Exploring Careers through Summer Reading: Suggestions for Middle Readers (Ages 9-13)

Posted June 3, 2021

“What do you want to do with your life?” 

Some kids will talk your ear off when you ask them this question, while others will simply roll their eyes, shrug and say, “I don’t know, I’ll figure it out later.” 

Whether they realize it or not, later is coming sooner than they think! Instead of waiting for that class assignment on career pathways, here are some books your family can enjoy this summer to inspire your kids to start thinking about their futures.

In this blog, I’m going to offer some excellent titles for middle readers, ages 9 to 13. (I’ve also written a blog with titles for younger readers.

If you type the word “careers” into the computer search box at your local or school library, a variety of titles available for checkout will pop up. Series non-fiction titles can be found in abundance. Libraries are loaded with “I Want to Be A…” books. Those titles are filled with practical information and great photos. 

But what about the realistic fiction, career biographies or multi-topic career and interactive books that will really pull your kids in and get them excited about all the options they can explore? 

A few good places to start would be National Geographic’s 100 Things to Be When You Grow Up by Lisa M. Gerry, as well as I Can Get Paid for That? 99 Creative Careers to Live a Life Less Ordinary by Jo Stewart and Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of by Natalie Labarre. These are multi-topic books that feature amazingly cool and unique careers. These books give factual information through interviews with experts alongside engaging photos and graphics. 

100 Things to Be When Your Grow Up
I Can Get Paid for That?
Incredible Jobs You've (Probably) Never Heard Of

For Young Designers

If you have design-minded kids in your house, look into The Inventors of LEGO Toys (Awesome Minds) by Erin Hagar. It's full of information about the origin and innovations of the LEGO Group. Also consider Architecture for Kids: Skill-Building Activities for Future Architects by Mark Moreno and Siena Moreno and Fashion Design for Kids: Skill-Building Activities for Future Fashion Designers by Kerri Quigley. Both are interactive books that give kids ages 8-12 the opportunity to draw, sketch and brainstorm ideas while learning about the tools and skills of the trade.

The Inventors of Lego Toys
Fashion Design for Kids
Architecture for Kids

For Entrepreneurs

Better than a Lemonade Stand! Small Business Ideas for Kids by Daryl Bernstein and Kidpreneurs: Young Entrepreneurs with Big Ideas by Adam Toren and Matthew Toren are both recommended. These are hands-on idea books for young teens interested in entrepreneurship.

Better Than a Lemonade Stand
Kidpreneurs: Young Entrepreneurs with Big Ideas

For Kids Who Love Mysteries

I love Adventures from Granny’s Basement by Sarah Miesner Goldammer. These books are quick reads whose main characters, Henry and Frances, explore boxes of fun artifacts from their grandmother’s basement. This series covers myriad career options from finance, public administration, human services, hospitality, marketing and so many more. Check out the series for more information about the career pathways embedded in each book.  

Adventures from Granny's Basement

For Kids Interested in STEAM

If your kids like STEM or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) fields, I recommend Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers by Erin Twamley. This book explores six problem-solving skills needed for STEM superpowers. There are also some related titles in the Be What You Want Series, which features 10 careers and inspiring stories from kids who are working alongside real professionals.

Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers
So, You Want to Be a Coder

For Undecided Kids

If your kid really is unsure what he or she might want to do and you want a comprehensive guide that could help them explore careers based on their personal interests, check out The Careers Handbook: The Graphic Guide to Planning Your Future by DK. 

The Careers Handbook

Find these books on Kindle UnlimitedYouTubeAmazon, your favorite bookstore or your local library. But whatever you do, please be sure you get your child reading this summer — it’s the number one predictor of their future educational success. Whether they dream of being a librarian or a welder, having strong reading skills and being an engaged reader will help them open doors to endless possibilities! 

A native of Manhattan, Kansas, Kaye Hendricks taught kindergarten for more than 33 years and now has two young grandchildren who validate her need to keep lots of books in her house. A graduate of Bethany College (bachelor’s degree in elementary education) and Kansas State University (master’s degree in curriculum and instruction), Mrs. Hendricks volunteers her time reading to children of international students and other children in her community. She believes the illustrations in picture books are just as important as the meaning of the text, and she now works for USD 383’s K-LiNK Literacy grant, finding ways to promote and facilitate literacy materials with community partners and within her district. (Kaye has also written a HirePaths blog about career exploration in books for younger readers.)