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-1st Grade)
- Town Mouse, Country Mouse by Jan Brett
Emerging readers and their parents will be charmed by Brett’s enchanting illustrations and endearing take on the classic tale of two very different mice couples who swap homes.
- Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
This story of a spunky new girl who tells her classmates tall tales about her incredible adventures will appeal to kids who share her wild imagination—and it just might inspire some budding writers.
- Amelia Bedelia and the Baby by Peggy Parish
Kids will laugh while learning about idioms with this silly book featuring the harebrained shenanigans of good-hearted but literal-minded Amelia Bedelia.
- Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak
Young children will experience the changing seasons with this book that celebrates a little boy’s love for soup with a poem and illustration for each month of the year.
- I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! by Dr. Seuss
Kids (and parents) who dread getting out of bed will relate to this hilarious read-aloud book in which a determined boy successfully resists the attempts of a whole village to coax him to rise.
Young Readers (Grades 2-3)
- El Deafo by Cece Bell
Kids will learn empathy and humor from this empowering Newbery Honor-winning graphic novel about a girl who tries to fit in while encumbered with a large hearing aid.
- Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and Gilbert Ford
The story of George Ferris and his Ferris wheel, which was first introduced at the 1893 World’s Fair, is told through an inspiring story and gorgeous illustrations, and will appeal to kids with an early interest in engineering.
- I Survived Hurricane Katrina by Lauren Tarshis
Young readers will learn real details of an important historical event through this powerful fictional tale of 11-year-old Barry Tucker and his dog, who are not able to evacuate their New Orleans home before Hurricane Katrina strikes. This is part three in the “I Survived” series.
- Last Summer with Maison by Jacqueline Woodson
This novel follows Maison and Margaret, two best friends from Brooklyn who spend all of their time together until the summer they turn 11, when they are forced to confront personal crises apart for the first time. It will appeal to kids who have close friendships of their own.
Advanced Readers (Grades 4-6)
- The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Imaginative readers will relish this engrossing tale about Suzy’s search for hope and meaning after her best friend dies in a drowning accident.
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
Students who are interested in myths and folklore will love this story of Minli, who works in the rice fields all day but—inspired by the tall tales her father tells—decides to go in search of something more.
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Readers of all ages will be touched by the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences, who enters fifth grade of a mainstream elementary school for the first time. The movie is good, but the book is better.
- The Invisible Ladder: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers edited by Liz Rosenberg
Kids will learn the power of poetry with this anthology of works from poets Robert Bly, Sharon Olds, Rita Dove, and others that includes pictures of the poets when they were kids.
- Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman
CTYers will feel right at home reading this book, the first in a series chronicling the adventures of a group of quirky friends at the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment. Inspired by CTY, this book is filled with humor, heart, and nerd pride.
Young Adult Readers (Grades 7+)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
This gripping murder mystery (of sorts) told by a bright, autistic boy will help students see the world from a different perspective.
- The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
This coming-of-age story of a bright boy who finds a giant squid on the Puget Sound will appeal to lovers of nature and the sea.
- Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
Students who love science will appreciate this suspenseful tale about friends who wander into the woods and are challenged to save the world from environmental disaster.
- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
The perils of popularity are on full display in this novel about an unusual high schooler who learns the importance of being true to oneself.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Readers will be transfixed by the story of 16-year old Starr, who feels an uneasy unbalance between the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy prep school she attends, especially after she witnesses a police shooting.
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.