8 Popular Picks To Expand Students’ Worldviews
Summer is just around the corner, and with it comes the dreaded summer slide. Reading lists are a great way to help students stay on top of their reading, and allow them to explore diverse themes and areas of interest. But what should our 6th graders be reading this summer?
We believe belonging is the missing piece in the fight for diversity and inclusion. We know that research shows that students who report high levels of sense of belonging to the school environment experience positive educational outcomes. This means elevating Black and Brown voices, teaching culturally relevant content, and allowing students to see themselves in their learning is more important than ever. That’s why this summer, our favorite summer reading picks for 6th grade features authors of different backgrounds, books that explore relevant social issues, and tackle 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 our recommendations for multicultural books for 6th grade summer reading!
Class Act by Jerry Craft
It’s never easy to be the new kid in school but what about one of the few kids of color in a prestigious private school? Follow Drew in this laugh-out-loud funny and important coming of age story from New York Times bestselling author Jerry Craft. Bonus – this book follows Jerry Craft’s first book, New Kid, which follows Jordan around through similar struggles as a new kid at a private school.
Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros
Students may be aware of the issue of undocumented immigrants in the US, but in Efrén Divided, they see the reality that American-born children may face when someone in their family is deported. Giving readers insights about the many struggles Mexican-American families face in a way that is heartfelt and moving, this book is sure to spark many important and meaningful conversations among middle schoolers. Bonus – The author’s website includes a free comprehensive resource guide for Efrén Divided.
Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
Kira-Kira tells the story of Katie’s experiences as a Japanese-American growing up in a small town in rural Georgia in the 1950s, where looking different comes with very real consequences. In this touching tale, author Cynthia Kadohata expertly explores themes such as racism, grief, prejudice through the lens of a young girl. This book can also serve as a launchpad for discussions around anti-Asian hate, workplace discrimination, and other similar contemporary issues.
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
A beautifully written memoir in verse form, Brown Girl Dreaming tells the story of Jacqueline Woodson growing up as a Black American in the 1960s. Through compelling poems, Jacqueline recounts grappling with the remnants of the Jim Crow laws and the impacts of the Civil Rights Movement. This book is both an excellent way to introduce students to poetry as a form of story-telling and dig into discussions around current social movements such as Black Lives Matter and social justice issues.
Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet, by Valentina Camerini (Author), and Veronica Carratello (Illustrator)
You are never too young to make a difference. That’s the main message in Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet, an unofficial biography of Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old climate activist. An easy and inspiring read that will encourage young readers to start taking action to address climate change, this book includes a glossary of important dates in history related to environmental issues and a section on how students can get involved to save the planet.
Accidental Trouble Magnet: Book 1 (Planet Omar Series), by Zanib Mian
Approaching sensitive topics such as change and bullying with humor and innocence, Accidental Trouble Magnet is the first book in the Planet Omar Series. Featuring a young Muslim protagonist, this book takes readers on the ups and downs of navigating a new school, making friends, and more, all while sharing snippets of life as a Muslim. With superb illustrations that keep the story moving forward, this is a great option for reluctant readers. Bonus – Follow Omar on other adventures through the rest of the Planet Omar series.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes – Police Brutality
What happens when a 12-year-old Black boy is killed by a police officer for playing with a toy gun? Ghost Boys explores difficult but timely themes like racism, police brutality, and gun violence in a way that is honest yet age-appropriate for middle schoolers. This book is a poignant read that will prompt students to delve further into social justice issues. Bonus: This book included discussion questions for students to reflect on the story and relate it to their own lives.
Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets, by Gayle E Pitman
The Stonewall Riots are an important part of LGBTQIA+ activism, and this gorgeously illustrated book explores some of the events before, during, and after the riots. Presented in a unique way that features newspaper reports, objects, and pictures from the time, Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets shares information about the LGBTQIA+ movement in an easy-to-digest and informative way. A great introductory read for students which showcases an often marginalized community, this book is a must if you are looking for diverse books for middle school.
Community in Crisis, Read to Lead
For students who are struggling to even pick up a book during summer, Read to Lead: Community in Crisis is an excellent way for students to keep reading while playing games. Designed to meet anchor standards and supporting Lexile range for 6th grade, Community in Crisis is the first series on the Read to Lead game-based learning platform. Students read 5,000 words and interact with diverse characters in each game in the series (there are 12 games in all!). Game-based learning is also a great way to drive student interest and motivation, especially during summertime. Sign up for a free account and get your students started with their summer reading program.
We hope that these diverse books for middle schoolers will allow your students to see themselves in their learning and inspire what is possible.
Have a book you love recommending to 6th graders? We’d love to hear from you! Share your top picks below – we plan on making a list of the top picks from our community!
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!