If you grew up as a reader, you probably read quite a few strange books in the ‘90s. Thanks to the Scholastic book fair, children of the '90s had plenty of reading options, and bookish kids (like me!) could often be seen burning through paperback after paperback. You might have forgotten about some of the books on this list, but I promise your teacher made you read them.
Teachers had their own ideas about what reading would be the most educational — and it didn’t always involve include your favorites: Goosebumps, Bailey School Kids, The Baby-sitter's Club. In fact, it rarely involved those books. You wanted to read for pleasure, but your teacher wanted you to read so you could learn.
Of course, you could learn plenty from your favorite books, but there are some books that pretty much every ‘90s kids had to read in school. Some of them are still popular today, and kids are putting down their newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid books in order to complete their assigned reading. Others are sort of lost to time, but that doesn’t diminish how great they were. You can probably still find your copies of the following required reading books on your childhood bookshelf: here are the books that your teachers made you read in the ‘90s, that you can now appreciate when you look back on them.
'Number The Stars' by Lois Lowry
This 1989 book, set in 1943 Copenhagen, was probably one of the first historical fiction books you read in school. The story of Annemarie Johansen and her friend Ellen Rosen was heartbreaking and poignant and definitely on your assigned reading in the '90s.
'Catherine, Called Birdy' by Karen Cushman
Set in 14th-century England, this book followed a girl named Catherine as she attempts to outwit a slew of undesirable suitors. I complained about having to read this book, but ended up laughing the whole way through.
'A Long Way From Chicago' by Richard Peck
In the book that was probably your assigned summer reading, brother and sister Joey and Mary Alice go to visit their grandmother in the country for their school break.
'Esperanza Rising' by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Ok, so this was published in 2000, but '90s kids probably remember reading it in class anyway (just a little later than the '90s). Esperanza and her family have to leave their ranch in Mexico and move to California in this powerful book about immigration, family, and the American dream.
'A Girl Named Disaster' by Nancy Farmer
After Nhamo escapes her village to avoid an unwanted marriage, she sets off on an unforgettable adventure. I read this book during reading circle in elementary school, and I'm sure you did too.
'The Whipping Boy' by Sid Fleischman
Prince Brat is a prince, therefore he can't be whipped — instead, his whipping boy Jemmy is punished in Prince Brat's place. This 1986 Newbery medal winner became popular just in time to be on a ton of school reading lists in the '90s.
'Hatchet' by Gary Paulsen
Here's another 1986 publication that made it onto plenty of '90s book lists: Hatchet, about a boy named Brian trying to survive the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet. It was the favorite of all the outdoorsy kids in class.
'Bridge To Terabithia' by Katherine Paterson
It was published in 1977, but this tearjerker about best friends Jess and Leslie was still being assigned in the '90s and you probably still get choked up thinking about it.
'Where The Sidewalk Ends' by Shel Silverstein
This 1974 poetry collection will probably be assigned in schools for decades to come.
'Sarah, Plain And Tall' by Patricia MacLachlan
When Anna and Caleb's widowed father advertises for a wife, Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton answers the ad. This book took home the Newbery Medal in the late '80s and was on tons of reading lists in the '90s.