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)
- Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Inquisitive youngsters will love immersing themselves in Ada’s boundless imagination as she uses her scientific talents to solve a local mystery.
- Drawn Together by Minh Lê
Stunning illustrations highlight this heartwarming story about a boy and his grandfather who find it hard to communicate with each other until they discover they share a common language—art.
- The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
This book about a girl who “just can’t draw” will inspire kids who are self-conscious about their own artistic abilities to set aside their doubts and make their mark on the world.
- Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
Flaps, folds, and pop-ups are scattered throughout this book, inviting energetic youngsters to interact with its pages and turn “oops” moments into opportunities for creativity.
- A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
Animal lovers will adore this silly story that spends a day in the backyard with some cute critters, including a quite misunderstood bear.
- They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
This book teaches bright kids valuable lessons about perspective through Wenzel’s diverse depictions of one cat as seen through the eyes of different animals.
Young Readers (Grades 2-3)
- The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
Roz, a robot who wakes up on a remote island and struggles to fit in with the natural world, will appeal to any kid who has ever felt like they didn’t belong.
- Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood
Young dreamers will love this true story about a girl whose hopes of playing the violin seem far-fetched until her teacher uses some unlikely materials to make instruments for his students.
- Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton
This book will appeal to budding artists and history buffs alike with its incredible illustrations telling the fascinating story of British and American “dazzle ships” painted with intricate designs to confuse enemies during World War I.
- Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
Readers with an independent streak will relate to Clementine, a quirky girl who has trouble focusing in class, knows everyone in her apartment building, and loves coming up with new vegetable names to call her baby brother.
- Math Curse by Jon Scieszka
Imagine if everywhere you looked, you saw a math problem. That’s what happens to the subject of this story, and youngsters who already love math will totally relate, while others might catch the math “curse” while reading this book!
Advanced Readers (Grades 4-6)
- The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Athletes and word lovers will love this tale of 12-year-old twin brothers whose lives center around basketball and all of its ups and downs, as told through a series of poems.
- Posted by John David Anderson
Tweens will choose their words carefully after reading this novel about a middle school that bans cell phones, and the effects its subsequent sticky-note war has on some very relatable characters.
- Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Historical fiction fans will enjoy this story of friendship and adventure revolving around 11-year-old Elijah, the first child born free in a Canadian settlement of runaway former slaves.
- Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Anyone who feels like they don’t fit in will relate to this book, told from four characters’ perspectives, about a rescue mission that can only be accomplished through teamwork and recognizing the power of our differences.
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
This exciting story, told in verse, takes readers on a journey with Hà as she emigrates from Vietnam to Alabama and learns about family, hardships, and belonging. Based loosely on the author’s own experiences, the book will appeal to kids who feel like outsiders.
Young Adult Readers (Grades 7+)
- A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole
Sci-fi enthusiasts will be drawn to protagonist Octavia, whose drive to become a scientist in a renowned secret laboratory uncovers more than she bargained for—about her world, her family, and herself.
- Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Jane’s education at a combat school might have prepared her to fight against the recently risen undead, but not against the more dangerous enemies with whom she becomes entangled, in this book made for thrill-seeking teens.
- Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-li Jiang
Readers of all backgrounds will enjoy this intriguing memoir recounting the abrupt and frightening changes that took place during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s when the author was a teen.
- The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix
This graphic novel for fans of history and adventure tells the true story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man of faith, a spy, and ultimately, a martyr in the fight against Hitler’s Germany.
- On Trails: An Exploration by Robert Moor
Bright readers who love nature will enjoy going off the beaten path with the author as he explores the history, biology, philosophy, and cultural significance of trails all over the world.
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.