Monday, January 23, 2017

Books for a Large-Hearted 12 Year Old

During our recent snow event here in the rainy NW, we were able to get out at one point for an afternoon at some friends' house.  Just in time to save us all from cabin fever!  These are people The Winemaker made friends with in college, and they have five children.


As Beth Woolsey would say, five kids is a lot of kids.

The family is Catholic (five kids, y'all!) and they homeschool, so--they aren't like us in some pretty significant ways.  But they are kind, and smart, and funny, and we love them.  Plus they have bunnies.  When we showed up, one of their daughters brought a bunny up to me and said, "First, imagine how soft it could possibly be.  Okay, now pet him."  And damn if he wasn't about a billion times softer than I could even imagine.

The mom and I were talking kids and education, as we do.  She has a degree in early childhood development, and she takes her job as her kids' teacher very seriously.  She was telling me that her youngest son, unlike his two big brothers, is a reluctant reader.  He CAN read, he just doesn't like to.  And he has trouble remembering what happened when he reads.  Loves being read to, can totally get into and analyze a story he hears, but just...not an enthusiastic or confident reader.  He's 12 and tests as reading around a 3-4th grade level.

In other words, my kind of kid.

She told me about a program she'd been trying, and I gently steered her away from "read and summarize" and "read and answer questions," trying instead to encourage that she just aim for "read and enjoy."  She told me the books that had been suggested for her boy, and well.

Encyclopedia Brown.
Henry Huggins.
The Borrowers.

Now, these are three series I LOVED as a kid, don't get me wrong.  I'm sure a kid who liked to read could get into them.  And I think they probably make good read-alouds.  But for a reluctant reader--BORING.  You can't expect a kid to live on a diet of 1950s Americana.  So I told her I'd put together a more modern list and send it her way.

This is a kid who is definitely more sheltered than many of my students.  His folks are also a lot more conservative than I am about what they want their 12 year old exposed to.  So a number of my usual suggestions were not going to make the cut.  I also wanted to focus on quick books, things he could get through before he forgot how they even started.

I took several hours browsing my literal and online bookshelves, thinking about what might work.  You never know what will catch a kid's fancy (at least not at first!) so I wanted to offer more than they'd need in hopes that they'll look them over together and find some that work for him.

I'm pretty happy with what I put together.  It's nice to use my book knowledge for other kids.

The list is here if you're curious!


  1. It’s awesome that you’re able to use your book knowledge to help people out. One of my teacher friends told me that her school doesn’t teach Bridge to Terabithia anymore because kids can’t relate to it. I was sad because that was one of the few books I could relate to as a kid.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. It's hard when that happens. Most of my favorites are out of favor with all but they most die-hard readers. I'm not sure why reading classics was normal when I was young but unappealing to kids now. It's not like Little House, Anne of Green Gables, or Chronicles of Narnia were modern when I read them either.

  2. I'm saving this list! My youngest (7 years old) is not a particularly confidant reader and I'm always looking for books to interest him. Some of these are too old for him now but won't be for too much longer. The only series I can think to add is The Warriors (kind of like Watership Down but for cats and a series). My older son who hated reading adored those when he was in 3rd/4th grade. They're the only series he ever read.

    1. My daughter really wants to read those too, even though they're a bit too hard for her yet. She and her best friend play Warrior Cats all the time.


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