The Best Age-Appropriate Books For Advanced Readers
By Mary Montero
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As a gifted and talented facilitator, I am always asked to recommend age-appropriate books for advanced readers. It can truly be a daunting task to find books to fit the bill for upper elementary students. However, it is crucial to ensure that all readers are engaged and enriched by the literature they encounter. By offering books that are tailored to their interests and passions while also pushing them to expand their reading abilities, we can foster a love for reading and encourage growth in their literary skills.
Oftentimes, we come across books that are at a student’s given “reading level” (put in quotes because I truly believe we should not emphasize reading levels), but the content is absolutely not appropriate for their age. I have 3rd graders who could read and understand just about any book I give them, but giving them young adult novels is out of the question. I end up looking for captivating stories with complex themes or thought-provoking non-fiction books and try to provide a diverse range of options that can help nurture a lifelong passion for reading among upper elementary students.
Age-Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers
Our Inspired in Upper Elementary Facebook group shared their suggestions for age-appropriate books for advanced readers that meet the unique needs of these students. These books strike the balance between content suitable for your students’ ages and the intellectual stimulation your advanced readers need.
Be sure to preview each book to make sure it’s appropriate for your classroom needs. If you aren’t sure how to select books for your students, I shared my book selection process in this post. It includes a free checklist to help you plan your book selections for the year.
Here are popular recommendations from our group. I added them to this Amazon shopping list (affiliate links) for easy browsing.
Challenging Series Books
I LOVE when my students (especially my more reluctant readers) find a series they love. It means they always have a book in their hand AND a book to look forward to reading. So, I’m always on the hunt for excellent book series for upper elementary students! Here are a few that are well-loved.
Most of the age-appropriate books for advanced readers series books fall under the fantasy or mystery genre!
- A Series of Unfortunate Events – Orphan siblings face a series of unfortunate events in their quest to uncover family secrets. Bonus: There is a Moviei AND a TV show to accompany the books for comparison.
- Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians – A young boy with a talent for breaking things discovers his destiny as he battles evil librarians. I mean, the title alone will grab student’s attention!
- Amari and the Knight Brothers – Amari discovers her magical abilities and enters a secret academy to uncover the truth about her missing brother.
- Artemis Fowl – A teenage genius and criminal mastermind kidnaps a fairy to restore his family’s fortune. This one has also been adapted into a Disney film!
- Barren Grounds – Two siblings embark on a mystical journey through the Canadian wilderness to save a magical world.
- City of Ember – In an underground city, two friends uncover a dark secret and must find a way to save their civilization. Another great movie adaptation and is often recommended as a read aloud!
- Greg the Overlander – Greg discovers a hidden world beneath New York City and joins a quest to stop an ancient evil.
- Greystone Secrets – Siblings unravel a conspiracy involving alternate realities and a mysterious organization.
- Hardy Boys – This is a well-loved classic! Teenage brothers solve mysteries and crimes using their detective skills.
- Harry Potter – A young wizard, Harry Potter, battles dark forces and uncovers secrets about his past at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
- Hatchet – A boy survives a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness and learns to fend for himself with only a hatchet. This is one we read each year for 5th grade Battle of the Books, and it’s ALWAYS a favorite. It’s also a great gateway into even more Gary Paulsen books!
- Keeper of the Lost Cities – A telepathic girl discovers a hidden world and her role in a magical society.
- Land of Stories – Twins enter a fairy-tale world where they encounter classic characters in a new light.
- Mysterious Benedict Society – Gifted children join forces to thwart a nefarious plot threatening the world. I particularly like this one for gifted students because it features kids they can closely relate to.
- Nancy Drew – Another timeless classic! Teen detective Nancy Drew solves mysteries and uncovers secrets in her hometown.
- Narnia – Siblings discover a magical wardrobe that leads to the enchanting land of Narnia.
- Nevermoor – A cursed girl must prove herself in a magical city to escape a dire fate.
- Percy Jackson – Percy, a demigod, embarks on quests to prevent disasters and battles mythological creatures. This one has a movie AND a new TV Series! Rick Riordian will go down in the children’s book hall of fame for this series!
- Redwall – Animals in a medieval abbey defend against evil forces in this epic fantasy series.
- Sisters Grimm – Sisters navigate a world filled with fairy-tale characters and solve mysteries in their town.
- Spiderwick Chronicles – Siblings encounter magical creatures and face perilous challenges after discovering a field guide. My students have always loved this one.
- The False Prince – An orphan competes with others to impersonate a missing prince in a kingdom on the brink of war. This is my 6th grade daughter’s FAVORITE series. It’s complex and thoughtful, and she can’t wait for more to be released.
- The Giver – In a dystopian society, a young boy learns the truth about his world and challenges its conformity.
- Tristan Strong – Tristan Strong enters a magical world to save his kidnapped friend and confronts African mythology. Rick
- Unwanteds – Children with magical abilities are banished to a hidden island and discover a realm of creativity.
- Warriors – Feral cats navigate alliances and conflicts in a series exploring the world of wild clans.
- Wings of Fire – Dragons from different tribes join forces to prevent war and fulfill a prophecy.
More Challenging Novels for Advanced Students
While they aren’t series books, these are all excellent books for your gifted or advanced students in upper elementary.
- Bud, Not Buddy: A young boy embarks on a journey during the Great Depression to find his father while discovering the power of hope.
- Dragon Rider: A young dragon, along with a brownie and a human, embarks on a perilous quest to find a safe haven for their kind.
- Esperanza Rising: A young girl faces adversity and builds resilience as she navigates life as a migrant worker during the Great Depression.
- Fuzzy Mud: Two friends grapple with the consequences of a scientific experiment gone wrong, leading to the emergence of a mysterious and dangerous substance.
- How I Became a Ghost: A Choctaw boy recounts his experiences as a ghost and a witness to historical events during the Trail of Tears.
- Nowhere Boy: A young Syrian refugee’s journey unfolds as he searches for his missing father amid the chaos of war.
- Pax: A powerful tale of the bond between a boy named Peter and his pet fox, Pax, who are separated and undergo transformative journeys.
- Refugee: The intertwined stories of three refugees from different eras—Nazi Germany, Cuba, and Syria—highlight the universal struggles faced by those seeking safety.
- The Alchemist: A philosophical novel following a young shepherd’s journey to discover his personal legend and the meaning of life.
- The Golden Compass: In a fantastical world, a young girl named Lyra embarks on an epic quest with her armored polar bear companion.
- The Secret Zoo: A group of children discovers a hidden zoo and must navigate its mysteries to save endangered animals and their own lives.
- Tuck Everlasting: A young girl encounters an immortal family and must decide between a life of eternal youth and the transient beauty of mortality.
- Varjack Paw: A cat named Varjack embarks on an adventure to escape danger and uncover the secrets of his family’s past.
- Alan Gratz: Excellent historical fiction selections!
- Brandon Mull: Another fantasy author that upper grades students LOVE.
- Edith Nesbit: The Railway Children is an excellent historical fiction title!
- Margaret Haddix: The creator of Among the Hidden and Shadown Children, she has written multiple instant classics!
- Rick Riordan: Perhaps most well-known for Percy Jackson, his mythology-based novels are always a winner.
- Victoria Forester: Students tend to gravitate toward her coming-of-age titles that also include elements of fantasy!
- Gordon Korman: While his titles aren’t always super challenging, they are engaging and fun for students of all ages and levels.
More Book Recommendations
With careful consideration and book selections, we can empower students to become confident and enthusiastic readers. Here are most posts with recommended book lists.
- Advanced Chapter Books
- 3rd Grade Novel Study Books
- 4th Grade Novel Study Books
- 5th Grade Novel Study Books
- I also love this post from Imagination Soup and send it to parents often!
Reading Response Activities to Accompany Novels
Providing meaningful reading response tasks is just as important as selecting appropriate books. I am a big believer in having students respond to reading with thoughtful, defensible, evidence-based responses. That’s why I created this set of Novel and Book Study activities. These novel study activities are perfect for pre-reading, during reading, and after reading. Use them with almost any novel to help your students to think critically about what they’re reading.
This post has even more engaging reading response activities to use with any book.
I’ve also created numerous novel study response activities. It’s important to have accountability and meaningful engagement with the novels, which is where novel projects shine! You can see my favorite novel project activities in this post.
Join the Discussion
While finding age-appropriate books for advanced readers in upper elementary may seem challenging, it is essential to prioritize these selections. By providing appropriately challenging books that align with students’ interests and passions, we can ignite a love for reading and the growth of their literary skills.
Let’s work together to empower our students to become confident, curious, and lifelong readers. Join our FREE Inspired in Upper Elementary Facebook group to take part in more discussions like this one!
I’m so glad you are here. I’m a current gifted and talented teacher in a small town in Colorado, and I’ve been in education since 2009. My passion (other than my family and cookies) is for making teachers’ lives easier and classrooms more engaging.