~posted by Ruth
Reading to kids, as we all know, fosters a love of reading. Enthusiastic parents read bedtime stories to their little ones, and find reasons to read aloud over the course of the day and cuddled up in the evening. But these same parents–and teachers, too–often stop reading aloud when children turn into tweens and teens. Read-alouds are fun for all ages. There seems to be a misplaced belief that older kids won’t enjoy it, or worse, they’ll roll their eyes and feel you’re condescending to them. Nothing could be further from the truth! Students of all ages who are read to are more motivated to read themselves—increasing the likelihood that they will one day become independent, lifelong readers. So how about a double-dose–both at home at at school? Want more support for reading aloud to older kids? For a fine rationale for read-alouds for teens, check out If Teens Want to Listen, Why Do We Shut Up?
Here are some great middle-school tested read-alouds–perfect for sharing with tweens and early adolescents, and you’ll be hooked on these terrific tales, too!
The Dark Side of Nowhere by Neal Shusterman
Jason is bored. Like many 14-year-olds, he finds life in his hometown tedious and unexciting. Way too “normal.” That is, until he discovers that his parents are aliens, his school friends are actually in training to use exotic and deadly weapons, and that he, in fact, is part of a colony of extra-terrestrials who maintain human form through DNA injections. Lots of adventure and suspense move this story along. Great discussion elements, too, on what it means to be human. Fans of fantasy and Sci-Fi will be hooked right away–but so will readers new to the genre.
Dancing in Cadillac Light by Kimberly Willis Holt
Welcome to Moon, Texas, 1968. Eleven-year-old Jaynelle often sneaks away to the nearby junkyard and sits behind the wheel of old junkers, pretending to drive and having imaginary adventures. When her Grandmother dies and her Grandpa moves in, her life changes as he takes her with him fishing, snipe hunting, as well as riding in his car on trips to the cemetery. His behavior is quite odd as he talks to the dead residents of Moon–and on the spur of the moment, uses his cash to buy an old green Cadillac that he lets Jaynelle drive through the grassy cemetery grounds. Odd enough that there’s talk he’s becoming senile. Strong characters in a very real small-town setting make this book come alive. There is a hidden family mystery, not to mention an exploration of the social structure of town life, and the excitement of a country on the verge of the first walk on the moon. A conversation-worthy book for young adolescents to hear, discuss, then pick up on their own.
The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride Book 1) by James Patterson
Yes, technically another science fiction, but really more of the thriller genre–and such a well-written one! James Patterson, of course, is well-known for his adult mysteries. Imagine a “flock” of teenagers, Maximum and her band of genetically enhanced kids who escape from a lab that created them as 98% human and 2% bird. (Yes, they actually have wings and can fly.) The band of escapees find themselves constantly running for their lives while trying unravel secrets hidden from them from the evil “School.” Fast-paced action and adventure make this a terrific read-aloud. Best of all, it’s an on-going series, so once you’ve started your listeners on this first book, they’ll want to read them all.
A Corner of the Universe by Ann Martin
Hattie has been anticipating a relaxing and uneventful summer. (A quote from 12-year-old Hattie: “I just want things all safe and familiar.” ) She lives in a quiet small town with her mom–helping her run the boarding house–and her artist dad, where they all read piles of books. Her life changes when an uncle she never heard of comes to live with them. He’s 21-years old, mentally ill, and wreaks havoc with their orderly life. Hattie is compassionate–and caring for her uncle, and also worried she might be a “freak” and rejected as he is. A touching and poignant story–that won a well-deserved Newbery. Kids we know have been drawn in by the writing and compelling characters.
What the Moon Saw by Laura Resau
Meet Clara Luna, whose name means “clear moon” in Spanish. She has never met her father’s family, so when she receives a letter from them–in Spanish–she is intrigued and surprised. They invite her to spend the summer with them in Oaxaca, Mexico–and as readers, we get to journey with her on that magical trip. In the remote village of Yucuyoo, she learns a great deal about herself, her strengths and her abilities, including her gift for healing, inherited from her grandmother. A kind of magical realism is heightened by the dreamy quality of the writing–really setting the mood for a read aloud. Plus, there is a tender budding romance with Pedro. Readers come away with a new appreciation for an area of the world that most of us know little about.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
When Bod’s (short for Nobody) family are killed by the man Jack, he is taken in by a family of ghosts in a graveyard, which becomes his home. But Jack and his evil organization are still after Bod, and he has to keep himself protected, and maybe even overcome the men Jack. In a kind of 21st-century ghostly version of The Jungle Book, Bod is raised from babyhood to his teen years by a community of graveyard spirits: ghouls, witches, and ghosts from different historical periods. Bod has a series of adventures as he comes of age and solves the mystery of his birth family’s murder and the villains who continue to search for him. He also learns the skills he will need to take on life beyond the safety of the Graveyard. At times disturbing–with some scary and dark moments–this is definitely a great middle school read-aloud!
Bright Shadow by Avi
This classic book has been re-packaged and released with lovely new artwork, guaranteed to entice readers to the world of Avi. Twelve-year-old Morwenna is an unlikely hero. When an ancient wizard dies, this young assistant to the King’s chamber maid finds herself in possession of the world’s last five wishes. She soon discovers that this gift is a lonely burden. Compelling and complex moral issues are at the heart of this well-written tale. It’s hard to put down this story–but you’ll want to leave time for the rich discussions it sparks.
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
Historical fiction that kids wouldn’t know about or pick up on their own is often a great choice for read-alouds, exposing tweens to new genres and authors. This one is a grabber, with stories of mobs and bosses, a prison with a tough warden, and a pesky warden’s daughter. Set in 1935, this historically correct novel tells the story of Moose and his sister ( who has autism) and the rest of his family when they move to live on Alcatraz Island so their Dad can become the “live-in” electrician for the prison system. At heart, it’s a coming of age tale for young Moose, but written in such a unique time and place it creates a world of its own for readers. Winner of numerous awards, this book will spur readers to want to hear the next book in the series: Al Capone Shines My Shoes.