15 of the Best Chapter Books for 6th Graders – Guided Reading Levels W, X, Y, and Z
I’ve been an elementary school reading teacher, a reading interventionist, and now a reading instructional coach. Plus, I’ve got a 7 year old daughter who is obsessed with reading! I’ve had so much fun compiling this list of the best chapter books for 6th graders. In fact, this list was supposed to be just 10 books, but I couldn’t stop adding more of my favorites.
I decided to sort my list, just like the others, by guided reading level. Of course, you may have a struggling reader who is not on grade level, or a kiddo who is a year or more advanced. Not to worry; I have lists for other grade levels and topics, too.
Here are my other book recommendation posts:
- Best Chapter Books for 2nd Grade Girls
- Best Chapter Books for 3rd Graders
- Best Chapter Books for 4th Graders
- Best Chapter Books for 5th Graders
- 18 Outstanding Books for Middle School Boys
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How to Help Your 6th Grader Choose their Chapter Books
These are the best chapter books for 6th graders; on average, they’ll read between a T-Z in the 6th grade. If your child is reading below grade level, don’t be afraid to check out my lists for 4th and 5th grade; you’ll still find some that will interest a preteen.
If a kid is super interested in the content of a book, they’ll sometimes be able to access books that are one reading level higher than you’d expect.
The reverse is also true, if the content bores them completely, they may not be able to read as well. That’s because motivation plays an important part in reading endurance and decoding ability.
For example, my daughter’s current guided reading level is an S. She’s a strong reader who will be entering 2nd grade soon. She’ll make quite a few decoding errors if she attempts to read a book on a guided reading level T. However, she absolutely loves fiction with a female protagonist and an element of fantasy or magic – books like Matilda by Roald Dahl, for example. She will push past her decoding mistakes and manage to have strong comprehension with books that fit this niche.
However, if she’s got to read nonfiction about animals like crocodiles or sharks, she will sometimes comprehend less of what she’s reading, even if it’s technically on grade level. This is normal behavior.
In other words – prioritize interest over exact reading level. The goal is to be in the ballpark on the reading level, and then choose the highest interest books for your child. This will foster a love of reading for your kiddo!
If there’s a book that I want my daughter to enjoy that’s outside her normal wheelhouse, I’ll often read the first few chapters with her at night. Sharing this family time together allows her to be more open minded about new books.
Best Chapter Books for 6th Graders on a Guided Reading Level W
Kids at the beginning of 6th grade read at a level W, on average. If you think your child reads more or less on grade level, start with this collection between August and November and see how it goes!
The Phantom Tollbooth
This is a weird little fantasy book that happens to be a classic. It may be tough to get modern readers to dig in, but it’s a classic for a reason! Here’s one of the most highlighted passages from the book (per Kindle): ““You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”
A Wrinkle in Time
A Wrinkle in Time is another classic fantasy text that won its Newbery award in the 60s. You can watch the movie to see if it appeals to your kid before you read it, of course! The basic idea is that Meg’s father disappeared while working as a scientist for the government. Here’s a favorite quote: “But of course we can’t take any credit for our talents. It’s how we use them that counts.”
The Percy Jackson Series
This series has been created into two movies, a Broadway musical, and a tv series on Disney+. It’s all adventure, all the time! If you crossed Harry Potter with Greek Mythology, you’d find something like Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Upper elementary kids will love this one, too, if they’re strong enough readers.
House on Mango Street
Esperanza is a young Latina growing up in Chicago. It’s a true coming of age story, but it’s not told in chapters. You get instead beautiful, heartwarming, sad, all-over-the-map vignettes that will hook the reader. I could not put it down, even as an adult. These short vignettes would also be good for readers who struggle to pay attention, because there’s always something different coming on the very next page.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
I still remember reading this book as a kid, and what an impression it made on me! This one is set in Mississippi during the Great Depression, and it’s all about her family trying to hold onto their land. The protagonist is Cassie, and she’s pretty fierce. It’s banned in some places for its use of the N word, but in my opinion, better to read, discuss and learn than pretend it never happened.
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Best Chapter Books for 6th Graders on a Guided Reading Level X
On average, 6th graders read at a guided reading level X around the winter holiday.
Where the Red Fern Grows
A young boy wants desperately to own two dogs, and after saving up his money, finally purchases his new best friends – Little Ann and Old Dan. These three become an incredible hunting team, thanks to his leadership, Little Ann’s brains, and Old Dan’s brawn. Dog owners will love it, and everything is a dream come true – for a while. Then tragedy strikes. This book is set in the 1920s in the Ozarks.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Nan Sparrow is an orphaned chimney sweep, living a grueling, thankless and dangerous lifestyle. When she nearly dies in a chimney fire, she finds herself miraculously unharmed in an attic, accompanied by a mysterious golem made of soot and ash who is ready to befriend and transform her life.
Women Who Dared: 52 Stories of Fearless Daredevils, Adventurers & Rebels
In this book, each of the 52 stories covers a two-page spread. On one side is the little story about a brave woman, opposite from the colorful cartoon drawing of her. Each spread is eye-catching, inspiring, and will bring out the dreamer in your daughter. I liked this book because it caught my daughter’s attention, despite being outside her normal preference of fiction.
Best Chapter Books for 6th Graders on a Guided Reading Level Y
On average, 6th graders will read on a guided reading level Y between winter and spring break.
Here’s another book I remember reading in middle school. It’s certainly dark, but it’s a classic and a Newbery award winner for good reason. Much like the Hunger Games, The Giver presents a dystopian society where everything seems good at first glance. The protagonist, Jonah, is given a special lifetime assignment called the Receiver of Memories. He discovers the dark side of his idyllic world.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
By middle school, kids are ready to learn the painful details of the Holocaust, and this book is perfect for teaching. Kids will become engrossed in Anne Frank’s diary, as she’s a 13 year old girl who has fled with her family out of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Anne lives in an attic, where she records her thoughts. The New York Times Book Review has called it “The single most compelling personal account of the Holocaust…remains astonishing and excruciating.” But since it’s written by a young teenager, middle school audiences can access it easily.
Here’s a quote from an Amazon review that perfectly sums up Ender’s Game. “Does this book really need another review? Probably not…But let me just say, any book that has aliens (check), really really ridiculously smart children (check), a fast-paced and interesting plot line (check), action and battle and war! (check), and beautiful writing (check), should be read.” – D. Dunstock
I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World
Malala Yousafzai is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and this is her memoir. She was only 10 years old when the Taliban took control of her region of Pakistan, and she was then forbidden from attending school because of her gender. Malala was raised to stand up for her beliefs, so she continued going, and was shot on her bus ride home from school. She lived, and continues to stand up for women everywhere today. This is her powerful story.
Best Chapter Books for 6th Graders on a Guided Reading Level Z
By late spring, most 6th graders who are on track are reading at a guided reading level Z. Here are some of my favorite choices.
The Ken Jennings Junior Genius Series
My daughter is obsessed with the Ken Jennings Junior Genius Series. There are quite a few of them, and she’s constantly interrupting me to tell me “fun facts” she’s learned. I can tolerate that just fine, since I’m so proud of all she’s learned. Now, if I could just get her to stop correcting me when I try to explain something to her younger brother! These books are written with fun little illustrations throughout, and it’s basically a big collection of interesting tidbits on a given topic, ranging from Outer Space to Greek Mythology and American Presidents.
The Book Thief
The Book Thief is both a New York Times bestseller and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Best YA Books of All Time. It’s another Holocaust book, and this one is about a foster girl who steals books with the help of her foster father, and she shares them with her neighbors during bombing raids. This might sound terribly depressing, but the overriding theme is how books can get us through even the darkest times.
The Hunger Games Series
There’s a good chance you’ve seen the movies even if you haven’t read the books, so you probably know already whether you’re comfortable with how dark and violent these books can be. Of course, there’s quite a few on this list that cover dark topics, but I feel that history doesn’t count if it’s accurate. Unless you’ve got a super sensitive child, these books will hook them right away and keep them engaged in reading.
I hope you found something to read with your kiddos from this book list! Good luck, parents and teachers!