Part of a well-rounded education includes adequate exposure to literature and acquiring the ability to read, understand, and engage with a text. These are essential skills for students of any age to have, and it’s important for teachers to foster and instill them in their students. What makes the compilation of a high school or middle school book list so tough is that there is a plethora of existing literature out there, and teachers have to choose novels that students will actually read. Fortunately, children’s publisher Scholastic has undertaken to study what kids want in books. Here are a few of the 2014 findings.

1. Characters Kids Want to Emulate
When teachers are compiling a book list for high school students or middle school students, they should look for novels that feature characters that students are going to want to emulate. According to Scholastic’s study, 43% of kids between the ages of six and 17 want to read books with characters that are brave, strong, and smart. Look for novels with conventional heroes going though obstacles and overcoming conflict.

2. A Book That Tells a Made Up Story
Another quality to look for in a book list selection is that it’s fiction and engages kids’ imaginations. Almost half — 48% — of children between the ages of six and 17 want to read books that tell a story, and 54% of kids want a book that lets them use their imagination. The fantasy genre works particularly well for this — not to mention its tenure as one of the oldest styles of writing, with its roots beginning with the epics of Homer and Gilgamesh.

3. A Positive Teaching Message
Aside from strong characters and a fictional story, the best books for middle school students and high school students are going to teach lessons. This isn’t just something teachers want — to use fiction to teach lessons — it’s something that kids want too. According to the Scholastic study, 43% of children want to read books that teach them something new. Leadership books accomplish this, while also offering personal development lessons for the students.

When it comes time to reevaluate or add to a middle or high school book list, leadership books that feature a fictional story line and a strong cast of characters are going to be a good fit for students.