your interest and keeps it through wild twists and turns that feature heroic main characters!
Strong as Fire, Fierce As Flame by Supriya Kelkar
HISTORICAL FICTION / INDIA
A powerful story that would be an excellent read aloud book set in colonial India about a girl finding her inner strength. Meera’s only twelve and still lives at home but just as she’s about to live with her husband (who she married as a child), her husband dies! Her father expects Meera to join her husband’s funeral pyre. But she doesn’t go. Her aunt gives her the courage to flee. But as she’s escaping, she’s captured by a British captain and assigned to work in his kitchen. There she witnesses firsthand the institutional racism and cruelty to her people. Even though her friend and her friend’s sister are fighting for the resistance, initially Meera is afraid and won’t help them. Yet soon she feels that she must act to help the resistance fight the British.
The Prisoner of Cell 25 (Michael Vey #1) by Richard Paul Evans
Kids love this YA book series about a boy with electrical powers and an evil group who wants to control him and the others like him. This is a good read aloud book choice if you’re wanting to get 7th and 8th grade readers hooked on a new series.
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, et.al
Because these books zip along with fast-paced adventure and action, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop reading! John isn’t a human teenager, he’s one of 9 Loric children who were sent to Earth when their planet was attacked by the evil Mogadorians. He moves around a lot with his guardian to escape these alien killers who can only kill the kids in numerical order…Now that he’s come of age, he develops his Legacies — powers that will help him survive. But one, two, and three have been killed already. John is next. Use this read aloud book to introduce middle schoolers to this series.
When the World Was Ours by Liz Kessler
HISTORICAL FICTION / WWII
Inspired by the author’s family history, three friends from Vienna, Leo, Max, and Elsa, can’t imagine the direction their lives will take separating them by war, location, and ideology. Leo and Elsa are Jewish so their path includes ghetto housing, escape for one of them, and prison camp for the other. 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’s conclusion weaves together their stories in a heartbreaking, beautiful ending that will leave you with a lot to discuss about humanity, morality, hope, and love, which is why I highly recommend it for a read aloud.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I’ve started this book twice and just could not get into it. Neither could my daughter. BUT, so many teachers tell me that their students love it as a read-aloud so I wanted to include it on this list. It’s a dystopian story about kids who are chosen to train as Sythes, state killers who cull the population so it doesn’t get too large. Teachers tell me this is a popular read aloud book for middle schoolers.