Inspire even the most reluctant readers in middle school

Summer is a great time to encourage kids to (re)discover their passion for reading. Keeping up with reading habits over the summer break is also one of the best ways to combat summer slide. Without the pressures of school assignments and mandatory book lists, this is the perfect opportunity for students to get a taste of different genres and styles of writing.

Here are some of our book recommendations that will help even your reluctant readers become book fans!

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli (Grades 5-9, 11-14 years old)

School can be a tough time for kids who feel they don’t fit in, which is why Stargirl is such a great read. When homeschooled Stargirl arrives at a public high school, the students are first enchanted by her and her quirky ways, but just as quickly, they turn on her. Readers will definitely empathize with Leo, Stargirl’s boyfriend, as he grapples with difficult issues like peer pressure, conformity and the challenges of wanting to fit in while standing out. The movie adaptation of the book is slated for release in 2020.



Smile, by Raina-Telgemeier (Grades 5-7, 9-12 years old) 

The full-color comic panels of this graphic novel will captivate even the most reluctant readers as they embark on a journey with Raina, a sixth-grader who falls and severely damages her front two teeth. Funny and touching at the same time, this tale based on the author’s own life experiences deals with themes of fear around appearance and self-acceptance, and is sure to be a favorite of tweens.




The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander (Grades 5-7, 10-12 years old)

A Newberry medal winner, The Crossover is not a typical basketball story. Told in verse form, it’s an accessible introduction to literature with a touching storyline. Kwame excellently captures the themes of family, friendship and health and more with his jam-packed action verses. The Crossover (and its sequels!) brings to life literature in a way that will enthrall students of all ages and backgrounds, whether they like basketball or not.




The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis (Series) (Grades 4-9, 10-14 years old)

Set in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s rule, the Breadwinner series is an extraordinary tale about loyalty, survival, family and friendship. After eleven-year-old Parvana’s father is arrested, the family faces increasingly desperate conditions. One solution emerges – Parvana must disguise herself as a boy to become the breadwinner. This easy-to-read yet inspiring book will give students insight into life in Afghanistan during troubled times.




Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan (Series) (Grades 5-9, 10-14 years old) 

More than ten years after it was first published, the Percy Jackson series continues to captivate young readers with its thrilling twists and turns, irreverent sense of humor and loveable characters. This fast-paced book is well-written and brings readers on an exciting journey while introducing them to Greek and Roman mythology – all set within a modern and relatable context.

Whether or not any of these books make the final cut for your students’ reading lists, it’s important to celebrate all efforts to read. Encourage students to select books they’re interested in, and explore new genres they may not encounter during the school year. However, it is just as important for students to pick books within their reading abilities. Too often, students pick books above or below their reading level and either struggle with vocabulary or complex sentences, or lose interest because of the simplicity.

If your students are still resistant to reading traditional books or otherwise lack access to them, platforms like Read to Lead can be a good alternative. The gamified approach helps break down traditional barriers to reading while engaging students and providing them with motivation to improve literacy skills. Whichever path your students choose, whether it be verse, prose, graphic novels or even reading games, ensuring that students are keeping up their reading during summer will make the return to school in the fall that much easier!

About Read to Lead

Read to Lead uses the power of game-based learning to empower middle school students to build literacy, life, and career skills. Teachers can sign up for a free account to get started!