15 Books Children Must Read Before They Are 12

21K School · Feb 8, 2023 · 4 min read

Picture of Books

If life is a collection of experiences, reading is how one makes sense of these experiences.

Every child should read the following fifteen books before they turn 12. The titles below are arranged according to their suitability for children in an increasing order of age (starting from young readers to older readers):

1.Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

This timeless tale explores the imaginative realm of a child grounded for misbehavior. Max, the protagonist of the book, discovers the concepts of freedom and love. He eventually learns to love his mother and after a journey of being King of the Wild Things, returns to being just a child.

2. Elmer by David Mckee

An excellent example of how to get over the worry of fitting in is the colorful elephant named Elmer. The theme of this book is inclusion. Additionally, it promotes individuals embracing their unique personalities in front of the world, and discourage conformity.

3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This book is excellent for both kids and adults since it tugs at the readers’ heartstrings while preaching how we should treat nature. It follows a man throughout his lifetime and demonstrates how selfishness may result from desire, and how only love can bring true happiness. It also shows the genuine suffering caused when we take advantage of those close to us.

4. Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

This stirring children’s picture book won the Stonewall Award and is about Julián, a young boy intrigued by some women costumed as mermaids that he encounters on the train. The lesson children learn from this magnificent celebration of gender diversity, self-love, and inventiveness is the freedom and courage to be yourself.

5. Matilda by Roald Dahl

This tale, which takes place at a school with a lousy authority figure, will immediately appeal to kids. Matilda encourages young people to have self-confidence despite negative pressures from the outside world. It may seem a little impractical to have superpowers in school, but it emphasizes the importance of having exceptional talent.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Growing up can feel incredibly chaotic and aimless, leaving kids with feelings of anxiety and terror. This tale demonstrates the disadvantages of taking away one’s right to choose from a variety of options. It warns against total uniformity by depicting a world that, despite being calm, is devoid of all feeling.

7. Percy Jackson and The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

This book, out of all the titles in the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, finds mention in our list because it is the first book in the chronology. Percy Jackson’s books deftly weave together action, Greek mythology, and adolescent difficulties.

8. The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Watsons, an African-American family from Flint, Michigan, are the main characters in this novel, and Curtis describes their journey to Birmingham. The book is crucial because it accurately captures the era and the disparities in how minorities were treated in various locales.

9. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

There are many excellent Holocaust memoirs and works of historical fiction, but this one stands out because of its narrative point of view. It would seem daunting to present such gruesome details, but the events of the Holocaust, witnessed through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl, are poignantly described in the tale.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Finding a school without this book on the curriculum would be near impossible — and for good reason. The book is a seminal work of literature which exposes many young people to the unjust structures ingrained in American societies.

11. The Actual Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This coming-of-age tale is permeated with issues of intergenerational poverty, institutionalized racism, alcoholism, and domestic abuse. As Junior discovers life both on and off the reserve, the harsh truths of an unfair world are brought to his attention.

12. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Even though this Shakespeare comedy is relatively lesser known, it is a great place to start for a beginner who is new to Shakespeare. Although the plot is relatively straightforward, children might find it helpful to read an abridged version for simpler language.

13. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Thanks to this exquisitely written tale, children can get to experience the intensity of emotions many Indians feel about the India-Pakistan partition. It is the recipient of the 2019 Newbery Honor book, which is a well-deserved distinction.

14. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Everyone is terrified of the witch Xan. One infant is offered to her every year to keep her at bay. However, Xan is a good witch who feeds the infants with starlight before placing them in loving homes.

15. The Percy Jackson series

Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are now allies in the hero community. Rick Riordan’s fictional superhero character Percy Jackson (as referenced earlier in our list too), discovers that he is the son of Poseidon when he is 12 years old, and the rest is a journey of exploration and adventure that every young adult must experience.


Good literature is critical to the holistic development of a child. This list of books will help foster a love of reading in children and open up their minds to new ideas.


21K School World

Read our latest education blogs here. We are pioneers in proffering personalised, affordable and high-quality lessons using an advanced learning platform.

Join Asia’s Leading Online School and Unlock
endless opportunities

Join Asia’s
Leading Online School
and Unlock endless opportunities