12 Good Books for Tweens: A Guide For Parents

The Bark Team | April 18, 2023 | Culture & Media Parenting Tips

illustrated bookshelf with multiple multicolored books on it, along with a house plant

Nowadays, it’s easy to forget the joy of reading when our free time is more often filled with TV shows, social media, video games, and other visual entertainment. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of great books and even more kids willing to read them! Ironically, all you have to do is look up #BookTok on TikTok and you’ll find literally billions of users posting about their favorite books and encouraging others to read with them. 

If you’re reading this, you’re probably looking for some good books for tweens that will spark their love of reading (and keep the screen time down, of course). So we put together this handy guide that will not only go over the benefits of reading but also get your preteen started with a Bark-approved book list they’re sure to enjoy!

Why is reading important for tweens?

Besides the fact that reading is fun (yes, just as fun as video games and TikTok) there are loads of benefits that come with consistent reading. 

Here are just a few: 

  • Encourage learning: Books can teach new skills and information in a more relatable way. As your child goes through their tween growing pains, they can find some valuable life lessons in the books they read. Reading can also help develop their information-interpreting skills and even build problem-solving skills.
  • Build creativity: Unlike visual media, books encourage readers to create a whole world in their own minds. This skill of creative thinking is great for academic development but even more than that — life is a lot more fun with a big imagination! 
  • Improve language skills: As readers make their way through different books, they’ll learn new ways to express themselves – verbally and on paper. They’ll naturally pick up a wider vocabulary and be exposed to new ways of communication.
  • Foster a love of reading: A love of literature doesn’t always come naturally, but the more your child reads, the more they’ll enjoy it.

What makes a good book for a tween? 

There are a few things to consider as you pick out books for your preteen, but remember to involve them in the book-picking process as much as you can. This could help foster their interest in reading if they get to take some ownership of what they read. 

Consider their reading level

Big kids and tweens aged 9-12 typically have a level of reading comprehension where they can identify basic figurative language and understand more complex themes. This opens them up to a variety of genres and book types that will really grasp their attention. 

Here are some things to consider when choosing books for the preteen reading level:

  • Look for books that primarily include familiar vocabulary. New or more complex words should have the appropriate context that helps build understanding about the word.
  • Tween books should have character and plot development that are relatable but also relatively easy to follow.
  • Preteen books can vary in length but typically fall between 100-300 pages.

There are still some books that may be a bit complex or mature for tween readers. But the good news is you’ll find no shortage of books written for kids this age. 

Prioritize their interests

Not every child is born a bookworm. If your child doesn’t come by reading naturally, don’t fret – it’s totally normal! But choosing books that match their interests can go a long way in helping them choose to read. Not every book may be a hit — sometimes they might have to read some bad books to figure out what they like. 

12 Good Books for Tweens

And now for what you’ve been waiting for… Bark’s official book list for tweens! We’ve pulled together a range of books, both timeless classics and modern masterpieces, that will be great additions to your preteen’s bookshelf (or Kindle, Audiobook, and anything in between). 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Written by Lewis Carroll

You’re likely no stranger to this beloved classic. Published in 1865, the story follows Alice, a young girl who takes a tumble down a rabbit hole. Then finds herself in a whole new world filled with intriguing yet bizarre characters. From the smiling Cheshire Cat and the eccentric Mad Hatter to the crazy Queen of Hearts, readers will meet some of the most famed storybook characters in history.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 5-6th grade level.

Perfect for: The child who loves exploring whimsical themes and eccentric characters. It’s guaranteed to give anyone a boost of imagination.

Anne Frank: Diary Of A Young Girl

Written by Anne Frank

This piece of non-fiction is often included as required reading in many middle-school curriculums. The book is a collection of real journal entries from Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis in World War II. Taking place in Amsterdam, this book gives the reader an intimate and in-depth look into the lives of Jewish children and families during a dark period in history.

The Diary of Anne Frank was preserved by her father and published after World War II. While difficult to read at times, the unique first-hand account of the Holocaust offers a perspective of World War II that can’t be found otherwise.

If you ever travel through Amsterdam, you can still explore the home where Anne Frank and her family hid. The Anne Frank Museum allows you to walk in her footsteps almost a century later, painting an even clearer picture of the diary entries from the book.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 7-8th grade level. It’s best suited to children who can handle some emotional and mature subject matter.

Perfect for: Tweens who are history buffs or currently learning about the Holocaust.

Anne Of Green Gables

Written by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne Shirley is an orphan who is full of life and imagination. Spending most of her life bouncing between family members, with no real home, she finds herself in Avonlea – A fictional town in the real east coast province of Prince Edward Island in Canada. The Cuthberst were expecting to adopt a boy, but Anne is mistakenly sent instead to live with them on their farm.

With her bright red hair trailing behind her, Anne embarks on a journey of adapting to her new surroundings and finding community. Her talkative personality gets her into a bit of trouble along the way, but her fiery spirit helps her transition to life with her new family.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 6-7th grade level.

Perfect for: Children who are trying to find their place in the world. A true coming-of-age story, Anne of Green Gables is a heart-warming story that displays resilience and shows readers how they can adapt.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Written by Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events features a whopping 13 books. The first book, The Bad Beginning, follows the Baudelaire siblings as they navigate life without their parents after a fire. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are sent to live with Count Olaf. Determined to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune, Count Olaf is sneaky and cruel. With each sibling being creative and intelligent in their own way, they work together to try and escape from Count Olaf’s grasp.

As readers progress through the series, you’ll join the Baudelaire children as they navigate unexpected (and unusual) circumstances and eventually unravel the truth about their parents.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 5-6th grade level. Expect the books to get a bit more complex and challenging to read as the series progresses.

Perfect for: Someone who loves mystery and adventure. While humorous and endearing, the subject matter can get a bit dark at times. It’s ideal for a child who loves a bit of suspense and thrill.

A Wrinkle In Time

Written by Madeleine L’Engle.

Travel through time and space with Meg as she tries to rescue her father, who has been captured. Along with her brother Charles, and friend Calvin, they embark on a journey – with the help of some strange and mysterious beings.

Working together, they battle evil forces to eventually save her father. A Wrinkle In Time was also recently adapted into a movie featuring a star-studded cast. Perfect for a post-read movie night with the entire family.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 5-6th grade level.

Perfect for: The sci-fi, fantasy lover. A Wrinkle In Time will help children unleash their creativity and really challenge what they know about the world around them.

Bridge to Terabithia

Written by Katherine Paterson

Leslie and Jesse become unexpected friends when Leslie moves to town. As their friendship grows, they build the imaginary magical kingdom of Terabithia. Filled with creatures like trolls and fairies, Terabithia is a world built on creativity and imagination.

But when the worst tragedy strikes, Jesse learns how to navigate life without Leslie. Readers follow along as Jesse discovers the role of imagination and friendship, even in times of grief.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 5-6th grade level. It does contain some more emotional and mature themes.

Perfect for: Learning about themes of friendship, loss, and grief. As well as understanding the power of imagination.

Little Women

Written by Louisa May Alcott

Another classic, Little Woman, follows four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. They all have different aspirations in life, but they’re tied together as the March sisters.

Set during the American Civil War, the reader watches the four sisters grow up and learn that life isn’t always what we expect when we’re young. They navigate personal and familial relationships, as well as societal expectations for women during the late 1800s.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 7-8th grade level.

Perfect for: Readers who love period books. Taking place during the American Civil War, the book ties in elements of history while building themes of love and family that are still very much relatable to kids today.

Harry Potter

Written by J.K. Rowling

Arguably one of the most famous book series in the world, the seven-book fantasy series follows Harry Potter and his friends as they explore the world of wizards. In the first book, we follow Harry and how he unexpectedly finds himself at Hogwarts. We meet his friends, Ron and Hermione, as they uncover villains and battle threats to the wizarding and muggle worlds. As the books progress, readers get to join as the three friends come of age and build on their lives as wizards.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 6-7th grade level. It’s worth noting that the series follows the characters as they get older, so books later in the series are a bit more complex and increase in reading level.

Perfect for: Readers who love fantasy and want to immerse themselves in a whole new world.

The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer

Written by Mark Twain

Tom Sawyer lives in a fictional town in Missouri, on the bank of the Mississippi River. The classic storybook follows Tom and his best friend, Huckleberry Finn, as they adventure through their little town. They’re both mischievous and enjoy playing pranks, and tend to get into trouble. But when they witness a murder, they must use their antics for good in order to bring the real killer to justice.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 6-7th grade level.

Perfect for: Children starting to explore themes of racism and morality. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer breaks down important societal themes in a more approachable way.

The Hobbit

Written by J.R.R. Tolkien

Set in the fantasy world of Middle-earth, readers will meet Bilbo Baggins – the hobbit. He works with a group of dwarves to battle the dragon Smaug. As you journey with Bilbo, you explore the world of Middle-earth, meeting fantastical creatures like trolls and goblins along the way.

This prequel to The Lord Of The Rings Series explores themes of good vs. evil and the bonds of friendship. As a classic piece of literature, The Hobbit is often included as required reading in school curriculums.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 7-8th grade level. It does include some themes of violence that may be more suitable for slightly older readers

Perfect for: Readers who want to be transported into a whole new fantasy world. The Hobbit is the perfect introduction to fantasy adventure books, especially for those looking to progress to the more dense Lord Of The Rings epic.

The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe

Written by C.S. Lewis

Another fantasy series, the Chronicles of Narnia explores the magical world of, you guessed it, Narnia. Four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, step into a mysterious wardrobe and on the other side, they discover Narnia. A world of talking animals, supernatural and mythical creatures, and an evil queen – who has left Narnia in perpetual winter. The four children work with the great lion Aslan to restore him as the rightful king.

The remaining books explore Narnia through the lens of different characters, coming together to create a robust picture of Narnia that brings the world to life. The Chronicles of Narnia aren’t written in chronological order, so readers can choose their own adventure. But most will read the series in publishing order.

Reading level: Suitable for children reading at a 6-7th grade level.

Perfect for: Readers looking for a fantasy series that they can see themselves in. Many children will find Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy relatable as they explore the world of Narnia through the book.

The Hunger Games

Written by Suzanne Collins

In the nation of Panem, children are forced to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. Each of the 12 districts is required to send two children – a boy and a girl. When 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen’s little sister’s name is drawn at the reaping, she volunteers to take her place. The book follows Katniss as she fights to survive in the Hunger Games, making unlikely friends and building a following throughout the nation along the way.

The Hunger Games is part of a trilogy, the following books exploring the aftermath of the Hunger Games and the subsequent rebellion in Panem.

Reading level:  Suitable for children reading at a 7-8th grade level. It does contain some violence and other more sophisticated themes, including politics and oppression, which may be better enjoyed by slightly older readers.

Perfect for: Children learning about oppression and the power of media through an engaging story of friendship and family.

How to encourage reading for tweens

Now that you’ve got some books in mind, how can you get your big kid to finally curl up with their new books?

  • Choose the right books: The right book that piques their interest can make all the difference. The above list is a great place to start.
  • Create a cozy reading space: Help your child cozy up with their books by creating a comfortable place to read. Whether it’s in their room or shared family space, reading is way more enjoyable when you’re comfy and snuggled up.
  • Be a good example: Children of all ages will learn from their parents; by being a reader yourself, you can naturally encourage a love of reading. Get creative by setting aside time to read together or even create a family book club to make reading a family affair.
  • Offer reading in different formats: Your child may prefer to read on their phone or on a digital reading device. While these may seem distracting, allowing them to read on a familiar device might help move the needle. Even audiobooks can be a great way to introduce your child to more reading.
  • Set aside dedicated reading times: Some children work best with a schedule! Set aside reading times to help encourage regular reading. Use apps like Bark to limit devices and screen time during these reading blocks.

Encourage reading with Bark

Building a habit of reading isn’t always easy, but Bark can help.

Bark makes managing technology a breeze for parents. Whether it’s monitoring what your child is reading or setting screen-time limits, you can use a wide variety of features to build reading into your child’s routines. You can even get detailed activity reports to help make sure your tween is tackling all the books on their list. 

Ready to start building your child’s reading routine? Get started with a free trial of Bark today.

About Bark

Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.