Six great reads for your 6th grader is my second attempt at the all-elusive list-making. I do not mean to say these are the greatest books of all time, just that they are standouts and might give you some ideas. Parents are entrusted with the great task of putting good words into the hands of their budding adults; I for one have found it difficult to find safe booklists I can trust. How do you decide what to allow your child to read? Do you simply sit in the car and let them run in to the local bookstore? Do you trust Amazon’s top picks? I believe the parent who can come home to their children at the dinner table with a book in hand (or a loaded Kindle) will accomplish mighty things, such as:
- Gaining the edge on feeding good thoughts into his/her children
- Connecting with his/her children
- Laying a foundation for difficult upcoming conversations
- Increasing academic success
- Indirectly teaching morality (alright, that is a lot like #1)
Christopher Perrin and Leslie Rayner in The Classical Reader write:
“Ensconced with great books, our children will travel to places that we cannot take them and to times we cannot go. Lives will be lived, loves lost and gained, battles fought and won. Truth, beauty, and goodness can be seen, held and understood. Virtue can be taught and stroked. Empathy, Understanding, conviction, courage, and compassion can find strength and depth. As our children travel the world among the pages, we will find them not just entertained but one day made wise. The right book at the right time can change the course of a child’s life. The right Story, the right biography, can awaken an interest or calling that may serve the Church and culture, all through a well-chosen book.”
Around the world in 80 days by Jules Verne takes the reader on one journey after another as Phileas Fogg attempts to travel around the globe with only the means of his day. Getting around before the 20th century was a great feat! It teaches about the development of the world, geography, and culture, and it is simply great fun! Teaching that comes in a fun package is the way to a sixth-grade heart!
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis is the 3rd book in the Chronicles of Narnia. While Narnia can be given to younger and older children alike, it is very powerful and will be very enjoyable for a 6th grader. Make sure they have first read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, as it is most beneficial to read the series in the order they were written. Some of the most quotable lines in the series are in this volume, which relates the story of the king’s travels to the Far East, tackling all sorts of mysteries. Eustace Scrubb has a tremendous conversion experience as he realizes that he needs Aslan to “fix” him. My favorite Characters are the Duffelpuds found on one island that so remind me of ourselves, as we think we know best and rebel against the ways of the Lord. Narnia is beloved and will serve children well for ages to come.
Straw into Gold by Gary D. Schmidt is a Rumpelstiltskin story with two boys who are set on the run not knowing who they are. The adventure is great as it reveals so much about the internal struggle of discovery. This is my nod to a modern author. Reading at this age is so much fun, and here you have a well-written story full of figurative language and metaphor: a rich place to learn better writing. Of course boys will love the fighting and scraping along, so how can you go wrong?
A Father’s Promise by Donna Hess is an adventure story set in Poland during the occupation of the Nazis in WWII. A twelve-year-old boy has to live alone in the wilderness, and he befriends and raises an orphan girl. This story will evoke in young men virtue that stings with heartache and great compassion, yet the boy will not see it as a soft story. I was truly engaged and found the truths of goodness rise up in a setting of much wickedness.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is the classic story of Rat and Mole and their friend Toad. At first you may think it is a kiddie story, but these characters’ actions and thoughts are so profound. Friendship is modeled and seen for its beauty so often in this story. Many times characters will give up their own desire to prefer a friend. Once, Rat goes on a trip with Mole just to see his old house and let him have a moment. The story provides an awesome lesson about addiction, as toad is addicted to automobiles. One can live in the whimsical pages of this story and soak up truths without even knowing it.
The Wise Woman by George MacDonald holds untold riches. Sometimes called The Lost Princess, or A Double Story. It can also be found in collected volumes of George MacDonald’s fairy tales. Now, do not think when I say “fairy” I mean little winged creatures like Tinker Bell. Think instead of other worlds and lands of enchantment. With modern writing, we must be wary of handing even fairy stories off to our children. However, if the book is a hundred years old, as this one is, you are generally a bit more safe. MacDonald loved story, and this one is weird and magical. Even so, it is a real depiction of a wayward, spoiled child being caught up and trained by a wise woman. I wish parents would read this as well; I felt moved by the story. There was just a sense in which you could identify with the girl as she comes to realize her own depravity.