Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Read Alouds

I often get strange looks from other middle school educators when I tell them that I read aloud to my students everyday.  For some reason, adults have this idea that they should stop reading out loud to children once they are able to read for themselves.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth!  Reading aloud to your children is a great way to spend time together, have meaningful discussions, get to know your children better, and share a special bond.  (For more information on why all families should read aloud, at any age, check out Jim Trelease’s web site).

I always read a wide variety of genres to my students.  Some of the most popular read alouds include:

 

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- The most recent read aloud we have completed as a class, this deeply complex novel is dark, moving, and full of hope.  My students were engaged in the story and our conversations ranged from the philosophical to the angry to the intense.

Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick- Every year my classes create Valentine’s Day Hope Chests for the patients at the Institute for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders.  Before we begin the project we read Sonnenblick’s heartwarming and funny story about a middle school boy whose brother is diagnosed with leukemia.  While the premise is heartbreaking, Sonnenblick approaches it realistically and much the book will leave you laughing out loud.  A great conversation starter, this book is great for middle schoolers.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt- Would you choose to live forever, if given the choice? That’s the decision 10 year old Winnie Foster must make when she meets the mysterious Tuck family. Referred to as the greatest children’s novel ever written, Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting will force you and your child to think long and hard about the road they would choose. (Keep in mind that the book starts out slowly, but it quickly snowballs and becomes a pageturner!)

The Giver by Lois Lowry- Another controversial book that will stoke some great arguments. Jonas lives in the Community, a utopian town where no one argues, no one fights, and everything is perfect. Or is it? Does a lack of choices mean perfection? Or is it all just a big lie? (This is a book chock full of higher level thinking. And be aware that the meat of the story involves human euthanasia, a mature topic).

Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys’ Favorite Authors Write About Being Boys by Jon Scieszka- Aimed at reluctant middle school boys, this books never fails to connect with my girls, too. More than 80 guys (from Lloyd Alexander to Paul Zelinsky) contribute very short stories/anecdotes about their childhood. The stories range from the grotesque to the heartwarming to the hysterically funny. Short story anthologies are great read alouds because you can pick and choose the stories to read and they don’t take a lot of time to get through. Perfect for the busy family!

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson- Need a great adventure book to hook your kids? Having trouble finding a well-written adventure book that adults can enjoy as much as kids? This is the perfect book! .Tom is a kid. He lives on top of a rock, in an old house that’s literally chained to the ground. He’s not too thrilled that his mom is considering marrying her boyfriend, Jeff, a teacher from his school. When a new refrigerator is delivered on the same day that his mother ponders accepting Jeff’s proposal, Tom takes the large box and sets off sailing down the creek that runs through his yard. Rebellious and angry, he rides the current for miles, eventually falling asleep. He awakens when the water becomes rough and he is suddenly pulled under a ridge and into the bowels of the mountain. He is alone, and trapped. Save for a dog and a corpse to keep him company….I hesitate to summarize anymore of the plot for fear of spoilers. Tom is brave, scared, brilliant, naive, and in a million other ways a normal eleven year old boy. He is Robinson Crusoe. He is Odysseus. He is MacGuyver. He is eleven.

2007-2008 Class Book Lists

This year, my class read more books than we ever have in the past. In case anyone is interested in some great books for 6th grade, I made a list of the books we read, divided into read-alouds and class novels.

Class Books:


Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher- This was the first book we read together (in my homeroom). We read it aloud during the first week of school and it was one of our favorites for the year! A great way to start off the school year, with the story of a class that has no substitute when their teacher is home sick.

The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George (Class Novel)- I had never used this book before and probably would not use it again. The story is great for an environmental unit, but it was a difficult start to the year. As my kids put it, “Nothing happened in the book!”. George is a preeminent environmental writer, but this novel failed to grab my students attention at the beginning of the year.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis- I am desperately waiting for a new book from Lauren Tarshis. I fell in love with Emma-Jean and Tarshis has a great grasp of middle school life. I chose this as the first read aloud for both classes once school started, and they loved it! A great story about a girl who is “different” and her struggle to preserve herself in the churning waters of middle school.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (Class Novel)- A gorgeous story and well-known as the greatest children’s book ever written.

The Postcard by Tony Abbott- My class read this in ARC form, and they really enjoyed it. A great mystery that tells the story of a young boy, his mysterious grandmother, and the circus!

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Class Novel)- This is my favorite dystopian novel for young adults, and one of the first I remember reading in school.

Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick- We read this as a companion to our Valentine’s Day charity work. Sonnenblick has crafted a gorgeous story of a young boy whose family is touched by cancer. It also made us laugh out loud a lot!

The Devil’s Arithmetic (Puffin Modern Classics) by Jane Yolen (Class Novel)- This is the anchor of our Holocaust study and one of my favorite novels every year. Yolen’s haunting story of a girl who does not want to remember is a powerful testament of the strength and courage of those who were persecuted during the Holocaust.

Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka- Great short stories that appeal to boys (and girls!) by various authors.

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan- The biggest tearjerker of the year, by far. I was sobbing by the end, as were many of my students. This is a beautiful story that most kids can identify with- the love and devotion of a family pet.

The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse- This is a wonderful book that combines children’s love of marine mammals and a new idea for most kids- feral children. Karen Hesse is a beautiful and gifted writer!

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan- Definitely oneof my classes’ favorites! A rollicking story that infuses regular kid problems, Greek mythology, and tons of adventure! A must-read!

Eleven novels in one year! That’s a lot of read-alouds, considering many of these books over more than 300 pages. Sometimes, it was a pain making time for the daily read-aloud, but it was worth it! It made a huge difference in my classroom, though. Reading aloud everyday really made it obvious to my kids how much I valued reading. And I made sure to read a variety of genres, styles, and authors. Everyone enjoyed the books this year, even if they didn’t love each and every one.

Looking for a great read-aloud and some PD

I am at a loss for my next read-aloud. Normally I have a book chosen months in advance, for specific reasons. But for some reason I am stuck this time. We just finished Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie. We begin our Holocaust study in a few weeks, so I am looking for a short read-aloud. I am considering The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, but I don’t want to overwhelm them with Holocaust novels. So I need suggestions from the Kidlitosphere! I am looking for a short book (meaning, no 300 page books this time!). Any genre, though I would prefer to avoid sci-fi/fantasy this time around. Hit me with your best shot!!!

I have also spent the last two days searching for some great professional development opportunities. I have a professional development day left and am dying to use it. Unfortunately, I can’t find anything that seems worthwhile! We are only reimbursed for $50 through the district, so it can’t be something too expensive. I would love a reading/writing workshop PD but there don’t seem to be any in the area. What are some of your best PD experiences??

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