Ever wonder what books to recommend to those “I hate reading” students of yours? I have quite a few ideas, but you’ll find that I am a firm believer in choice. So over the years, I have read and read and read young adult literature, and I have listened to the recommendations of my students. And while my list is ever-growing, I have developed a list of “go to” books that, more often than not, do the trick.
Now, every year, I do have a few students who read the minimum…the 20 minutes I provide in class each day (rather, every other day… I teach on a block schedule). But, I tell myself that over the course of the school year, they will have read 4-5 more books than they would have without that 20 minutes each day. I am happy to add that the recommendations below have been that “magic bean” that has turned some of my most stubborn and reluctant readers into life-long readers (some come back years later to share with me what they are reading…best gift a teacher can receive).
The books below, along with a short summary of each (and a little commentary from me), are my “go to” books for my devout 8th grade non-readers. I hope you find them as successful as I have.
-A Child Called ‘It’ trilogy by Dave Pelzer: Autobiography — If you need a quick dose of reality, this book won’t fail you. I cried a big ugly cry when I read this novel. In fact, there were times I had to quit reading because I just couldn’t emotionally take any more. In this autobiography, Dave Pelzer tells the story of his abusive childhood at the hands of his mother. I assure you, there is no shortage of inexplicable cruelty in this book.
I think my students have loved this trilogy because they can either relate to it or cannot comprehend it. I personally, was fortunate to grow up in a loving home. I simply couldn’t wrap my brain around the level of cruelty…and the level of “turning a blind eye” that went on in this book.
Without spoiling books 2 and 3, book 2 (The Lost Boy) is about Pelzer’s life in a foster home and book 3 (A Man Named Dave) is his life as a motivational speaker.
-Artemis Fowl by Eon Colfer: Fantasy — This isn’t your typical fairy book (although there are fairies). In this 8 book series, Artemis Fowl, a precocious but like-able boy, finds himself in a world he didn’t even know existed. He soon becomes a detective traveling between realms to solve various crimes…all having to do with Artemis in some way.
Personally, I love all the secondary characters in the Artemis Fowl series. They have so much personality and depth…and save Artmeis a time or two.
-Crossover by Kwame Alexander: Fiction written in verse — In this story ( a quick read), twins Josh and Jordan Bell are amazing basketball players. Unfortunately, as what happens to must young adults, they make a choice and must deal with the repercussions of that choice. This story is about family, brotherhood, and coming of age. I have found that students of all backgrounds love this book.
-Go Ask Alice by Anonymous: Realistic Fiction — This book is not for the faint of heart. There is sex, drugs, high school parties, and addiction. BUT…so many of my 8th grade girls are not into the John Green type romance novels. They need something “harder”…something, sadly, that they can relate to. I recommend reading this book before handing it out. I sometimes even call home first. Parents usually give the green light because it means that their child is reading.
Because this book is so raw, the students are immediately sucked in. It has also opened a lot of one:one communication for my students and me. Some students have opened up about their own lives because they now had something to connect with. Great book…read it before giving it out.
-Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: historical fiction — I personally am a HUGE fan of any book that focuses on the Holocaust. (side note: if you haven’t yet read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys…read it NOW. AMAZING!) I teach Night by Elie Wiesel as a whole class novel as part of a Holocaust unit. The students become so interested in the Holocaust that I have developed an entire section on Holocaust literature in my classroom library. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is an overwhelming favorite (it is also a movie). It focuses on two young boys…one inside the fence of a concentration camp and one on the outside. The innocence, trust, and love of children is so evident in this novel.
There are so many more…the Alex Rider series, the Percy Jackson series, The Glass Castle, Legend trilogy, Enclave, and more. I hope you find the success in recommending these titles that I have had.
What titles should I add to my list? I would love to hear your “reluctant reader” titles.