25 Great Books to Read with Your Kids Before They Turn 12

Are you looking for books to read with your kids? Here is a great list for you!

In today’s age of screens, video games, and kids being involved in hours of extracurriculars on top of a mountain of nightly homework, it’s no surprise parents are having a hard time finding a spare moment of time to connect with their children. 

One habit that we’ve tried to keep with our kids, pandemic or not, has been setting aside one chunk in our day to read with our children.

While we homeschool, reading time takes place during a mid-day snack break. The kids eat and I read to them and chat about discussion questions. Currently we’re reading Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

At other times, my husband will read to them before bedtime. It’s a great way to replace screens while winging down, so children’s brains aren’t overstimulated before falling asleep. 

Reading before bedtime also creates a great segway for us to have a meaningful conversation with our kids. “What did you think when this character said/did that?” and ask how they can relate to the text. Books always offer an opportunity to show empathy for others and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. My husband and I have both walked away at the end of bedtime with special little moments.

Quick tip: You can also Google something simple such as, “Charlotte’s Web discussion questions Chapter 13,” and talk through a few questions to gain a grasp on your child’s reading comprehension. It’s interesting to compare how much our children comprehend by reading to us versus us reading to them. Different learning styles either help or hinder our reading comprehension, so it’s best to pick up on your child’s learning style as early as possible.

Without further delay, here are the 25 books to read with your kids before they turn 12:

1) Warrior Kid series

After Uncle Jake, a Navy SEAL, spends the summer at Marc’s house, Marc decides he’s going to become a warrior.

2) Percy Jackson series

This story is about a boy who finds out he’s the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and the adventures follow! Jayda loves this series!

3) Harry Potter series

There’s a reason why these books are so popular. An orphan boy who finds out he’s a famous wizard. He and his two friends set off on magical adventures to face enemies, make new friends, and overcome evil with good. I’m a HOGWARTS HOUSE HERE myself and I love these books.

4) Tristan Strong Punches a Hole In the Sky

A boy struggling with grief and is rather fond of punching things, which is handy because his family wants him to be a boxer.

5) Charlotte’s Web

This classic tells a tale about a pig on the farm named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte.

6) The Hundred Dresses

A girl named Wanda Petronski is bullied at school because she’s not the same as the other girls.

7) A Little Princess

A little girl at boarding school dreams of being home with her beloved father. What happens when an evil headmistress forces her to be a servant?

8) Island of the Blue Dolphins

This is a story of a 12 year old girl stranded on a desert island off the coast of California.

9) The Boxcar Children

Four siblings are orphaned and decide to make a home together in an abandoned boxcar in the woods.

10) The Secret Garden

Mary does not like other people or really the world in general. Her parents die young, and she believes nothing good can happen until she stumbles upon the enchanting Secret Garden.

11) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Four siblings stumble through a wardrobe and discover a magical land called Narnia where they must help the good conquer the evil. If your kids loved the movie, they’ll love the books too!

12) Holes

Stanley is told he must dig holes to pay for the things he’s done wrong, but soon he figures out they’re really digging for treasure.

13) James and the Giant Peach

After James’ parents die, he gets into some mischief after a big-as-a-house peach begins to grow in the backyard and hilarity ensues.

13) The Giver

12 year Jonas lives in a colorless world until he meets The Giver. This is one of my favorite books to read to the kids and they loved it! The discussion questions for this book can bring about great conversations!

14) Wonder

Fall in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy, with a not-so-ordinary face. His parents and siblings have gotten past his face to know who really lives inside of him, but will he make friends at his new school?

15) A Wrinkle in Time

Can two siblings outwit evil forces as they search through time and space for their lost father?

16) My Father’s Dragon

Elmer Elevator sets out to free a baby dragon who has been captured by the animals of Wild Island.

17) The BFG

The BFG is no ordinary, violent giant, which is a good thing for Sophie who’s being carried along by this creature.

18) Upside Down Magic

The misadventures of Nory and her oddball friends get into all sorts of mischief and magic.

19) The Hobbit

The prequel to the Lord of the Rings, gives us Bilbo Baggins backstory of a simple hobbit life, turned into a grand adventure. This one can be a bit more complicated, but it’s a great read aloud.

20) I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

A memoir of Malala’s fight for girls’ education and her father who encouraged his daughter to attend school in the face of adversity.

21) Inside Out and Back Again

A book written in free-verse poetry, telling the life story of a young Vietnamese girl who leaves her country for America in 1975.

22) Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party

This is a compelling memoir about a girl fighting to survive during the Cultural Revolution in China.

23) Bud, Not Buddy

Bud is a motherless boy on the run, set off to find the  father he’s never met. This is a classic and your kids will love it!

24) Brown Girl Dreaming

Raised in the north and the south slightly after Jim Crow, this memoir details the author’s feelings of never truly belonging to one side or the other, in free-verse poems.

One particularly astounding fact I read recently: 

“Given the course of brain development, it is not surprising that young children who are exposed to certain early language and literacy experiences usually prove to be good readers later. Just as a child develops language skills long before being able to speak, the child also develops literacy skills long before being able to read. National Research Council. (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.” 

Just wanted to give a little spark and some ideas for you to start a reading aloud today.

Let me know if you have read any of these or have any other favorite books to read with your kids that you would add to the list!

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K. Elizabeth says:

We love the Tristan Strong series. It was a great way to introduce West African and African American mythology and tall tales to my youngest. As a kid, I devoured the Boxcar Children series. Happy to see it’s still going.

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Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget


I'm a former journalist, and lifelong creator striving to make the world a better place. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day by cherishing our individuality and celebrating our differences.

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