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Classic Literature for Middle School

classiclitBack when I started homeschooling, we had a historical fiction reading emphasis.  While that has it merits, I found there to be more benefits to a classic literature reading emphasis.

Classics are written by writers who really know what they are doing.  My oldest son recently showed me a page from The Last of the Mohicans.  As I read the page, I was blown away by the complexity of the sentence structure and the richness of the vocabulary used.  After I read the page I handed the book back to my son and told him that that was awesome writing!  The writer had beautifully crafted those paragraphs.  This is typical in classic literature.

I believe that learning to write well is important.  By continually reading classic literature, my children are exposed to excellent models of good writing.  My children also grow their vocabulary as they encounter words rarely found in modern books.

I compiled a list of classic reading books for my son who is heading into middle school.  His reading skills have blossomed and he is ready to tackle more and more classic literature.  I’ve organized the list in two ways.  The first list has all of the books listed by the lexile level.  I find this to be a little more accurate than the grade level in most cases.  The second list is how I’ve organized the list for my son.

If you click on the link for each book it will take you to Amazon where you will find out more about the book.

Organized by Lexile Level

Lexile levels are determined by analyzing portions of a book.  This formula looks at the sentence length and vocabulary used in the book.  Sometimes it can vary greatly from the grade level measurement.  On this list below GL stands for grade level and LL stands for lexile level.  I found that looking at both measures were helpful in choosing reading books at an appropriate level.  Children’s lexile levels can vary, but these are the levels of the middle 50th percentile for each grade, as reported by Lexile.com.  25% of kids will have lower lexile levels and 25% will have higher lexile levels.

6th grade:  665-1000

7th grade:  735-1065

8th grade:  805-1100

Where the Red Fern Grows:  GL 6.4, 700LL

The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings series, 2nd book):  GL 8.4, 810LL

I, Robot:  GL 7.1, 820LL

The Silver Chair (6th in series):  840 LL

Johnny Tremain:  GL 5.3,  840LL

The Witch of Blackbird Pond:  GL 6.9, 850LL

The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle:  GL 7.1, 860LL

The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings series book 1):  GL 8.1, 860LL

Prince Caspian (4th in series):  GL 5.6, 870LL

The Gift of the Magi:  GL 6.1, 870LL

The Last Battle (7th in series):  890LL

Shiloh:  GL 5.7, 890LL

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Tolkien:  890LL

Roll of Thunder Hear Me Cry:  GL 6.9, 920LL

The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings series book 3):  GL 9.0, 920LL

Peter Pan:  GL 6.2, 920LL

The Count of Monte Cristo:  GL 6.3, 930LL

Rip Van Winkle: GL 6.4, 930LL

A Little Princess  GL 5.5, 930LL

Adventures of Tom Sawyer:  GL 5.9, 950LL

The Three Musketeers:  GL 8.1, 960LL

That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy book 3):  GL 9.0, 960LL

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (5th in series):  GL 5.5, 970LL

I Am David:  GL 7.1, 980LL

The Black Arrow:  GL 7.6, 980LL

Anne of Green Gables:  GL 5.9, 990LL

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:  GL 5.9, 990LL

Kidnapped:  GL 8.9, 990LL

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:  GL 7.1, 990LL

Understood Betsy:  GL 6.3, 1000LL

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:  GL 6.9, 1000LL

The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County:  GL 7.4, 1000LL

The Hobbit:  GL 6.6, 1000LL

Journey to the Centre of the Earth:  GL 7.9, 1000LL

Island of the Blue Dolphins:  GL 5.5, 1000LL

Captains Courageous:  GL 5.9, 1020LL

Out of the Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy book 1):  GL 8.1, 1020LL

Perelandra (C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy book 2):  GL 8.6, 1020LL

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:  GL 8.1, 1030LL

Uncle Tom’s Cabin:  GL 7.5, 1050LL

The Time Machine: GL 7.1, 1070LL

Around the World in Eighty Days:  GL 8.5, 1070LL

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court:  GL 5.1, 1080LL

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes:  GL 8.1, 1080LL

Anne Frank:  A Diary of a Young Girl:  GL 5.9, 1080LL

A Christmas Carol:  GL 8.6, 1080 LL

The Mysterious Adventures of Sherlock Holmes:  GL 6.9, 1090LL

The Hound of the Baskervilles:  GL7.5, 1090LL

Across Five Aprils:  GL 5.5, 1100LL

Treasure Island:  GL 7.1, 1100LL

The Call of the Wild:  GL 7.3, 1120LL

The Prince and the Pauper:  GL 8.4, 1160LL

War of the Worlds:  GL 8.1, 1170LL

Just So Stories:  GL 6.9, 1190LL

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm:  GL 8.9, 1190LL

Swiss Family Robinson:  GL 8.9, 1260LL

Tarzan of the Apes:  GL 8.7, 1270LL

Little Women:  GL 7.9, 1300LL

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood:  GL 7.5, 1300LL

The Incredible Journey:  GL 8.1, 1320LL

Gulliver’s Travels:  GL 8.8, 1330LL

The Hunchback of Notre Dame:  GL 8.9, 1340LL

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 8th

Julius Caesar by Shakespeare – 8th

Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare – 8th

Our List

This is how I’m grouping the books for my son.  I like to mix some easier ones with some more difficult ones.  He typically has two books going at once.  One book is easier and he reads it on his own.  I don’t check comprehension or do anything related to the book.  For the more challenging book, he learns new vocabulary words before reading and I check his comprehension after he reads.  As he progresses through this list, he will be starting to use some of the Excellence in Literature guides to futher explore different classic books.  The guides provide internet links about the author, time period, interesting facts related to the story, etc.

6th grade

Independent reading

  1. Shakespeare Stories by Garfield  followed by BBC Shakespeare Collection videos
  2. Where the Red Fern Grows:  GL 6.4, 700LL
  3. The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings series, 2nd book):  GL 8.4, 810LL
  4. The Silver Chair (6th in series):  840 LL
  5. Johnny Tremain:  GL 5.3,  840LL
  6. The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings series book 1):  GL 8.1, 860LL
  7. Prince Caspian (4th in series):  GL 5.6, 870LL
  8. The Gift of the Magi:  GL 6.1, 870LL
  9. The Last Battle (7th in series):  890LL
  10. Shiloh:  GL 5.7, 890LL
  11. The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings series book 3):  GL 9.0, 920LL
  12. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (5th in series):  GL 5.5, 970LL
  13. The Hobbit:  GL 6.6, 1000LL
  14. Island of the Blue Dolphins:  GL 5.5, 1000LL

Reading with vocabulary and comprehension

  1. The Witch of Blackbird Pond:  GL 6.9, 850LL
  2. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Tolkien:  890LL
  3. A Little Princess  GL 5.5, 930LL
  4. Adventures of Tom Sawyer:  GL 5.9, 950LL
  5. The Three Musketeers:  GL 8.1, 960LL
  6. Anne of Green Gables:  GL 5.9, 990LL
  7. Journey to the Centre of the Earth:  GL 7.9, 1000LL
  8. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court:  GL 5.1, 1080LL
  9. War of the Worlds:  GL 8.1, 1170LL

7th grade

Independent reading

  1. Shakespeare Stories II by Garfield  followed by BBC Shakespeare Collection videos – 7th
  2. The Voyages of Dr. Doolittle:  GL 7.1, 860LL
  3. Roll of Thunder Hear Me Cry:  GL 6.9, 920LL
  4. Peter Pan:  GL 6.2, 920LL
  5. Rip Van Winkle: GL 6.4, 930LL
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo:  GL 6.3, 930LL
  7. I Am David:  GL 7.1, 980LL
  8. Understood Betsy:  GL 6.3, 1000LL
  9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:  GL 6.9, 1000LL
  10. The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County:  GL 7.4, 1000LL
  11. Just So Stories:  GL 6.9, 1190LL

Reading with vocabulary and comprehension

  1. That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy book 3):  GL 9.0, 960LL
  2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:  GL 5.9, 990LL
  3. Kidnapped:  GL 8.9, 990LL
  4. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:  GL 7.1, 990LL
  5. Out of the Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy book 1):  GL 8.1, 1020LL
  6. Perelandra (C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy book 2):  GL 8.6, 1020LL
  7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:  GL 8.1, 1030LL
  8. Anne Frank:  A Diary of a Young Girl:  GL 5.9, 1080LL
  9. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm:  GL 8.9, 1190LL
  10. Tarzan of the Apes:  GL 8.7, 1270LL
  11. Little Women:  GL 7.9, 1300LL

8th grade

Independent Reading

  1. I, Robot:  GL 7.1, 820LL
  2. The Black Arrow:  GL 7.6, 980LL
  3. Captains Courageous:  GL 5.9, 1020LL
  4. The Time Machine: GL 7.1, 1070LL
  5. Around the World in Eighty Days:  GL 8.5, 1070LL
  6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes:  GL 8.1, 1080LL
  7. A Christmas Carol:  GL 8.6, 1080 LL
  8. The Mysterious Adventures of Sherlock Holmes:  GL 6.9, 1090LL
  9. The Hound of the Baskervilles:  GL7.5, 1090LL
  10. Across Five Aprils:  GL 5.5, 1100LL
  11. Treasure Island:  GL 7.1, 1100LL
  12. The Call of the Wild:  GL 7.3, 1120LL

Reading with vocabulary and comprehension

  1. Uncle Tom’s Cabin:  GL 7.5, 1050LL
  2. The Prince and the Pauper:  GL 8.4, 1160LL
  3. Swiss Family Robinson:  GL 8.9, 1260LL
  4. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood:  GL 7.5, 1300LL
  5. The Incredible Journey:  GL 8.1, 1320LL
  6. Gulliver’s Travels:  GL 8.8, 1330LL
  7. The Hunchback of Notre Dame:  GL 8.9, 1340LL
  8. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – 8th
  9. Julius Caesar by Shakespeare – 8th
  10. Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare – 8th

 

 

6 Comments:

  1. I just googled classic book list for middle school and it brought me here. So glad. My daughter is a voracious reader but her taste runs towards current pulpy fiction (magic, dragons, blah blah blah). A great list you’ve put together, thanks.

  2. I love this list, have been looking for a reading guide for my middle schooler. What do you use or how do you determine the vocabulary words to learn before reading? Also do you have any suggestions besides the literacy guides for reviewing comprehension? Thank you for any help!

    • Eclectic Homeschooling

      I’ve been using the vocabulary lists at vocabulary.com. My son likes their online learning set up. We just add the vocabulary list to their free online learning program for the book he is reading and he learns the vocabulary before he reads the chapters. My favorite way to assess comprehension is through discussion. This even works when I haven’t read the book because I have my son tell me the story. If there are missing parts of the storyline, I’ll stop and ask questions. We also discuss the hows and whys. I hope that helps.

  3. We are major classic literature book lovers here! I love how you have two lists, one harder than the other, where you can push your son to read the next higher level and learn vocabulary and deeper comprehension skills. Do you also read the book when he is, to help with your discussions? Mostly I just try to keep my daughters in great books to satisfy they’re reading appetites, but don’t demand much of them. Then I save our discussions for our one read aloud usually relating to history.

    • Eclectic Homeschooling

      Ideally, I would read the book. But time is limited and it often doesn’t happen. Some of the books I have read already and some I just ask him a lot of question about what happened in the story so I know the storyline.

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