Short Stories for Middle School and Upper Elementary Students

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Read short stories for middle school and upper elementary school students with your middle grade readers, ages 9 – 12; those elementary and middle school students who enjoy a short passage of text. Interestingly, short story anthologies are not abundant for tweens. Even still, there are some great short story options to keep kids reading shorter texts.

Short stories offer students an alternative to a longer novel and give teachers quick passages to use as mentor texts or for reading lessons about things like themes, literary tools, and so forth.

Do you use short stories with your readers?

Short Stories for Middle School and Upper Elementary

Short Stories for Middle School & Upper Elementary (Ages 9 – 12)

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids
edited by Cynthia Leitch Smith
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.

Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood
edited by Kwame Mbalia
Middle grade readers need more short stories and this book hits the spot big time! These short stories for ages 8 to 12 celebrate Black main characters in space, at school, hanging out, and more in 17 different stories from 17 different authors. I loved the writing, the variety of genres, and the focus on Black boys living their best lives — it’s a must-read, must-own collection.

Short Story Books for Middle-Grade Readers (Ages 9 - 12)
Fable Comics
edited by Chris Duffy
My kids and I ADORE this book — as well as the series’ previously published books, Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics. We love that 17 different cartoonists created one or more of the 28 illustrated fables, sometimes retelling a traditional, often unknown fable, and sometimes retelling with their own twist. The neat thing about this diversity in cartoonists is seeing what the artist envisions for the style and tone of the art for each story. (That concept could be an entire lesson in itself!) I highly recommend this book not just for all kids but for kids with short attention spans, or reluctant readers, since the stories are short and fairly different. It holds your attention and you can stop and start anywhere in the book.

Guys Read Short Stories
Guys Read: Heroes & Villains
Get ready for short stories written by well-known authors like Laurie Halse Anderson, Sharon Creech, Jack Gantos, Christopher Healy, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Lemony Snicket, and others. (Jon Scieszka edits all of the books.) The stories explode with different flavors — from an irreverent fairy tale to an immigrant’s crossing to a Russian mobster adventure. You won’t be bored and will find it fun to read and compare which stories you liked best. If you like this book, you’ll want to read more in the Guys Read series– there are many books from which to choose such as Guys Read: True Stories and Guys Read: Funny Business.

Short Story Books for Middle-Grade Readers (Ages 9 - 12)
The Hero Next Door
edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
What makes a hero? These short stories for middle school are by authors like William Alexander, Joseph Bruchac, Lamar Giles, Mike Jung, Hena Khan, Juana Medina, Ellen Oh, and R. J. Palacio, explore stories where real-life heroes spread kindness.

Ghost stories for kids
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
retold by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
This book was the MOST tattered, beat-up book in my classroom library because it was so well-loved. The short stories are very readable. You can skip around or read it cover to cover. If you like creepy and scary short stories, this is a great choice.

Ghost: Thirteen Haunting Tales to Tell by Illustratus
If you like ghost stories, this is a worthy addition to your library. Disturbing illustrations and 13 original stories make for a creepy, frightening reading experience.

middle grade books with short stories
Knucklehead Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories of Growing Up Scieszka
by Jon Scieszka
Growing up in the Scieszka family was a WILD time. There’s quite a bit of potty humor in Scieszka’s hilarious musings on his childhood, but the writing is excellent and captures personal narrative in short, digestible stories.

Short Story Books for Middle-Grade Readers (Ages 9 - 12)
Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever.
by Betsy Bird
I chuckled through most of these short stories for middle school and upper elementary students– especially Deborah Underwood’s story that continued throughout the book featuring a dog and a cat who are advice writers. Hilarious! Funny stories from award-winning and bestselling authors, including Cece Bell, Sophie Blackall, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, Lisa Graff, and Raina Telgemeier.

Marshfield Dreams
by Ralph Fletcher
Ralph Fletcher is a respected writing teacher and author of writing pedagogy. His short stories from childhood show a large, close-knit family that gave him the foundation for his storytelling as an adult.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories
edited by Ellen Oh
I recommend this book as a go-to book of short stories for middle school. The writing is absolutely incredible with short stories meant for ages 8 – 12 written by amazing, award-winning, and BIPOC authors.

short stories for upper elementary and middle school
Knots in My Yo-Yo String: The autobiography of a kid
by Jerry Spinelli (ages 11+)
Spinelli shares stories from his teen years that helped him become the author and storyteller he is today.

Other commonly used short stories for Middle and High School include:

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson (read it here)

Harrison Bergeron (often used in high school) by Kurt Vonnegut (read it here)

Stories by Gary Soto

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant (read it here)

“The Tell-Tale Heart” Edgar Allan Poe (read it here)

“The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (read it here)

science fiction short stories by Ray Bradbury (read more about them here)

Short Stories for Middle School and Upper Elementary

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  1. I would add some of Gary Paulsen’s short story collections to this list: Guts, How Angel Peterson Got His Name…, My Life in Dog Years.