The key to engaging our offspring in anything meaningful is to get involved together. Younger children who read with a parent learn faster. Parents who read the same material as their middle school children find they have something to talk about. A word of caution: You might find yourself getting pulled into the story as well. Here’s the bottom line: There is no game, no special effect, no flashy media interface, and no electronic gadget that can hold a candle to a good and well told story. We may be in a media-saturated world, but good books still capture kids’ minds and hearts. It takes just a little encouragement, but if they get hooked this summer, it’s a win-win (see Read with Your Children.)
We may be in a media-saturated world, but good books still capture kids’ minds and hearts. When I taught middle school in Florida, I ran a “self-contained” classroom. Simply put, that meant teaching the same kids all day long, and teaching every subject. The hard part was generating fresh content all day. But the arrangement worked to my advantage, too, and I could pretty much divvy up the time as I pleased. Consequently, every day after lunch, I’d sit on a stool in front of the class and give my kids a half hour of great literature. After 18 years as a teacher, I would recommend these 5 books for middle school kids you should read together.
1. The Red Badge of Courage
The classic American Civil War story details a young man’s transformation from a lost, fearful, doubting teen to a self-assured, courageous, confident man. The lesson here is growth, responsibility, and the change from innocence to maturity.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird
Published in 1960, it is cogent and timely this summer in America, saturated with talk of race, inequality, and our own response to prejudice. This book will generate great conversation and likely challenge parents too. If you read this years ago, it’s time to read it again.
3. Ben Hur
Everyone knows the movie, but the book – an immediate bestseller when first published – is an exhilarating story of betrayal, revenge, and salvation. Wallace writes with a freshness and immediacy that brings the action to life and teaches the geography, ethnic tensions, and customs of the ancient Middle Eastern world.
4. The Bridge to Terabithia
I read this classic aloud every year to my middle school class. The story generates powerful conversation about life, death, values, prejudice, and more. It is the tale of friendship that crosses barriers, challenges values, and opens wounds.
5. Number the Stars
During World War II, the Danish Resistance smuggles almost the entire Jewish population to safety. It is the story of the heroism of an entire nation and of one young girl in particular. It is a reminder that pride and human decency are possible even during times of terror and war.
Sound off: What’s your favorite book that you would recommend for middle school kids?