Not long ago, when my son started sixth grade, he came home with questions every night that we hadn’t addressed in the innocent world of elementary school. For example, he would ask, “What does ‘that’s what she said’ mean?”

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know how to respond… partly because I wasn’t up on the movies and shows that provided the context for their young adult humor.

Even so, my son’s questions continued to move into areas that suggested it was time for the “birds and bees” discussion.

Not really knowing how to approach the topic, I struggled for weeks until a friend gave me some simple, practical advice that I had overlooked. He said, “Give him a book to read, then ask if he has any questions.”

Why didn’t I think of that?

I’ll admit, I still wasn’t completely comfortable answering all of his questions, but this approach was infinitely more effective than me stumbling to find the right words. I took advantage of the fact that someone else had thoughtfully explained a topic in a way that was age-appropriate for my child.

As parents and educators, it’s important that we use the resources around us to give our kids the best possible information, perspectives, and opportunities in life.

My children don’t always listen to me (believe it or not), so my alternative means of attack is through someone else’s words.  After all, some of the most insightful wisdom I’ve come across resides in the books that sit on my shelves.

Here is our list of 10 classic, must-read inspiring books for students!

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo – A modern masterpiece, this allegorical novel delivers a wonderful message on finding your purpose in life and being more grateful for the things around you.  Through the travels of Santiago, a shepherd boy, we learn the wisdom of listening to our hearts.

2. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale – One of the greats, this practical work teaches the critical importance of one’s attitude in attaining goals, overcoming defeat, and living the good life.

Inspiring Books for Teens

3. Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde – A sentimental matter with a gritty core and a less-than-happy ending, this novel demonstrates the incredible power of random acts of kindness and the impact of all the little things we do.

4. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – One of my all-time favorites, this memoir gives a touching perspective on the things that really matter and what true happiness looks like.

5. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – A classic. There may be no better book at teaching the importance of saving for the future and the power of compound interest.

6. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – In my opinion, no book has ever been written that does a better job of communicating the importance of empathy and putting ourselves in the shoes of others.

7. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – A fascinating read that offers an important perspective on utilizing our unique abilities in alignment with the timing and circumstances of our lives.

Inspiring Books for Teens

8. The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them by The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell – A raw, true story of an English teacher and her “at-risk” students who took a transforming journey against intolerance. This book inspires us to share our own stories and open our minds to embrace the differences among us.

9. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey – Applying the timeless principles of the 7 Habits, this step-by-step book explains to teens how to be more efficient and helps guide their future decisions.

10. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill – Another classic!  Although a challenging read, a teen who gets through this book will not only understand the power of high expectations, but the importance of finding his or her passion in life.

Our study of happy and successful people throughout history concluded that all of them saw life as a process of constant growth. To this end, almost all were avid readers.

Growth comes from new experiences and the gathering of knowledge. They say a person who reads gets to live a thousand lives. I believe this to be true, and know that the wonderful perspectives of others can fill our children’s minds… not just with knowledge, but with the mindsets to truly be happy.

Please let us know some of your favorite inspirational books for teens!