8 Diverse Picks to Inspire and Engage

What our students read matters. That’s why our summer reading picks for 7th grade feature authors of different backgrounds, books that explore relevant social issues, and tackle challenges that middle schoolers face in their lives. In this time of constant change and upheaval, both in our students’ lives and in broader society, it is essential for our students to feel seen, understood, and valued. 

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 7th grade summer reading recommendations!

A Place to Belong, by Cynthia Kadohata

In A Place to Belong, students have the opportunity to learn about a lesser known time in American and Japanese history following WW2. The book follows a young Hanako who is bewildered and hurt. America, the only home she’s ever known, has forced her family to move to Japan in a post WW2 world. The country is in shambles, making Hanako feel as though she could crack under the pressure of it all until she learns about the ancient tradition of kintsukuroi- fixing broken objects with gold lacquer, making them stronger and more beautiful than ever. Students will learn to understand and empathize with realities of war, and the power of overcoming adversity in this heart felt book. 


Counting by the 7s, Holly Goldberg Sloan

Sometimes you just have to swim against the tide. This story expertly weaves the struggles of neurodivergence, mental health, adoption, and loss in an engaging, digestible format for 7th graders. Twelve-year-old genius, Willow Chance is obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions and finds it comforting to count by 7s. Her life was mostly quiet and happy alongside her adoptive parents until it was suddenly turned upside down with the death of her parents. Your class will learn from and celebrate with Willow as she learns to endearingly push through her grief to find a diverse surrogate family in the wake of her heartache.


Baseball in April and Other Stories, by Gary Soto

In this collection of eleven short stories, author Gary Soto draws on his own experiences as a Mexican-American growing up in California to share captivating anecdotes about life as an adolescent. These stories take readers through a whole gamut of emotions – some are funny, some sad, some dramatic – but they all have a lesson to share around themes such as growing up, dealing with challenges, and friendships. This book is excellent for students who are struggling to read longer novels!

Goodbye Stranger, by Rebecca Stead

7th grade can be a confusing time for kids – navigating friendships, having “first crushes,” discovering self-expression. Goodbye Stranger explores these themes and more through strong characters and authentic storytelling that will draw in readers. This book is also well-poised to kick off conversations with students about using social media and texting responsibly and the consequences that their actions have, not just for them but others around them as well.


George, by Alex Gino

The New York Times Book Review describes George as “timely, touching…[and] the most right-now book imaginable.” Following the journey of Melissa, a transgender girl whom the rest of the world sees as George, this book is an insightful read for anyone who has ever felt different. It is an excellent starting point to explore issues such as gender, acceptance, and the trans community and the struggles they face. A must-read!


One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, by Anuradha Rao

What does an environmental defender look like? Like any one of us! In One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, author Anuradha Rao highlights a diverse selection of youth activists worldwide working to save the environment. These stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who are all doing their part to save the Earth are sure to inspire and motivate students to take action.


A Good Kind of Trouble, by Lisa Moore Ramee

Twelve-year-old Shayla just wants to get through 7th grade without getting into trouble, but she quickly realizes that some things are worth breaking the rules for. In this genuine and relatable novel, students explore complex themes like right and wrong, social justice, racism, and more — a coming of age story set against the backdrop of bigger societal issues. A Good Kind of Trouble is a suitable starting point for students to have deeper conversations about current events, the Black Lives Matter movement, and their own role in dismantling harmful systems.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Education is something most of us take for granted in the US, but not in Pakistan. In the autobiographical I Am Malala, the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai recounts her experience of being shot by the Taliban when she stood up for her right to be educated. This book provides good context to the conflict and oppression in the Middle East while highlighting the importance of women’s rights and education. Students are sure to be inspired by Malala’s journey and her continual efforts to stand up for what she believes in!

When You Trap a Tiger, by Tae Keller

Winner of multiple awards, including the 2021 Newbery Medal, When You Trap a Tiger weaves Korean folklore with magical realism in this compelling read. Readers get glimpses into Korean culture and history while delving into themes like grief, identity, and family history. This is sure to be a favorite among students who enjoy fantasy, unique storytelling, and will leave them questioning what’s real and imagined!  

Vital Signs, Read to Lead

Some kids might have a hard time even picking up a book during summer, and that’s where Read to Lead: Vital Signs could come in handy. Designed to meet anchor standards and catered to the Lexile range for 7th grade, Vital Signs is the second series on the Read to Lead game-based learning platform. Not only do students read approximately 5,000 words by working through each game in the series, but they also interact with diverse characters and learn more about a variety of career options. 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 reading lists are a wonderful starting point to encourage students to explore diverse books, expand their minds, and open themselves up to new perspectives. We hope that these multicultural books for middle schoolers that feature diverse viewpoints will inspire and engage them to keep reading during summer.

Have a favorite book to recommend for 7th 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!