Choosing literature books for your 10th grader can be overwhelming. There are dozens of “must read” books depending on which internet list Google directs you to. How is a homeschool mom to choose?
Not to worry. It doesn't have to be complicated. In fact, I will share some of my favorite books that are perfect for 10th graders to save you valuable time and energy.
But, first, here are some things you should consider when choosing books for your 10th-grade reading list.
Every 10th Grade Reading List Should Include...
Connections to Literature Through The Characters and Personal Experiences
Teenagers are questioning the world and looking for their place in it. Sophomores are at that age when they enjoy a book that challenges their thinking or the "status quo." They want to tackle complex topics to which they don't always have an easy answer.
As budding adults, they can connect the characters in the stories they are reading to their own lives and what is happening in the world around them. No matter what books you choose, you want to be able to ask your 10th-grader these questions.
- Which character was your favorite? Why?
- Which character was the most disturbing or annoying to you? Why?
- What is the central conflict, and how did the characters handle it? Would you do the same in that situation?
- What can you take away from the book to improve your own lives?
Connections to Literature Through Themes and Belief Systems
Most teens crave meaningful discussions about beliefs and how the topics may affect them or their lives, but they don't always know how to get the conversation started. These middle teens are thinking deeply about and need a way to discuss the themes from the books they read with you or their peers. Here are questions to help your 10th grader think deeply and open up a discussion.
- What can you learn from the characters' experiences?
- What did you think about the characters' actions?
- What themes did you notice in the story?
- Did anything from this chapter or story remind you of something that has happened in your own life?
Opportunities to Communicate Their Thoughts
These 10th-graders need to learn how to communicate their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs in writing. Parents can extend the learning by helping students to move these discussions into a written project. Spending the time to write down their opinions requires them to think deeply through the "why" of their own thoughts. This help gives order to their thinking and helps them to create their own writer's voice.
By getting your child to think critically about the books they are reading and writing to communicate those thoughts, you can help them to get more out of their reading experiences. The work required for critical thinking and writing helps them to connect to the story while they learn more about themselves and the world around them.
Lastly, it's essential for 10th-graders to be able to support their opinions about the books they read with evidence from the text. When discussing a book with friends or family, your teen should be able to back up what they're saying with specific examples. This will help to improve their critical thinking and reading comprehension skills.
A 10th Grade Reading List that Connects to American History
As parents, we want to expose teens to books by authors who influenced the world! Classics become classics for a reason!
For this 10th-grade reading list, we wanted to pick books that coincided with our American History studies. So, we chose American authors who changed American literature. Their books continue to impact society because they help the reader have a shared experience with characters and other readers and challenge the reader in some way.
Your 10th grader can learn an overview of American history and how American culture has changed through these American classics.
Here are our Top Picks for 10th Grade Books to Read
When choosing books for your 10th grader to read, it's important to consider your child's interests, as well as the level of difficulty for them. Though the reading content of these books falls well within the level of a high schooler, some are more difficult to read than others.
Most of these books concentrate on subjects that are too mature for a middle schooler or young teen but can be just the challenge your 10th-grader needs. You want to ensure they're reading something that will challenge them but not so difficult that they get frustrated and give up.
With that in mind, here are some of our top picks for 10th-grade books to read.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This classic American novel is perfect for adding to the 10th-grade reading list because it includes themes of love and exciting characters. It has become a favorite in my high school literature classes!
It tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man obsessed with a woman named Daisy. Gatsby will go to great lengths to win her over but ultimately discovers that money can't buy happiness.
What to look for: themes of love and obsession, beautiful writing, complex characters
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is set in the American South during the 1930s. It tells the story of Atticus Finch, a white lawyer who defends a black man accused of a crime he didn't commit. It is the number one recommended book for all ages and should be on everyone's reading list, but is also one of the most challenged and banned books in high schools!
What to look for: themes of justice and racism, a strong moral compass, captivating storytelling
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
This novel is a moral study of the Puritan society in Massachusetts during the 17th century. It revolves around a mother who is shunned as an outcast for having an extramarital affair that produced her daughter. The novel follows the ramification of this one act and how it affects everyone involved. Nathaniel Hawthorne is considered one of the forefathers of American literature.
What to look for: themes of morality, sin and the human condition, women's rights, society's rules
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
In this futuristic dystopia novel, firefighters don't stop fires; they start them. Knowledge has become the enemy; therefore, books are dangerous to the world. So, a fireman's job is to destroy books by burning them. Ray Bradbury paints a frightening picture of what the future might become if we let technology rule.
What to look for: themes of knowledge is power, censorship, power of books
Up from Slavery by Booker T Washington
This African American autobiography is one of the best-selling books of the 20th century. Washington shares his life from slavery to educator, speaker, and advisor to presidents. Through it all, he emphasizes the importance of education in the fight for equality for all minorities.
What to look for: themes of civil rights, the value of hard work, and education
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five is an anti-war novel with a twist. It follows the story of Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes "unstuck in time" and experiences events from his life out of order. The book is set during the Dresden bombings in World War II, which Vonnegut witnessed firsthand.
What to look for: dark humor, a unique storytelling style, anti-war themes
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Outsiders is a powerful story of teens in the middle of 1950s gang wars. The author points out the humanity in each side of the rival gangs while also showing the desperation that all teens feel no matter what "side of the tracks they were born on." This fantastic story laid the groundwork for what would become the YA Genre.
What to look for: empathy, childhood innocence, have vs. have not
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
In this coming-of-age story, four sisters must look after each other as their father is away during the Civil War. Join them as they find various adventures and mischief to keep them all busy as they grow from children to Little Women.
What to look for: morality and society, self-improvement, duty and sacrifice
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men is the story of an unexpected friendship during the Great Depression. One man takes on a difficult responsibility and finds an unexpected family until tragedy strikes, and he has to make a decision no one should ever have to make.
What to look for: mental disability, dreams, friendship, making difficult decisions
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
A well-treated dog is unexpectedly stolen away to become an Alaskan sled dog. As his life of pampering and luxury is taken away, he finds himself in a daily battle for survival which requires constantly adapting to his changing situation and an unknown wilderness.
What to look for: man-dog relationship, survival of the fittest, struggle for mastery
These are just a few examples of the great books that your 10th grader can read this year. As you can see, a wide variety of genres and styles are represented to help your teen discover what type of literature piques their interest.
And, if you have a 9th-grader, let me help you choose what a freshman should be in What Should Be On Your 9th-Grade Reading List?
Need a language arts course that includes all these books rolled up into one series for your high schooler?
We have the answer you're looking for to make this whole process so much easier for you: American Classic Literature Series for Teens, a high school course, language arts curriculum, and literary adventure all-in-one!
This literature course covers all you need for a full high school language arts credit. Your child will study literature, literary elements, grammar, and writing. It's the perfect way to give your high schooler an excellent language arts education that will prepare them for college and beyond!
The course is designed to help your high school kid develop a love for literature while also teaching them important critical thinking skills they need for success in their English lessons.
Whether looking for a comprehensive language arts course or a standalone literature credit, you can be confident that your child is getting a quality language arts education through the American Classic Literature Series for Teens ~ A High School Course!
Dachelle McVey is the founder of Literary Adventures for Kids, a full language arts curriculum for preschool through high school. These online book clubs use rabbit trails and hands-on exploration to help students make connections to literature. In 2018, she partnered with Chantelle Grubbs to add high school online book clubs to the growing library. Literary Adventures for Kids continues to grow in the pursuit of creating a generation of great readers!