It’s curriculum planning season over here and I am ready to share our literature selections for my rising 6th grader for the 2017-2018 school year. To start, I do not use a formal curriculum for reading and literature. Since English Language Arts is a personal strength of mine, I prefer to teach it myself. I am able to choose the literature I prefer while teaching the skills and concepts that I like using the methods and strategies that are fruitful for my son.


Typically, I choose books from various genres and with an assortment of literary skills and concepts that are appropriate and adequate for the child’s abilities and interests. Last year, we read and studied 8 titles with figurative language and poetry added. This year, we are sticking with the same plan, but I’ve increased the reading load to 12 books. Below, I am sharing the titles, authors, genre, and a quick summary of our use of the book.

As Brave As You

Genre:        African-American Fiction, Familial Relationships

Author:       Jason Reynolds

I have my eye on Mr. Reynolds for middle school literature. I am always on the hunt for Black male authors and when I found him, I became intrigued! We are doing a reflective study with this title. I am writing the discussion guide for my son and I to use together and he will complete a novel project for his final post-reading report.

Island of the Blue Dolphins

Genre:        YA Fiction, Adventure (Classic)

Author:       Scott O’Dell

Honestly, we should have read this one already; but here’s to better late than never. Island of the Blue Dolphins is one of our classic picks. I add at least two each year for well-rounded literature exposure. My son loves adventures especially when survival is a theme, so I figured we’d give it a try. Last year his survival adventure was about a boy in the woods, so we are eager to compare settings and characters. We’re studying characterization with this novel and my son will be creating his own flipbook

A Gift From Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood

Genre:        Realistic Fiction, Africa, Mali

Author:       Baba Wague Diakite

I aim to include at least one title from Africa with each living literature list I compile for my sons. Last year we read about Sudan, and this year we’re reading about Mali. I desire for my sons to understand that various cultures and people groups are represented in Africa and to know as many of them as I can possibly teach. We’re studying Malian culture with this book and my son will write a compare and contrast essay (or give an oral presentation) on his own American boyhood to Baba’s African boyhood.


Genre:        Coming-of-Age Boyhood, African-American Interest

Author:       Jason Reynolds

Yes, Mr. Reynolds again! I absolutely love this book. We’re completing an author study with this title, a feature for Usain Bolt and the Olympics, and a small character (virtue, not people) analysis as Ghost endures the growing pains of his own life.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963

Genre:        Historical Fiction, 1960s, USA

Author:       Christopher Paul Curtis

I am fan of Mr. Curtis! We’ll be reading his work for middle school, surely. Historical fiction is another genre I add each year. It’s an easy way to combine history and literature together while I give an African-American spotlight for that historical era. We are studying with a traditional novel guide including a focus on history. My son will also watch the movie for a book-to-movie comparison discussion or report.

The Jacob Ladder

Genre:        Historical Fiction, 1960s, Jamaica

Author:       Gerald Hausman

I really like this book for its tell-it-like-it-is quality and its positive-ness. The main character’s life is no easy street, yet he still possesses “the glass half-full” viewpoint. My son is going to complete a cereal box report for this title and also compare and contrast the The Watsons (1960s America) to The Jacob Ladder (1960s Jamaica).

Bob Marley: A Life

Genre:        Biography, Nonfiction

Author:       Gary Steckles

Since we’re learning about Jamaica, may as well choose a Jamaican biography, right?! No seriously, I was specifically looking for a biracial male to study and I’d settled on either Obama and Marley. The kid chose Marley. We love his music and his legacy, so it was fitting. I normally use biographies to expose children to the person’s life, work, and influence; but also to discuss character and life choices. My son will be writing a biographical essay and creating a novel project for this title.

Tales from Shakespeare

Genre:        Shakespearean Plays (Classic)

Author:       Tina Packer

My son and I will be reading 3 selected plays from this upcoming year (and will continue to use this title throughout middle school. Mostly, we will be learning about the life of Shakespeare with a brief introduction to some of the literary skills needed to study both plays and Shakespeare’s work. (You can learn more about title and why I selected it by watching by “Shakespeare Reader” video.)

Garvey’s ChoiceGenre:        Verse

Author:       Nikki Grimes

Verse is another genre I try to include each year after grade 4. It’s always a quick, light read and it’s a perfect opportunity to study poetry and literary terms more deeply. We’ll be reading with a discussion guide, studying poetry, and my son will complete a poetry writing activity.

The Cay

Genre:        Non-American Historical Fiction

Author:       Theodore Taylor

This school year we discussed lots of colonization and imperialism towards African nations by European powers. It’s not the best history on the books, that’s for sure; so I wanted to lighten the mood but still give history exposure. We’ll be using a traditional novel guide for this title while discussing issues like “colorblind”, prejudice, survival, and Black genius.

A Taste of Honey: Stories

Genre:        Short Stories, African-American Interest

Author:       Jabari Asim

I’ll be introducing short stories as genre this upcoming year. I am not planning on too much, just to expose him to it and discuss how it’s different from other types of literature we’ve read before. I will be reading to him for the most part. I’ll have lots of American Black culture to teach and explain.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 

Genre:        Fantasy (Classic)

Author:       C.S. Lewis

I can teach so many different literary skills all-at-once with this title, that I could not turn it down. Plus, it’s largely canonized, so knowledge of it will be very helpful. My son will be making tri-folds as he reads each day focusing on a specific literary skill and vocabulary.

That concludes our literature selections for Grade 6, 2017-2018! What are you all reading? Stay tuned for my upcoming YouTube video discussing each title.