Could your students use a pep talk on having a positive mindset? Check out this list of my top ten favorite growth mindset books for middle schoolers! 

growth mindset books

I’m a big believer in developing a classroom culture where each and every one of my students feels comfortable enough to say, “I’ll try,” instead of, “I can’t.” It could be because I give them The Look whenever they say the latter. Then they roll their eyes, sigh dramatically, and say something very middle schooler-ish. This is a thing I’ve grown to accept and love. 

In addition to a flair for the theatrics, one thing I’ve observed after over a decade of teaching is that middle schoolers are in that phase of their lives where they’re figuring out who they want to be. As a result, they’re particularly susceptible to peer pressure, and insecurities of every type abound.  

Because the young people in my classroom face all manner of challenges in both their personal and academic lives, I’m very intentional about my approach to the ideas of ability and learning in my classroom. I regularly introduce my students to growth mindset books through read-alouds, book talks, and novel studies, and I model it in my actions and the content I teach. 

What is a growth mindset, you ask? 

growth mindset books for middle school

A growth mindset is simply the belief a person has in their own ability to learn from past failure. Rather than accepting that they failed because they lack the knowledge or skill to be successful, a person with a growth mindset will put forth more effort to acquire new knowledge and become more capable in the future. 

My goal is for students to see themselves in the books they read and choose novels that focus on a positive mindset. It can be a powerful motivator when a young person can personally relate to a character and see how that character copes with similar challenges they’re facing in real life. 

If you’re searching for popular growth mindset books for middle schoolers that feature characters who exemplify what it means to have a growth mindset, read on. I’ve curated a list of some of my favorites to share with you.

Top Ten Growth Mindset Books for Middle Schoolers


growth mindset novels

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Korean folklore infuses magic and mystery in the story of a girl’s fight to save her grandmother and find out what she’s truly capable of. Young Lily embarks on a journey through her family’s past when she strikes a bargain with a tiger who claims that Lily’s grandmother stole something priceless from them. Lily, her sister, and a new friend set out to find the stolen item in exchange for the tiger healing her ailing halmoni, and she discovers her own identity in the process. 


New Kid by Jerry Craft

Standing out from the crowd feels like a fate worse than death when you’re in middle school. Jordan Banks knows exactly how it feels being one of the only kids of color at his fancy new prep school. All Jordan wants is to go to art school, but the odds seem stacked against him. Even his parents don’t understand his passion for drawing. As he travels between two very different worlds, Jordan must discover who he is and what he’s willing to fight for.

novels for middle school

books for middle schoolers

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Many students with a reading disability, such as dyslexia, feel less intelligent than their peers. That’s exactly why Ally does everything she can to mask her struggles to read from everyone at her new school. Everything changes when her teacher, Mr. Daniels, shows her that having dyslexia isn’t as limiting as she believes. As Ally begins to believe in herself, her confidence enables her not only to be herself but to accept that being different isn’t such a bad thing. 


Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Hatchet is one of my favorite growth mindset books for middle schoolers because of Paulsen’s ability to draw the reader into the story and make them part of the experience. When Brian Robeson’s plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness, he could have just given up. After all, the odds of survival are slim, and the only supplies he has with him are the clothes on his back and a hatchet. Instead, Brian learns to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment through sheer determination, grit, and courage. 

growth mindset novels

growth mindset books

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

There are times when everyone wishes they had a few extra sets of arms to accomplish everything, but it’s a constant state of mind for Zoey. Zoey longs to have the average seventh-grade experiences everyone else seems to take for granted. But, instead, she spends each day after school caring for her siblings and feeling entirely invisible. That is until a teacher basically forces her to participate in a debate club. There, Zoey discovers how to use her voice to speak up for what’s important to her, opening up a whole new world of possibilities.


The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Some people think that they’re doomed to failure, evil, or other defects because of who their descendants are. Matteo Alacrán experiences this on an entirely different level from most. You see, Matteo was grown from the DNA of an evil warlord, his entire existence beginning in a petri dish. Now Matteo must try to figure out who he is and how to make his own place in the world, apart from El Patrón, the man who loves him because Matteo is created from him. This is the captivating tale of a boy surrounded by evil who chooses a different path to the light he finds within himself.

books for middle schoolers

growth mindset novels

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is nothing special. After all, that’s what his Aunt and Uncle Dursley and their pudgy son, Dudley, tell him every day of his life. However, Harry has always known that he’s been different, and on his eleventh birthday, his life takes an unbelievably magical turn. Soon Harry’s off to Hogwarts, the renowned school of witchcraft and wizardry, where he faces challenges at every turn. As he develops his own identity in this new and mythical setting, Harry discovers that he is very special indeed. 


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson’s vibrant and lyrical poetry tells the story of a young girl trying to make sense of her life and identity while feeling pulled in two very different directions. Set in the Civil Rights Movement era, Woodson’s powerful writing shows the reader that just because they might struggle with the words on a page, they’re still able to create unforgettable stories. Woodson has a gift for storytelling, and her tale is both relatable and timeless.  

growth mindset books

novels for middle school

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder is another one of my favorite growth mindset novels for middle school because Palacio breathes such life and humor into the main character, August Pullman. August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that dictated his interaction with other people. While other people can hide their differences, Auggie doesn’t have that option. When he starts fifth grade at Beecher Prep, Auggie is terrified of what others will think of him. He endures bullying, shaming, and loneliness. While others may have given up, Auggie finds an inner strength he never knew existed and changes the perspectives of everyone around him. 


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Although her life is marred by grief and hardships, young Liesel Meminger discovers her potential as she fights to survive in Nazi Germany. Zusak’s novel follows Liesel as she steals books even before knowing how to read, through the loss of her brother and mother, and with each new page she turns. Liese’s confidence and courage blossom in the face of adversity and when the stakes seem impossibly high.

books for middle school

We have the unique and rare opportunity, as educators, to help shape our students’ self-perception and belief in their abilities. By having them regularly encounter novels that promote a growth mindset, we can help them accept failure as a way to move forward, not remain the same. 

What favorites would you add to this list? Drop your suggestions in the comments!