Adventure Awaits: 23 Summer Reading Book Lists for Upper Elementary Students (Ages 9-12)

Written by Michelle Watson

May 26, 2023

It’s m’duty to tell you that this article contains affiliate links, which earn me commission at no extra cost to you. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Upper elementary students are the PERFECT age to fall in love with reading! And what better time than summer to take your child on a literary adventure? 

Kids in upper elementary school are usually established readers. They’re capable of reading independently. Know what else they’re capable of? Choosing their own books!!!

Letting kids choose their own books is essential at any age, but especially right now. Why? This is right around the time that kids tend to STOP reading for pleasure. 

Here’s the research on Decline By 9. You can debate the reasons why this happens—schools kill the fun, no free time, screens in de face… But one of the BEST ways to keep kids interested in books is to let them read something that’s, well, interesting to them!

Summer reading is a golden opportunity to stop Decline By 9 in its tracks.

Just in case you aren’t aware, books that are written (and marketed) to children ages 8 to 12 are called middle grade books. They’re more mature than those early readers for the younger set, but they don’t (usually, although this is becoming a tad scary) contain YA content. Knowing the term “middle grade” can really help when talking with librarians and searching online. 

BONUS: This is a list of lists—great lists!—but I’ve ALSO included a gallery of my own personal favorite summer reading books for upper elementary at the bottom of this post, so don’t miss it!

So, pack your bags, and let’s go on an adventure!

23 Summer Reading Book Lists for Upper Elementary Kids

Please don’t skip 👇

I haven’t read every book on all of these lists—there’s just no way. But I have made an effort to include lists by people who I feel are trustworthy and have a heart for kids. Naturally, I can’t endorse every book that appears on these lists, and I encourage you to vet any titles that you’re unsure about—it only takes a few minutes! Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn Books Reviews is a great place to do this.

Scroll to the bottom for my own list of upper elementary book recommendations—books that I’ve personally read and enjoyed.

Alright, let’s GO! 

Books Boys Love: Ages 8-12

By Sarah MacKenzie at Read-Aloud Revival

What Boys Really Want to Read This Summer

By Jessica for Your Morning Basket

Books Girls Love: Ages 8-12

By Sarah MacKenzie at Read-Aloud Revival

Forgotten Newberys for Girls

By Jessica for Your Morning Basket

12 Books for a Tween Girl’s Summer

By Jamie at the Unlikely Homeschool

20 Enjoyable Fiction Books for Your 8-10-Year-Old

By Mary Hanna Wilson at Celebrate a Book

The 20 Best Books Your 4th Grader Will Love To Read

By Jessica at The Waldock Way

4th Grade Summer Reading (Ages 9-10)

By Erica at What We Do All Day

50 Chapter Books for 4th Graders

By Afoma at Reading Middle Grade

5th Grade Summer Reading (Ages 10-11)

By Erica at What We Do All Day

70 Best Books for Fifth Graders

By Afoma at Reading Middle Grade

6th Grade Summer Reading (Ages 11-12)

By Erica at What We Do All Day

75 Best Books for 6th Graders

By Afoma at Reading Middle Grade

Classic Summer Reading List for Tweens

By Erica at What We Do All Day
Classic = older, time-tested classic books

Flashlight Reads: Can’t-Put-‘Em-Down Books for All Ages

By Betsy at Redeemed Reader

Scroll down till you see the section of middle grade books

Vintage Middle Grade to Discover This Summer

By Anna Rose Johnson

Fantasy Books

By Sarah MacKenzie at Read-Aloud Revival

60+ Chapter Books Like The Green Ember

By Kristin Wynalda at Big Books Little Ears

63 Thrilling Mystery Books for Kids

By Mary Hanna Wilson at Celebrate a Book

Over 30 Graphic Novels Your Elementary Schooler Will Love

By Mary Hanna Wilson at Celebrate a Book

Read Across the US (Middle Grade Books Set Throughout the US)

By Afoma at Reading Middle Grade

A huge list orgainized by state!

Summer Reading: A Grade-by-Grade Recommended Reading List for Kids

By Children’s Educational Services (a school)

Scroll down to the lists for grades 4 to 6. “Outside Reading” indicates books that kids can read independently versus books that the teacher reads aloud to the class.

The Big Long List of Good Books for Children {Grades 4–6}

By Lisa at Club 31 Women

Truly a BIG list in alphabetical order.

Michelle’s Summer Reading Books for Upper Elementary Students

Here are books that I think are particularly suited to both summer AND elementary-age kids who crave more complex stories. I’ve personally read all of these.

In many instances, I couldn’t find an image of an entire book series, so I went ahead and chose one book cover to represent that series or collection of books.

What are your upper elementary kids reading this summer?

What great books or book lists am I missing? Leave me a comment with your favorites!

Get Summer Reading Challenge Printables

Here’s a FUN and FLEXIBLE way to read with your family this summer. Printable reading trackers, challenge grids, reward ideas, and book lists. And it’s free.

Or skip straight to signing up below! 👇

More along these lines…


  1. Afoma

    Ah, thank you so much for sharing my work! I just found your site through ConvertKit! Subscribed to your newsletter! 🙂

    • Michelle Watson

      Afoma, I found you the same way, and I’ve been enjoying your newsletter the last few weeks! 🤗 I love your book lists! Thank you for everything you do for the world of kid lit!


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