Parents often ask me what their kids can be working on to prepare for standardized tests, to become better writers, to improve their vocabulary and grammar, and so on. While workbooks, flashcards, and drill sheets may help, in my opinion many academic weaknesses can be improved upon with one simple task: reading. Not only is reading enjoyable, it exposes students to different ideas and cultures, it demonstrates proper writing techniques, it presents contexts for new vocabulary words, and it allows them the opportunity to practice reading comprehension techniques.

Here is a list of some of my favorite books to recommend to students, in order of increasing difficulty:

  • Turn Left at the Cow, Lisa Bullard
  • Wonder, R. J. Palacio
  • If I Stay, Gayle Forman
  • Monster, Walter Dean Myers
  • The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  • Counting By 7s, Holly Goldberg Sloan
  • The Uglies series, Scott Westerfeld
  • The Giver, Lois Lowry
  • The Cinder series, Marissa Meyer
  • The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
  • The Maze Runner series, James Dashner
  • The Divergent series, Veronica Roth
  • The Silo series, Hugh Howey
  • Breakthrough, Michael C. Grumley
  • America’s First Daughter, Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
  • Mustard Seed, Laila Ibrahim
  • Go, Kazuki Kaneshiro
  • I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai
  • Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford
  • The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  • Tracks, Robyn Davidson
  • Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks
  • Bless Me Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • Pastel Orphans, Gemma Liviero
  • The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
  • Mutant Message From Down Under, Marlo Morgan
  • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  • The Color of Secrets, Lindsay Ashford
  • The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
  • MEGAPACK: 15 Classic Science Fiction Stories, Philip K. Dick
  • Infinity Born, Douglas E. Richards
  • The Glassblower trilogy, Petra Durst-Benning
  • Beneath A Scarlet Sky, Mark Sullivan
  • The Girl with Seven Names, Hyeonseo Lee
  • Where the Wind Leads, Vinh Chung
  • The Naturalist, Andrew Mayne
  • 1984, George Orwell
  • Earth Abides, George R. Stewart
  • Lord of the Flies, William Goulding