Some of these twenty books, recommended for ages 8-12, brim with humor; others tackle more complex subjects. Even after children can read on their own, they still differ greatly in their ability and confidence level. Many can read well beyond their purported “grade level” (I’m not a fan of that concept) if they find a subject that interests them. On the other hand, there’s nothing shameful about picking up an easier, thinner book. To that end, I’ve included a range of subjects and readability on this list, in the hopes that the variety will encourage your child to think of reading as an adventure, and that books are to be picked up and put down, set aside if he or she doesn't click with a title, and also to encourage reading aloud together books that are slightly more challenging. As always, you know your child best, and it's a good idea, if you can, to read a book first yourself before you give it to your young reader. The paperback edition appears here because it's the most portable, but once it’s deemed a favorite, you may want a hardcover that will withstand the test of time, too.

Charlotte’s Web
When I first started teaching third grade reading, I was told that I ... read more
Clementine’s Monday looks promising: First, there were exactly enough banana slices in her ... read more
Ivy and Bean
Ivy and Bean may seem like unlikely buddies, but they complement each other ... read more
The Little Prince
True confessions: This is my favorite book. I remember reading it first at ... read more
Because of Winn-Dixie
“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, ... read more
Love that Dog
In Miss Stretchberry’s room, number 105, Jack writes, “I don’t want to/ because ... read more
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie Bucket’s Grandpa Joe tells him magnificent stories about Mr. Willy Wonka (“a ... read more
The Tale of Despereaux
“He can’t live,” says Despereaux’s father. “ ‘Not with his eyes open like ... read more
The Doll People
The Doll family has made their home in the same dollhouse, in the ... read more
Bud, Not Buddy
In 1936 in Flint, Michigan, 10-year-old Buddy Caldwell has had it with foster ... read more
The Mouse of Amherst
Your child will undoubtedly delight in the discovery that the title of this ... read more
The Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Author-artist Jeff Kinney plucked up the hero from his popular Web comic (started ... read more
The Lightning Thief
Twelve-year-old Percy (aka Perseus) Jackson “didn’t want to be a half-blood,” as he ... read more
Esperanza Rising
Esperanza Ortega loves her family’s El Rancho de las Rosas in Aguascalientes, Mexico. ... read more
Bridge to Terabithia
Jess Aarons wants to be the fastest runner in fifth grade at Lark ... read more
Stanley Yelnats (whose name and fate are a palindrome) is accused of stealing ... read more
Ella Enchanted
Finally, a retelling that explains why Cinderella cheerfully acquiesced to her stepmother! A ... read more
The New Way Things Work
Few authors can break down complex topics the way David Macaulay can. If ... read more
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
It’s not every day that a 500+-page book wins the Caldecott Medal, awarded ... read more
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Last, but most certainly not least, Harry Potter is likely well known to ... read more
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