At the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY), we encourage kids to explore the things that make them happy. Let them choose their own adventures from this reading list for bright kids compiled by CTY’s reading experts, or connect them with fellow readers through CTY's Summer, Online, and Family programs.
Beginning Readers (Pre-K-Grade 1)
- The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
Unhei has just moved to the U.S. from Korea and, worried she won’t fit in with her new American classmates, invents a game that turns out differently than she expected. This book will appeal to any child who has ever felt like an outsider.
- Spot & Dot by Henry Cole
Inquisitive kids will develop their observation skills while following the adventures of a curious cat and a daring dog as told through this wordless picture book’s intricate, black-and-white illustrations.
- Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
This uplifting story about a girl who decides to run for school president will give young readers insight into the election process and the value of believing in yourself.
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
Curious kids will love joining CJ and his Nana on their bus ride home from church, as CJ questions the sights they see along the way, and ultimately finds beauty in unexpected places.
- A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
Nature lovers and kids with big imaginations will appreciate this story about a stone that serves as a throne, a kitchen, a marker, and a whole lot of other useful things—depending on who you ask.
Young Readers (Grades 2-3)
- The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Animal-loving readers will be smitten with Ivan, a gorilla who lives in captivity at the Big Top Mall, as he starts to learn a better life may be waiting beyond his cage.
- A Wild Child’s Guide to Endangered Animals by Millie Marotta
Bright kids with a fondness for fauna will love learning about obscure but nonetheless amazing animals that are at risk of extinction in this beautifully illustrated book that offers suggestions for little ones interested in taking steps to restore our earth.
- The Map of Good Memories by Fran Nuño
As her family prepares to leave their war-torn city, Zoe makes a map to remember all of the places that have made her happy throughout her life. The artful illustrations and moving story will teach kids about optimism and resilience.
- Orchestra by Avalon Nuovo
Readers of this illustrated nonfiction book can explore all of the elements that make an orchestra succeed—from how instruments work to biographies of great composers to stories behind the world’s most beloved pieces of music.
- The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter
This tall tale about a collector of interesting words like “cheerful,” “enchanted,” “obligation,” and “whisper” encourages young readers to cultivate their own love of language.
Advanced Readers (Grades 4-6)
- Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
Jack thinks poetry is lame, but the more his teacher makes him write it, the closer he comes to discovering its power. This book will give readers an appreciation for prose in all of its forms.
- Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Melody is a thoughtful 11-year-old with a near-photographic memory, but because of her cerebral palsy, she has trouble communicating with the people in her life. Her story will rouse compassion in readers, and offer encouragement to those who have struggled to find their own voice.
- Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space by Libby Jackson
Kids will learn about science and history while gaining an appreciation for the women who have played critical roles in space exploration through this illuminating and visually captivating book.
- The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
Four middle school students take turns narrating this story about their adventures competing in the Academic Bowl under the guidance of their teacher, who is paraplegic, in this book that may inspire bright kids to pursue their own quiz-bowl dreams.
- Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
Tweens will relate to this coming-of-age story about Merci, who enters sixth grade with a lot of things on her mind: she’s not rich like her classmates, her beloved grandfather is starting to behave strangely, and a mean girl at school has decided to make her life miserable.
Young Adult Readers (Grades 7+)
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Fantasy lovers will be instantly hooked on this this page-turning adventure set in the fictional city of Orïsha and told from the perspectives of three of its residents, each dealing with their own sets of struggles against the backdrop of an oppressive regime.
- Squirm by Carl Hiaasen
Snake-loving Florida native Billy heads north in search of his father—and finds out a lot more than he bargained for in this wildlife-focused tale that will appeal to teenaged fans of humor and hijinks.
- Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Running is a way for Ghost to escape his past—but when he takes his talents to the middle-school track team, he finds that it can also lead to friendship, in this novel that demonstrates the value of perseverance and teamwork.
- Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
This story of Amal, a poetry-loving 12-year-old who lives in Pakistan with her family until a misunderstanding leads her to be forced into servitude, will teach readers about civil injustice, courage, and the power of education.
- They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
This gripping graphic memoir will introduce readers to some lesser-known parts of WWII history through the Star Trek actor’s narrative of his childhood years spent in a Japanese internment camp.
About the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth
Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) is the world leader in gifted and talented education, serving the world's brightest students. Johns Hopkins is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.