Back to School Book Recs

Well folks! It’s official, summer vacation is over. I now have an ENTIRE WEEK of the 2018/2019 school year under my belt, and I am determined to make it a good one.

I heard someone say recently that August feels more like the new year than January, and for me that is so true. I find myself making all kinds of New Year’s Resolutions, about being a teacher and just about life in general. So if your New Year’s Resolution is to read more, or to promote a culture of reading in your family, this is the post for you!

I’m going to be recommending my favorite book for kids in each grade level K-12. I can’t guarantee that each book is going to be right for every kid in the world, but I’m trying to recommend things that I think most kids will like. I’m especially paying attention to books I think would be enjoyed by both boys and girls.

So here we go! Back to school recommendations coming your way.


Kindergarten – Hop on Pop

51VL4lITuQL._SX360_BO1,204,203,200_This is kind of a long book, so if you’ve never read anything substantial with your kids before, you might want to ease into this one! I recommend subtly skipping pages in the middle so they feel like they’ve accomplished something big.

What I love about Hop on Pop is that beginning readers can work on their phonics and sight words with the big words at the top of the page, but then parents can read the longer sentences. But by the end of the year they should be able to read everything in this book, with help, of course. I also love how silly and fun this is, perfect for young imaginations! It is impossible to go wrong with Dr. Seuss.

1st Grade – Baseball Ballerina

A1ERI3WV2vLOr really, any easy reader level 3. I love this one in particular because it divides the book up into 3 “chapters”. I remember being so excited that I read my first chapter book! But it still has lots of color pictures. I also really like the message that kids don’t have to fit into a particular mold. You can love baseball AND ballet!

2nd Grade – Magic Tree House Series

824734._UY450_SS450_This is a great, classic chapter book series! It’s about a brother and sister who have a magic tree house (go figure) that takes them anywhere in place and time. Kids LOVE these books, but they’re also very educational. They are a great intro to chapter books because they are short and really on reading level for this grade. However, it’s a long series, so if they love it you always know what to get next. But they don’t have to be read in order, so they can skip around and pick destinations that are exciting for them.

3rd Grade – Bunnicula

515MBTEMKYLBunnicula is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s great for 9-year-olds because it is a chapter book at a higher level, but it’s nice and short, and it still has the occasional picture. It’s about a dog and a cat whose family brings home a spooky “vampire bunny” who drains all the juices out of vegetables. It’s silly and campy, but kids will really like the animal characters in this book and their fun personalities. It’s also great for read-aloud if you have a struggling or reluctant reader!

4th Grade – A Series of Unfortunate Events

BadBeginningThis series provides a really nice mix of entertainment and reading level advancement. Lemony Snicket captures kids interest by telling them it’s a horrible book and they should stop reading now, then teaches them new vocabulary in his own silly way. Struggling readers may need to read this with a parent, especially for help pronouncing new words and names. There are 13 books in this series that grow encreasingly challenging, but stay fun.

5th Grade – Harry Potter and Ella Enchanted

51HSkTKlauL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_Ella_enchanted_(book_cover)I couldn’t pick just one! I read both of these books for the first time in 5th grade, and still adore them both!

Harry Potter, of course, needs no introduction. Again, for struggling or reluctant readers this makes a great read-aloud book, and the new illustrated editions have gorgeous pictures. Kids are sure to get excited about Harry’s magical world, but it will also teach them about friendship, bravery, and love.

Ella Enchanted is a Cinderella re-telling where Ella has a curse on her forcing her to do whatever anyone tells her. If someone tells her to eat her broccoli she has to do it. But if someone tells her to eat poison, she has to do that too. She sets off on an adventure to break her curse, and on the way she meets scary ogres, woodland elves, farming giants, and her fairy godmother. It’s funny and sweet, and girls especially will be interested in this charming introduction to romance.

Middle School

6th Grade – Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

28187Percy Jackson brings the Greek Myths to the modern era! This series is fun and exciting, but will also teach kids characters they will need to know in their high school literature classes. Rick Riordan really understands kids, and these books are laugh-out-loud funny. If they love this series, there’s 5 whole books in this one, plus The Kane Chronicles, The Heroes of Olympus, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, and his new imprint featuring even more myths for them to know and love. Aru Shah and the End of Time looks enchanting and great for kids about this age.

7th Grade – The Princess Diaries

38980I’ll be honest, I have nothing to recommend to middle school boys other than that they continue with Rick Riordan books. 13-year-old boys are a mystery to me…

Girls, however, will love The Princess Diaries. I like this series as an intro to YA because the books are shorter, more like Middle Grade books. Meg Cabot was one of my favorite authors in middle school, and I think a big part of that is because Mia is unpopular, uncool, and uncomfortable in her skin. I think that’s something a lot of girls can really relate to. But she learns to love herself a little bit at a time, bad hair and all.

8th Grade – The Hobbit

61SJGmJDwzL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Can you tell I love fantasy?

By now kids are ready to start really challenging themselves in their pleasure reading. I think The Hobbit is a great place to start because it was written for kids, and it has a great silly tone, but it’s still an older and more difficult book. As old as The Hobbit is, I think it really holds up and has a great combo of humor and adventure. Plus, The Lord of the Rings is my personal all-time favorite, and so I might just recommend this to lots of kids…

High School

9th Grade – Ender’s Game

51n8BHFovdL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ender’s Game has scored some coolness points recently because of the movie, but I am here to tell you that the book is 10 million times better. It’s a relatively simple read, but it’s real SciFi. Like, Hugo Award winning.

Ender is a boy genius sent to Battle School in space where he will learn to save the world from a third alien invasion. But life at Battle School is tough, and things back home are not as put together as they seem… There’s a lot in this book about how kids aren’t taken seriously enough by adults that I think 15-year-olds will especially relate to, plus it’s just exciting and impossible to put down.

10th Grade – Try Some Stuff!

By now you have a pretty good idea of what genres you like, and you’re probably reading plenty of YA. But most kids and teens tend to stick to the first genre they like and don’t always explore new things. My suggestion is to try a little bit of everything, you might find another genre or two that you also love!

Here are my suggestions for the most popular YA genres:

Contemporary – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Paper Towns, When Dimple Met Rishi, Eleanor & Park
Fantasy – Eragon, Children of Blood and Bone, Shadow and Bone
SciFi – Illuminae, Cinder, The Hunger Games
Historical Fiction – Stalking Jack the Ripper, The Book Thief, The Wrath and the Dawn

11th Grade – The Hate U Give

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fWhen Starr witnesses a close friend shot by a police officer, she is forced to find her strength to speak out. Timely and powerful, this book is sure to empower teens who are starting to discover a powerful sense of right and wrong. Everyone needs to read this, and I think junior year is the right time to do so.

12th Grade – The Scarlet Pimpernel or Pride and Prejudice


It’s senior year! You’re practically an adult, and it’s time to start looking outside of your box at the wide world of books. These are my go-to suggestions for intro to the classics. Both are relatively easy, short reads, even without knowledge of the time period.

Pride and Prejudice follows Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with the complete jerk-bag who called her ugly at the dance, Mr. Darcy. She has to deal with an embarrassing family, being hit on by the lamest guy in history, and her best friend moving away. But maybe Mr. Darcy wasn’t quite the jerk she thought he was…

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a spy during the French Revolution who sneaks out families before the government can guillotine them. The new people’s government is determined to find him and put a stop to his exploits, and the enlist the help of former diva Marguerite who they think might know something. The Scarlet Pimpernel’s daring exploits are exciting and you’ll be on the edge of your seat trying to guess who this mysterious figure is.


4 thoughts on “Back to School Book Recs

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