It’s hard to believe that summer is here once again. While sports, games, and screen time all have their place during school vacation, your kid should protect a little time for reading, too.
This summer reading list is bursting with books that’ll captivate their attention for hours on end; keeping their minds sharp, and their imagination flowing.
Summer reading list for pre-teens (11 and 12-year-olds)
Percy Jackson & the Olympians
This book series from the mid-noughties is an absolute must-read for any child with a slight interest in fantasy. Percy is a pre-teen demigod — of course! — and after going to a summer camp with others like him, ends up going on a quest across the United States to reach the Underworld and prevent a war.
It’s an action-packed page-turner, and there are five books in the series — perfect for a long, hot summer. Plus, there’s a TV series adaptation coming out later in the year.
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Relatability is key for pre-teen books, and this title absolutely nails it. In the story, a boy and his classmates are locked in a library and need to solve puzzles and secret clues in order to get out. It’s full of twists and surprises, with plenty of humor along the way.
Before We Were Free
This novel is an accurate historical depiction of the life of a girl in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. Her uncle has disappeared and her family is accused of opposing the dictatorship. It can be a confronting story at times, but this book is a fantastic way to educate your pre-teen about life outside their own world and serves as a good family dinner table discussion starter.
Boxers & Saints
If your child is particularly visual, then this graphic novel will be their new favorite. It’s set in China in 1898, where a young boy harnesses the powers of the gods to fight a band of foreigners who are robbing Chinese peasants. It’s action-packed and teaches a valuable life lesson about conflict resolution.
Hidden Figures (young readers edition)
The story of the women who helped orchestrate NASA’s 1960s space program is now a well-known tale thanks to the Hidden Figures novel and movie adaptation. In this young readers edition of the book, your kid can learn all about the amazing events in a format suitable for middle-schoolers.
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
This non-fiction book details 50 females in STEM (science, engineering, technology, and mathematics) who worked against all odds to share their work with the world. From ancient to modern times, the inspiring stories are great for any kid with a keen interest in science.
See You in the Cosmos
Eleven-year-old Alex is obsessed with space and is determined to shoot his iPod up into the cosmos. On it, he wants to include a series of audio recordings about life on Earth, to show the aliens what it’s like. It’s a surprisingly moving novel, as Alex goes on a road trip to answer some big questions about himself and the world around him.
Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever.
This short story anthology has entries from some of the funniest female comedians in the game. It’s side-splittingly hilarious and a perfect light-hearted summer read — even for kids who aren’t so confident with reading.
DK Eyewitness Books: Presidents
If your child has shown an interest in American politics, this book is definitely one they’ll enjoy. It covers the careers and lives of every US president, with fun facts, speeches, letter excerpts, and old photographs. It’s really visual and is such a great look back in time.
Summer reading list for young teens (13 and 14-year-olds)
The Hunger Games Trilogy
Summer is the perfect time to tackle a whole series, and The Hunger Games trilogy is a favorite among tweens and teens (though it can be a bit much for certain age groups). By late middle school, your child should be ready to tackle the tricky topics — but it’s your call.
What I Like About Me
This Australian novel is a perfect summer read: the kind of book your kids will pick up and not want to put down! An overweight teen enters a beauty pageant and learns a lot about self-acceptance — a valuable lesson that your kids will absorb.
This series is a bit of a throwback, but if your kids are into fantasy then it’s a must nonetheless. The first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy, Northern Lights is set in an alternate universe where Lyra must journey to the arctic to save her missing friend and uncle.
Bob: No Ordinary Cat
This is the children’s edition of the worldwide bestseller, A Streetcat Named Bob, a story of a homeless musician who meets a stray cat that helps him turn his life around. The original novel has pretty heavy drug references, but this updated edition is cleaned up and suitable for young teens. It’s honest and heartwarming, and a good tale of human resolve.
The Secret Series
This book series is a kind of updated Series Of Unfortunate Events, complete with the same mystery and wry humor. The two heroes must go on mystery-solving quests, each adventure quirkier than the last.
Chances are, your son or daughter has already read at least one John Green book. If they’re a fan of his style, they should definitely check out another author: Rainbow Rowell. She’s got a number of excellent novels — Eleanor & Park is one of the best, but is also heartbreakingly sad. Maybe ease them in with something a little lighter like Fangirl, especially if your child can be sensitive.
Seeds of America
This historical fiction series is excellent for any voracious learners in your family — you end up learning a lot without even realizing it. Starting with Chains, it tells the story of three adolescent slaves at the beginning of the American Civil War. It’s a compelling novel which has been excellently researched: it’s a history lesson disguised as a summer read.
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