Recommended Books for Middle School and Junior High School Readers
Hopefully by now, you've read my previous article about inspiring a love of reading while your kids are young (elementary school age). One of the great challenges of being a parent is adjusting your strategies and modifying your own responses as your kids grow older. At some point, your children will graduate from Children's fiction to Young Adult fiction. For some kids, this happens in elementary school when they jump directly from books with pictures to Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books, skipping over a large number of fantastic children's fiction authors such as Judy Blume, E.B. White, Roald Dahl, Matt Christopher, and Donald Sobol.
In my previous article, I equated reading to feeding. Some children have enormous appetites and others have smaller appetites. Similarly, some kids eat everything and others are quite picky. Every parent deals with food issues differently, but what's important to recognize is that each child has different tastes and needs. It's the same with reading. As a parent, you need to recognize your child's taste and needs when it comes to reading. You want to simultaneously feed them their favorite types of foods (books), while expanding their culinary (literature) horizons.
Tracking Your Child
As a teacher, I considered students to be on 'tracks' and I believe that it's important for a parent to become aware of which track your child is on. The track is really just another way of saying which genre your child is interested in and pursuing as a reader.
Picture Fiction Track
For example, if your child is entranced by Big Nate, Wimpy Kid, and Middle School books, you should recognize that they enjoy the visual stimulation that comes with these types of books and you want to continue feeding them these types of books as they grow older. I highly recommend the incredible Hazardous Tales series by Nathan Hale that teach history through comic tales. Once they get hooked on the history track, you can easily introduce titles such as Lincoln's Last Days and Kennedy's Last Days by Bill O'Reilly. For more mature students able to cope with darker themes, check out the Amulet and Explorer series by Kazu Kibuishi, the Bone series by Jeff Smith and Owly by Andy Runton.
School Fiction Track
By the same token, you want to expand the diversity of their reading appetite by introducing books with similar themes that are present in many of those younger books. In my experience, the Middle School and Wimpy Kid series really open the door to books in a school setting in which students are dealing with social, emotional or physical problems. Books in this category can build empathy, compassion, and understanding for others. I highly recommend Because of Mr. Terupt and Mr. Terupt Falls Again by Rob Buyea, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper and the highly recommended . Wonder by RJ Palacios
Fantasy and Adventure Fiction Track
If they jumped directly into fantasy/adventure books such as Harry Potter, then you may want to continue that track by feeding them books like The Maze Runner, Book of Olympus, Mockingjay (Hunger Games) and Divergent series. Just as you don't want your child to get hooked on one specific type of food, you should always look for opportunities to help your child expand his or her pallet. For example, you can bridge an adventure/action fiction fan over to books like Wonder with the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans about a 14 year old student with Tourette's Syndrome who discovers he has electric powers.
Sports Fiction Track
For sports fanatics, I previously recommended the Matt Christoper (non-serial) series of books about youngsters coping with many of the same issues they face in real life on the sports fields. From there, your sports fiction reader can graduate to Mike Lupica's young adult sports fiction. I also recommend Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach and Boy21 by Matthew Quick, who is the author of Silver Linings Playbook.
Mystery Fiction Track
A child who is hooked on Encyclopedia Brown mysteries may want to move on to the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew series before advancing to Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer series or Ed McBain's 87th Precinct mystery novels.
No matter which 'track' your child may be on, my recommendation is to continue to feed their hunger for their favorite genre while introducing new and related books that are not at polar opposites of their spectrum. Don't be too discouraged if your child picks up and then quickly puts down a book you've purchased or borrowed. My son's shelves contain quite a few books that he failed to connect with and missed the mark for whatever reason. Other books like The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie sat on the shelf for more than a year, which is probably a good thing considering some of the content.
New and Recommended!
About the Author
Author Jason Stern is a former New York City English teacher and currently a practicing lawyer in New York. He is a long-time HubPages contributor who continues to inspire children to read new books and expand their reading horizons. He is also an accomplished screenwriter and author.
© 2014 Jason Stern