Top Schools Think 7th and 8th Graders Should Be Able to Read These Books

Below are the 25 most common books assigned to 7th and 8th-graders at schools with a classical curriculum. Are these indeed more rigorous than the books you or your child read in middle school? Do you think middle school students should be able to read these texts?

1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain*

2. Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

3. Animal Farm, George Orwell+

4. Beowulf, Rosemary Sutcliff/Seamus Heaney+

5. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, J.R.R. Tolkien

6. Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer+

7. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee+

8. The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

9. The Call of the Wild, Jack London*

10. Macbeth, William Shakespeare+

11. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare+

12. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare*

13. The Odyssey, Homer

14. Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

15. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

16. The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri

17. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens*

18. The Aeneid, Virgil/Penelope Lively

19. Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt

20. King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Roger Lancelyn Green/Howard Pyle

21. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

22. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain*

23. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens+

24. Johnny Tremain, Esther Forbes

25. Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank*

Source: Top Schools Think 7th and 8th Graders Should Be Able to Read These Books | Intellectual Takeout

The * and + after some of those titles were added by me. The * is a book I read in elementary school, the + is a book I read in high school. Those are only the ones assigned for me to read. I read a few more of them on my own. I am one year short of being considered a millennial, just to get an idea of years. So this was during the 90s.

Now, A Christmas Carol was a different story for us. We had to read it in seventh grade, because the seventh and eight grade did a Christmas play ever year, and that year we did A Christmas Carol. I was the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. 🙂

Do I think kids in grades seven and eight should be reading these? Yes. Are they going to like it? No. Liking it isn’t the point. Learning about how life was in the past, seeing how people believed and wrote… those things are. It shapes literacy and history.

In my first year of high school, for the summer leading in to that year, one of the books on our summer reading list was Night by Elie Wiesel. That book is to blame for who I am today. Period. Because of that book, I began to study history and I began to pay attention to current events. Many of the above books, while difficult, could spark something in a child. It could give them a passion for history, literature, current events, government, writing. And I’m sorry, but that is much more important than standardized testing. This is how we shape our nation’s future. Yes, I read a lot of books I didn’t like. I read them again when I was older. Some of them I still didn’t like. But in the pile of hated it, I found Night. And all I can hope for our children is that they find in a book what I found in Night.




2 responses to “Top Schools Think 7th and 8th Graders Should Be Able to Read These Books

  1. I have been checking books out of the libary since I was in the 3rd grade. I remember reading biogracy books about Susan B. Anthony and Presidents lives. When I was older, I loved getting English/Lit. books at the end of the school year for the next year. By the time school rolled around, I had already read the whole book. You need to read to do anything in this world. You can’t go anywhere in life without the ability to read. Yes I believe every 7 & 8 graders need to read this. Start earlier and the better the ability.

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