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Books your teenager will love: Use Lexile scores to guide you
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Interview with Stephanie Meyer
Interview with Walter Dean Myers
Books on this list make great gifts.
As an English teacher, I am always on the lookout for books that teenagers will love. Over the years I've learned from listening to them and accumulated a short and growing list of books. Even if your teen is hesitant about reading, sometimes all it takes is the right book.
We all know the craze the Harry Potter created, but if your teen is over it already it is easy to get him or her into the Twilight series. Maybe vampires aren't their thing (or maybe you don't want your teen reading about love affairs between humans and the undead). Some other high interest fantasy/sci-fi picks are Artemis Fowl and Enders Game. The Lightning Thief, the first in a series of three books has gained popularity with middle school students. My cousin, a rising sixth grader, says "everyone is reading it." I'll take his word for it.
The Hunger Games series is another that is gaining huge popularity. One teenager told me he never read until he read that book. Now he can't get enough books. The book, like many books for young adults inhabits a futuristic dystopic world in which teens engage in contests to the death. Heavy stuff, but then, so it middle school.
The Chronicles of Narnia are classics. As is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but sometimes classics don't excite the current generation the way we would like. Instead, many teenagers are turning to the Eragon series of books.
If your teenager is more interested in relationships, I recommend Romiette and Julio. Every copy I've had in my classroom has either disappeared or disintegrated with use. You might guess from the title that it is a modern-day telling of the story of Romeo and Juliet.
Jerry Spinelli continues to write great books, and if your teenager is outgrowing Spinelli, I suggest Sherman Alexie. His Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian has the same confessional tone and adolescent honesty, but with more mature subject matter.
There is so much good to say about Walter Dean Myers he deserves his own hub. His books, Monster and Sunrise over Fallujah are not your typical YA dramas. They are hard looks at two unpleasant situations. These books are great for older readers (high school age) who may not be able to read harder books. His book Dope Slick seems destined to be just as successful as his past books.
A lot of teens are drawn to mysteries like that of R.L. Stine, and while these stories are mostly harmless, I think Michael Crichton has more to offer the brain, but parents should be warned that Crichton sometimes deals with adult situations, sex, and often violence. The same could be said for the enormously entertaining Dan Brown. Some situations in his books might be beyond the maturity of a teenager, but in general, the interest they generate far outweighs their danger.
If your teenager is ready for more literary works, you might suggest Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 or Orwell's 1984. I loved these books as a teenager.
How to help struggling reader
Make reading a family activity. Ask your child to read to you or to read with you. Reading should be a part of your everyday routine. While most disinterested readers resist reading at first the mere act of holding a book can open doors to future reading.
The important thing is to always have books around. I buy books at my local Goodwill store 10 for a $1.50. Simply having access to books can pique their interest. I believe in throwing a lot of books at a teenager and seeing what sticks. Once they like one book, you have more information to work with and you can suggest others.
Most importantly, have patience. Learning to read can be hard. Encourage any reading behaviors with praise and interest.
A misconception that discourages some teenagers (and parents) from reading is that reading has be done with a book. If they refuse books, try magazines or graphic novels. Again, the mere act of being active in seeking out information in a printed format can build a habit of reading. The more a struggling reader enjoys the printed word, even if it is surrounded by glossy pictures, the more likely they are to read more.
What is a Lexile score?
You may see Lexile scores on the back of some YA books. These scores refer to a rating system that helps teachers, librarians, and savvy parents determine the difficulty of a book. A Lexile score of 500-800 would be on level for a middle school aged teenager. A more advanced teenager of the same age could read a book in the 800-1100 range. The system tops out at 1500 which is college-level.
Note, however, that the scoring system relates only to the difficulty of the book and does not relate to the maturity of the subject matter. It is still up to parents to determine what book might be too mature for a teenager. A Lexile score only tells you the length and complexity of the sentences and vocabulary.
A tool to help you find books
- Magnetic Poetry Masters
Play grammar games with magnetic poetry. This magnetic poetry game uses the words of poetry masters like Walt Whitman and William Shakespeare, so students imitate the style of the best.
- Teacher Book Wizard: Find Children's Books by Reading Level, Topic, Genre. Level Books | Scholastic.
This website takes the interests and reading level of any child and turns them into book recommendations. While it's true it only returns results for Scholastic books, Scholastic publishes enough variety to make it helpful.
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