1. Reluctant Readers
category of readers includes students
who can decode text but are often "non-readers" who seldom read
independently. These readers need high quality literature with relevant
themes - After getting to know some interests you can better match. The
books featured on this sight are only a few that have hooked non-readers.
Male adolescents present a particular challenge - books that speak to the
key issues faced by guys such as dealing with conflict, and coming of
age can be key. Authors such as Walter Dean Myers (Scorpions, Slam!) and Gary Paulsen (Hatchet, The River).
2. Struggling Readers
These readers may legitimately lack some reading
skills or have a disability that has slowed their progress. Often their
self concept already includes themselves as a failed reader. They may have
had an experience heavy on isolated drills and few whole story completions.
A good book can restore their definition of reading. Care should be taken
to find quality books that are decodable yet still contain mature themes
- this can be a challenge. Some short chapter books such as Stone Fox or
Sarah, Plain and Tall are often
dismissed as 3-4 grade books. Yet an older reader is able to bring much more
to these texts in terms of analysis and reader response. Short chapters
can be a positive characteristic allowing a weaker reader to still complete
a "chunk". Don't forget that a reader who really is motivated to read a book
can often overcome a seemingly tough text. Activating background knowledge,
discussing key vocabulary, and identifying a purpose for reading a chapter
(ie. confirm a prediction) can also do wonders.
This is just a short list of a few winners in my own humble
opinion - They are not in any particular order.
Remember, if you plan to read aloud, make sure you
like the book! Got a restless bunch? Choose a book with saucy dialog,
quick plot, and cliffhangers at the end of chapters. (Read-aloud
3. Freak the Mighty
|This book is filled with
mature themes - the nature of disability, friendship, violence, and
courage. It is written with great voice. Well-suited for a read-aloud
or reluctant readers who may be drawn in to the realism. Definitely a
book to discuss, due to some heavy issues.
4. Stone Fox
|Stone Fox has high readability
and brief chapters, but manages to be moving and lend itself to discussion
among older readers who may identify with Little Willy's financial and
family hardships. The ending finish line scene is powerfully memorable,
even cinematic. A good choice for a first chapter book/ short novel. Stronger
readers can explore further information on sled dog racing. Perseverance.
loyalty, stereotypes can all be examined.
Chapter questions and vocab
5. Bud, Not Buddy - Christopher Paul Curtis
|This an all-time personal
favorite. Set in the Depression, young Bud goes off in search of family.
It is both serious and hilarious and is written with tremendous voice.
This book begs to be read-aloud, and due to its high motivational pull
(humor and plot) can be a good independent read as well.
6. Skeleton Man - Joseph Bruchac
|This 100 page book rocks!
Bruchac, known for his Native American literature has written a gripping
thriller of young Molly, whose parents disappear. Serious thrills and
action with a very strong female heroine. Bruchac weaves a Native American
legend throughout the story. A good choice for reluctant readers or
struggling readers (with some support for vocabulary). The book does
include abduction, captivity and surveillance so make sure to match
with readers who can handle or have discussions as a class.
7. The Whipping Boy
|This "small" book packs a
punch as an entertaining story full of wit and dynamic characters who
change. Chapters are short and manageable, although weaker readers may
need some scaffolding for dialect and rich vocabulary. Themes of fairness,
character improvement, loyalty and literacy are all here.
8. Pacific Crossing - Gary Soto
Soto site: http://falcon.jmu.edu/%7Eramseyil/soto.htm
|Gary Soto is a master at describing
the Chicano experience. This story of Lincoln Mendoza's exchange trip
to Japan to study martial arts is fun and culturally rich. Fans of Lincoln
can read the first book, "Taking Sides". Many students can relate to
Soto's bicultural characters, whether they are Latino or not. This books
description of Japan rings true and a glossary helps with both Spanish
and Japanese terms. Get to know other Gary Soto books.
Other books featuring Latino characters or culture:
The Circuit - Francisco
Parrot In The Oven: Mi Vida -
Esperanza Rising - Pamela Munoz Ryan
9. Holes - Louis Sachar
|This is a no brainer. Read
this aloud and even the most hardened book-hater will soften and try
to pick up their own copy. A wonderfully woven plot with memorable characters-
complete with a jail break, buried treasure, love story, irreverent humor
10. Cages - Peg Kehret
|Peg Kehret seems to always
write gripping fast moving plots (Don't Tell Anyone, The Hide Out)
that often have the protagonists caring for animals. In Cages, Meg makes
a mistake, and has to pay for it with community service in an animal
shelter, all the while trying to keep a secret. An alcoholic stepfather
and school issues also come into play. Satisfying and substantial in its
message of honesty and redemption. Great for social choice discussions
of "What should Meg do?"
11. Hatchet - Gary Paulsen
|Survival! A city boy crash-lands
a plane in the Canadian wilderness. This is captivating stuff- for
guys especially. Hatchet lovers can continue on with Brian's Winter, Brian's Return and the River.
This can be read aloud - A key is to really have the readers/listeners
put themselves in Brian's position, a simulation of some sort would
be excellent. Sentence length is short, but some students reading on
their own may get lost in Brian's many thoughts and flashbacks.
Frequent discussion and checks for understanding can help. Paulsen is
a master at describing nature in a way that puts you right there. A good
book for examining a protagonist's development.
12. Because of Winn Dixie
- Kate DiCamillo
|This touching story of family
and friends is highly readable with simple sentence structure and brief
chapters. It doesn't sacrifice humor and warmth with its conciseness.
Themes of looking past outside appearances, missing a parent, and dealing
with moving are relevant to readers. (The dog doesn't die!)