Summer is almost gone (summer break, anyways). In some places, it already is. My kids started up school this past Wednesday. And with the excitement (dread?) of a new school year, new schedules, and the gearing up of sports and music practice—not to mention homework—recreational reading can easily take a backseat.
So here’s a list of some great MG reads to tempt even the most reluctant readers, along with strategies for fitting reading into the busy lifestyle of the modern middle grade reader.
These timeless tales invite readers into amazing new worlds, whether through fantasy, harsh wilderness, futuristic society, or the depths of Metropolitan Museum of Art. Each weaves deep meaning into an entertaining narrative, leaving readers grappling with questions and inspired to triumph in their own lives.
• Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
• The Chronicles of Narnia
• Bridge to Terebithia
• Island of the Blue Dolphins
• Jonathon Livingston Seagull
• The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
• The Giver
• Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
• The Borrowers
Modern MG Faves
These modern favorites entice readers with wizardry, magic, action, and adventure, yet at the same time, provide a surprising amount of intellectual stimulation and fascinating facts.
• Harry Potter series (of course)
• Percy Jackson series (and spinoffs - The Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles)
• Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
• Big Nate series
• Septimus Heap series
• Fablehaven series
• The Sisters Grimm
• A Series of Unfortunate Events
• I Survived series
Strategies to Encourage Reading
To wheedle, bribe or beg? Whatever the approach, we all know reading is important. Some kids take to it like fish to water, but others require a little convincing.
• Let them see you read. This may sound simple, and it is, but kids are great imitators. When they see the enjoyment their parents and older siblings find in books, that can intrigue them and help them view reading as a fun, interesting activity. At the very least, their curiosity will be piqued. Our family unofficially adopted a young boy a couple years ago. He detested reading. As the months have gone by, he has grown interested in books and often asks me about what I’m reading. He has blazed through the I Survived series, and though he is still somewhat reluctant, he is much more open to the idea of reading than before.
• Read to them. This one is a no-brainer for young children, but I’ve found that reading to my family (even teens!) is a great way to promote family unity as well as to spark their interest in fiction. A great MG book that spans all ages is Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. Take turns reading it or just let them sit back and listen. Either way, you’re nurturing a love of reading, feeding your family’s creativity, while carving out precious family time in your busy schedule.
• Visit the Library. There’s nothing more empowering for kids than choosing their own reading material and checking it out with their own library card. What’s more, libraries often have special reading challenges and programs to entice people into the world of reading.
• Provide lots of options. I’m a big fantasy fan. Much to my shock, some of my family are not. Some of them are not even fans of fiction. My nephew, even at a young age, preferred reading nonfiction. One of my adoptive sons would only read about football. Several of my kids light up over factual information about dinosaurs, space, or sea creatures. One of my sons inhales comics. Whatever their preferences, they’re reading and learning. Once they find a series or genre they enjoy, it’s a lot easier to keep them going.
• Treat Reading as a Family Requirement. Some things are required in our family. Learning to read, learning to swim, learning to ride a bike. Of course, there’s more. And every family will insist on slightly different skills and habits. But recreational reading can be one of these. Insist on a little reading before any screen time or friend time. Or set aside dedicated reading time in your schedule.
• Beg, wheedle, and bribe. Yep, we’re back to that. Create fun incentives to encourage reading. This can be special time set aside with Mom or Dad. Enlist friends or extended family, too, if that helps. It could be ice cream, a sleepover, a new book, or a new app. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Remember, sometimes the best reward of all can be sharing a new interest along with your encouragement and approval.
What are some of your favorite MG reads? How do you encourage reading in your home or classroom?