What to Read Aloud to Your Middle Schooler
by Regan Penaluna, ISB Parent and Library Committee Member
One of my favorite activities in the winter months is curling up under a blanket and reading with my kids. But the past couple years, I found myself reading less with my oldest child who is now in 6th Grade. At first, I celebrated this independence; I was proud, seeing the familiar pull of literature’s tug take hold. Soon he was devouring an entire series, and now he’s in the thrall of The Keeper of Lost Cities—another epic tale currently running nine volumes. Sometimes he asks me to read to him, but it’s hard to truly enjoy these books when I’m joining him seven volumes in and unfamiliar with the characters and the plot twists. I miss the excitement of reading something new and really good together.
Fortunately, there have been glorious exceptions. I loved reading Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales—a funny, graphic series that takes on major events in world history. Sarcastic and gory, we laughed a lot and while my son marveled at things such as the talking mosquito’s explanation of yellow fever, I was amazed by how the author squeezed complex ideas into such a small space chock full of illustrations.
But my favorite so far has been Ghost by Jason Reynolds. It’s the story of a boy named “Ghost” who’s being raised by a single mom and whose father is in prison. Ghost learns about himself, and how he runs from his past, only after joining an elite track team. It gives him something to run toward and aspire to. The story is told through Ghost’s eyes and his voice is rhythmic and hilarious. The first few pages about how to eat sunflower seeds had us on edge—even my 3rd Grader was mesmerized. It’s gorgeous writing and no surprise this book was a finalist for the National Book Award. Even better, this is one book in a quartet called the “track” series that includes Lu, Sunny, and Patina, three books that each take on different characters in Ghost’s circle. All of these are available through the ISB Library.
I asked around to see what other parents were reading and what the librarians recommended, too. Here are some suggestions for some great family reading over the holidays. All of these are available through the ISB Library so ask your child to look for them. Some of these titles are also available as ebooks and audiobooks on Sora, the library’s ebook collection (for more on accessing Sora, click here). If none of these are available, have your child stop by the library for recommendations. (In fact, this is where my son first came across Ghost). Happy holiday reading!
Frida, El Misterio Del Anillo Del Pavo Real y Yo, Angela Cervantes
Laberinto Del Alma, Anna Llenas ( link here)
La Primera Regla Del Punk, Cecilia C. Pérez (English translation: The First Rule of Punk)
Esperanza Renace, Pam Muñoz Ryan
El Sonador, Pam Muñoz Ryan
Réfugiés by Alan Gratz
- Cassius, Catherine Locandro (It has gone into print three times and received the Prix Première Victor du Livre Jeunesse)
- Le Petit Nicolas, René Goscinny
- Omelette Au Sucre, JP Arrou-Vignod
Culottées, Pénélope Bagieu (English translation: Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World)
Look Both Ways, Jason Reynolds (if you love the track series and want more of the same, here’s a delicious collection of short stories)
- Stamped, Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
- Ghost Boys, Jewell Parker Rhodes
- The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (highly recommended in audio, too)
- For Black Girls Like Me, Mariam J. Lockington
- Becoming : Adapted for Young Readers, Michelle Obama
- To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
- Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
- The List of Things That Will Not Change, Rebecca Stead
- Roll with It, Jamie Sumner
- Any of Roald Dahl’s books