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My Favorite Books to Read With Middle Schoolers in 7th and 8th Grade


I am by no means the absolute expert on the best books for certain age groups, but now that I have spent a solid amount of time in each 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade as a reading and writing teacher, I definitely have my favorites for each group.




Even more so, this is probably one of the most asked questions I get on instagram, email, and TPT questions. Teachers always want to know the best books for their age group. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I will not even once kind of even sort of mention reading levels. I don't subscribe to that kind of thinking, and since most of these are read aloud anyway, levels don't matter. That is a blog post for another day (and would honestly take pages of work for me to get through, because I have pretty strong feelings about that). 

When I say who these books are for, I am simply going on what grade levels I have read them with and we've enjoyed reading them together. 

These are my favorite books to read with seventh and eighth graders. Since being in middle school, when I have loved a book that would engage a lot of my students, I would usually make an accompanying reading unit. I will link my affiliate links on Amazon for each book, and if I have a unit, I will link to that on TPT. 

Since going form 5th and 6th to middle school ELA, I am always looking to teach all the genres, books that have movies to go with them, and just all around good books. I also only have 55-65 minute class periods, so the books also have to be something we can get through in roughly 3-4 weeks because I read almost everything aloud in class.

These are our all time favorite to read together in middle school.

THE CROSSOVER
 Book on Amazon (Affiliate Link) Socratic Seminar Reading Unit on TPT 
(This is currently just my 6th grade reading unit. It's what I used last year with 8th grade, but hope/plan to make a middle school standards aligned one this year. 

I have about five authors that I could seriously start and run the ultimate fan clubs for. Kwame Alexander is one of them. If you are not reading or suggesting his books to middle schoolers, you all are totally missing out. His books are written in verse, he has diverse and complex characters that SO MANY kids can relate to, and the story lines are so good. Basketball was my life growing up, so The Crossover might be my favorite, but every time he releases a book, I devour it. Seriously, if you get nothing else out of this post, just go get one of this books, like yesterday. I read The Crossover as a read aloud with my 8th graders during our poetry unit. 

 FREAK THE MIGHTY

Here is another book that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that it's on my list of favorites. It is THE ONLY book that I have taught in all the grades I've taught (5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th). I think it's perfect for 6th or 7th, BUT if I was only a 5th grade teacher I would still teach it. It is probably my favorite book ever.
THE CALL OF THE WILD

I'll be 100% honest and say I HATED this book the first year I was required to teach it. At the time I had gone from a school with complete autonomy to having a required curriculum. That being said, I'm not told HOW to teach and because of that I have made The Call of the Wild my own and have grown to love teaching it with my 7th graders. I like that it's short but also requires to make my middle schoolers think deeply and critically about things like survival of the fittest, evolution, resiliency, and the relationships humans and animals can have. Even more so, over the years, wolves have become my favorite animals, and now I bring that passion to my teaching of the novel. Lastly, the vocabulary in it is intense and I am always needing to up that with my middle schoolers.

 BOOKED
 Book on Amazon (Affiliate Link) Socratic Seminar Reading Unit on TPT 
(UNIT COMING SOON)

I already told you I am part of the Kwame Alexander fan club. I read Booked aloud with my 7th graders during our poetry unit because it is written in verse. Again, I love the relatable characters (there is THE COOLEST teacher in this book too), the relatable topics, and just how quickly and seamlessly we get through the books. The ending leaves the kids hanging and the love/hate it!

 THE OUTSIDERS

My first year of teaching 7th and 8th grade, I read Freak the Mighty aloud to both classes. I used it as a mentor text to teach narrative writing. My second year, I needed another narrative mentor text to teach my old 7th graders who were now 8th graders. I had always heard about teaching The Outsiders in 8th grade, and when I realized that it was a narrative, and I just so happened to have a class set, I was sold! The students and I both love how there is a climax right away, and I love the lessons they learn about life from this novel. 
 THE OUTSIDERS

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl is such a different kind of favorite book for me. It is one my required texts with my 7th graders, but it's one I'm so grateful I have to teach. Our 7th graders do an intensive Holocaust unit and project in Social Studies at the same time, and even though there are parts that are tedious to get though, I'm always amazed how much all my 7th graders get into it. We read the play version at the same time, but I think Anne's diary is one of the most important texts our students can read. 
 OUT OF THE DUST
 Book on Amazon (Affiliate Link) Socratic Seminar Reading Unit on TPT 
(TPT UNIT COMING SOON)

Anne Frank's diary actually inspired me to read Out of the Dust with my 7th graders this year. The connections they have to Anne Frank in social studies, had me looking for other texts that would do the same for my students. Our 7th graders do a Great Depression unit and Dust Bowl unit almost exactly at the same time as I am teaching poetry. This made Out of the Dust perfect because it is written in verse and covers the same topics. I'm working on our accompanying unit as we speak. 
 THE FINEST HOURS

Non-Fiction books are not my favorite (the exception is teacher professional development books) but each grade I teach I REALLY try hard to find at least one good non-fiction novel for us to read together. Even more so, I love when there's a movie :). The Finest Hours really is a great non-fiction book to read with middle school students. The story lines are a little hard to follow at first, because there were multiple boat rescues needed all at the same time, but the kids get so into it after a while. They want to know who gets saved and how. Even more so, it's great to read about what happened after the boat rescues took place, and how it impacted the lives of those involved. 
 A LONG WALK TO WATER

I honestly can't remember what drew me into this book, but I ended up reading it right before I became a sixth grade teacher and fell in love. I loved how it was based on multiple true events, stories, and people. Even more so, Ioved how it could teach students about being thankful for what they have, and giving back when they can. When I taught 6th grade, it was just a really hard year, but my kids were so enthralled by this story that many even went on line to read about Salva's water initiatives, and some even wanted to donate. It was probably one of the most impactful stories I've ever read with a class. Since then, I have read it with my 7th graders and the impact gets more and more profound each and every year.  

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