With summer just around the corner, many of us are starting to think of book lists for our students to help them avoid the summer slide. But what should our 5th graders be reading this summer?

We’ve chosen to highlight books that celebrate diversity and inclusivity, explore relevant social issues, and tackle the challenges that middle schoolers may face in their lives. While we would love for our students to read all the books on this list, we recommend letting students choose a few that pique their interest. Why? Because book choice is key to student agency and motivation.

Now, let’s get to the 5th-grade summer reading recommendations!

1.Measuring Up, Lily LaMotte & Ann Xu

Twelve-year-old Cici has just made a major life change – her family has moved to Seattle from Taiwan.  The only thing she wants more than to fit into her new life is to celebrate her grandmother’s 70th birthday. Since Cici’s grandmother is still in Taiwan, she hatches a plan to surprise her parents by winning the grand prize in a kids’ cooking contest to help pay for her grandmother’s ticket!

Cici navigates the blending of her Taiwanese culture and her new American identity with heart and bravery and author Lila LaMotte explores the minority experience as well as theme of identity, racial insensitivity and dealing with microaggressions. Artfully written, this book lends itself to being the jumping off point to discuss deeper issues like racism, anti-Asian sentiments, and inclusion. 


2. You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P.! by Alex Gino

Social justice is an increasingly relevant topic, and You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P.! is an excellent introduction for 5th-grade students. Tackling big issues like deaf culture and white privilege, this book takes students on Jilly’s journey of discovering she doesn’t know everything, and how to learn from her mistakes to do better. This is definitely a book that will spark discussions on a variety of pertinent issues in a way that is relevant and relatable for students.


3. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

This #1 New York Times Best Seller follows the story of 10-year old August Pullman, a normal boy in every way, except for his facial anomalies. As “Auggie” enters 5th grade in a mainstream school for the first time, he faces some of the same challenges that any 5th grader would face – making friends, fitting in, and being themselves. 5th graders are sure to see themselves reflected in the characters in this moving, engaging and heartwarming book. Bonus – The book has been adapted into a movie that students can enjoy alongside the book.


4. Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby (Author), and Adelina Lirius (Illustrator)

Inspire your 5th graders to get involved in saving the Earth with this beautifully illustrated book. Featuring the stories of 12 young activists from around the world from New York to Australia, this non-fiction book highlights how even kids can do their part to address the climate crisis. The gorgeous illustrations are a lovely addition and will surely captivate even reluctant readers. 


5. This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work by Tiffany Jewell

Another great social justice book for middle school readers, This Book is Anti-Racist is sure to inspire the acitvist in our students. Presented in an accessible manner that meets students at their level, this book explores identity, history, taking action and responding to racism, and working in solidarity with others in four sections. Activities included at the end of each chapter also encourage students to get involved in doing anti-racist work – this is not a book for students who want to sit back and do nothing!


6. Siha Tooskin Knows the Strength of His Hair by Charlene & Wilson Bearhead

Starting at a new school is always hard – even more so when your new classmates don’t know much about your culture, values and history. In this captivating story, students learn more about Nakota culture through 11-year-old Siha Tooskin as he deals with challenges in fitting in at his new school. Bonus – If your students enjoyed this, they will surely love reading about more of Siha Tooskin’s adventures in the rest of the series.


7. Rainbow Revolutionaries: Fifty LGBTQ+ People Who Made History by Sarah Prager

Representation matters, and it is important to introduce our students to diversity and inclusion even in the books they read. In this groundbreaking publication, author Sarah Prager shines the spotlight on fifty people from the LGBTQ+ community who have made a difference in history. It is a great introduction to the accomplishments and achievements of LGBTQ+ people, and a way to help young readers understand more about their contributions to our community.


8. Community in Crisis, Read to Lead

We’re cheating (just a little) with this recommendation, but if your students are struggling to even pick up a book during summer, Community in Crisis could change their mind about reading. Designed to meet anchor standards and supports Lexile range for 5th grade, Community in Crisis is the second series on the Read to Lead game-based learning platform. By working through each game in the series, students read the equivalent of 5,000 words, and interact with a diverse array of characters. Game-based learning is also a great way to drive student interest, and motivation. Sign up for a free account and get your students started with their summer reading program.


Summer is the perfect time for students to explore a wide array of books, and being exposed to diverse books in middle school will help them expand their worldviews and open their minds. We hope that these multicultural books for kids that feature incredibly diverse viewpoints will inspire and engage them to keep reading during summer.


Know of a great book for 5th graders? We’d love to hear from you!

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!