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.