Books

12 Best Books to Read With Your Tween Daughter

The tween years, which range from ages 9-12, are defined by the “in-between.” Tweens are not really children anymore and not quite teenagers. Not only are their bodies changing, but their social world is changing too.

Some days your tween may play games she’s always loved. Other days, she prefers doing what older kids are doing. Sometimes she shares with you and reaches out for connection. Other times, she wants more independence.

Monumental shifts in your child’s physical, emotional, and social development take place during these years. It’s a time of growing independence, but it can also be scary for kids.

So while it’s entirely normal for your child to start turning away from you and relying more on friends, kids this age are still very much in need of parental support and guidance, even when they tell you otherwise.

As a writer and mother of two daughters, books have always been a point of connection and conversation in our family. Every year, I try to read a few books that my daughters are reading. Through books and stories, we discuss universal themes, especially the themes of my daughters’ experience in their daily lives.

These twelve books delve into many of the changes and challenges facing tweens and offer an entry point to talk about them.

Most of these books include a strong female lead character that models how to navigate and grow from difficult circumstances such as pressure to fit-in, self-consciousness, social struggles, and developing identity. Some of these books discuss puberty and social challenges and include helpful tips and resources for girls.

Every one of these books holds a special place on our shelf of favorite books. They are filled with inspiration, encouragement, and honesty about this unique stage of life.

I hope they open the door to more conversations and connections with your daughter too!

1. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

This fun, heartfelt story is about a middle school girl, Aven, that was born without arms. When her family moves to Arizona, she has to start over and make new friends.

This situation is challenging for any kid, but especially difficult if you are in middle school and look very different from your peers.

Aven is funny, authentic, and self-aware, just like her loving parents. Watching her navigate the challenges in her life is inspiring and encourages readers to question their assumptions and judgments about themselves and others.

This story includes a mystery, some adventure, as well as a beautiful reflection on acceptance and friendship.

2. My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig

This contemporary realistic fiction picture book is a must-read for elementary school girls. It’s about a young girl, Monica, who is bullied by her friend, a situation familiar to many girls.

With a little help from a supportive adult—her mother—Monica learns to cope and thrive by facing her fears and reclaiming power from her bully. Readers learn about the importance of confidence, self-worth, and finding help when you need it.

This story delves into relational aggression and emotional bullying, including the use of name-calling and manipulation to humiliate and exclude.

The book also includes helpful tips, discussion questions, and additional resources to navigate this difficult issue.

3. Confessions of a Former Bully by Trudy Ludwig

This book is the perfect read just after reading Trudy Ludwig’s “My Secret Bully” as it is told from the point of view of the bully.

Written like a diary, “Confessions of a Former Bully” provides kids with real-life tools they can use to identify and stop relational aggression. This book is formatted with a mixture of text and small pictures that read like a scrapbook of someone’s life.

It also includes the important message that everyone makes mistakes and everyone changes, even kids that behave like bullies.

4. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

This story unfolds in a fifth-grade classroom, led by a new teacher, Mr. Terupt. The author’s use of multiple viewpoints allows readers to understand each character and what is driving them to think and behave in a particular way.

Personalities and conflicts mirror those typically seen in classrooms, making this book very relatable to tweens. Mr. Terupt is one of those special teachers that help kids become better versions of themselves.

When disaster strikes, the characters realize how much their teacher means to them, heal old wounds, and begin anew.

5. A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

Twelve-year-old Shayla prefers to follow the rules. But now in that she’s in middle school, she’s no longer sure what the rules are. Her sister is involved in Black Lives Matter, which Shayla doesn’t think is for her. After a protest, she starts wearing an armband to school in support of BLM.

Over the course of the story, Shayla learns to face her fear and do what she knows is right, even if someone else has decided it’s wrong.

This story deals with difficult questions of belonging, especially when it comes to race and taking a stand on things that matter.

6. Care and Keeping of You by Valorie Schaefer

This book for girls ages 8-10 gives “head to toe advice” on puberty related topics that girls wonder about, including braces, shaving, periods, breasts, zits and more.

Information is shared in a reassuring, factual, and age-appropriate way.

The content provides a framework for good conversations about all the changes that come with puberty. It also acknowledges how these changes might make girls feel and how normal these feelings are.

My daughters and I found this book valuable as it opened the door for many questions and conversations as they approached puberty.

7. Care and Keeping of You 2 by Cara Natterson

This sequel to “Care and Keeping of You 1” dives deeper into the physical and emotional changes of puberty. It is intended for girls ages 10+ who have already started into puberty and have more specific questions.

Reassuring reminders help girls understand that these changes may sometimes feel exciting, confusing, and awkward and that all of these feelings are perfectly normal.

There are helpful Q & A sections as well as relevant information about body image, moods, and family dynamics.

This book helps to keep conversations going as girls move through this stage of development.

8. Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo has an amazing way of creating characters that are easy to fall in love with, including a dog named after a grocery store.

My daughters and I loved this book, which sits prominently on our shelf of favorite books. This story is especially beautiful because of the main characters, Opal and her father. Both are struggling with the abandonment of Opal’s mother.

This book deals with important themes of grief, hope, acceptance, loss, friendship, and the healing power of animals.

9. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

My daughter and I read this book together as part of our library book club. We loved it!

This touching story helped us understand the struggle and gift of dyslexia. The main character, Ally, has successfully hidden her inability to read behind distractions and bad behavior.

Luckily, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself, and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of.

Peppered throughout the book are tributes to amazing dyslexic people, such as Albert Einstein.

Engaging, inspiring, and full of wonderful characters, this book encourages readers to question the labels we place on each other and reminds us that great minds don’t always think alike.

10. Love Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles

This story is about nine-year-old Ruby Lavender and her beloved grandmother Miss Eula. When Miss Eula departs for an extended visit to her son in Hawaii, Ruby is forced to face some tough challenges on her own.

Although the underlying theme is a serious one–Ruby dealing with her grandfather’s death–the book is filled with humor. A series of letters between Ruby and Miss Eula keep them connected, as Ruby discovers her courage and independence.

This story about love, loss, friendship, and chickens is beautifully told. A great summer read!

11. Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

In Genesis Begins Again, thirteen-year-old Genesis grapples with intense self-hate worsened by her father’s verbal abuse and her grandmother’s backward ideas about skin color. Themes include living with an alcoholic parent, poverty, and having to change schools and start over.

This raw, honest story explores racism and what it can feel like to be a young girl with a dark complexion trying to conform to society’s beauty standards.

I appreciate that the author did not hold back simply because she was writing a middle-grade novel. This story speaks to anyone who has ever felt ‘less than’ in one way or another.

Readers are left with the strong sense that we all deserve a chance to begin again. We all deserve a fresh start.

12. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

The characters in this book are in high school, so this book is better for girls 12+. This wonderful story is about the power and perils of nonconformity.

The main character, Stargirl, is magical. She represents the kind of magic that more people need in their lives: to appreciate the little things, to dare to be different, and to be kind to strangers. Her selfless, unique nature does not go so well in a critical high school environment.

The story is beautifully told, leaving readers inspired to let their true self shine and bring more acceptance and kindness to the world.

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