7 Books That Turn Tweens into Readers

Over the last ten years I have worked with hundreds of students and their families. As a reading teacher and tutor, many parents tell me their child does not like reading, and my response is always the same. “That’s because he/she hasn’t found the right book yet.”

Below is a list of my personal book recommendations that have turned my students in grades 6-8 into readers.

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth. This will forever and always be my number one book recommendation to students who are not fans of reading. This book sucks readers in and never lets them go. It is filled with action, plot twists, physical fights, guns, friendship, and not mushy-gushy teen love. The writing style is fantastic for tweens because it’s simple enough to flow easily, but complex enough to keep them engaged. The vocabulary isn’t too difficult and there is the perfect amount of dialogue. **There is some mature content that is inferred.

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. To me, this will always be a staple of classic children’s literature. This is a great novel to help kids transition into YA books in terms of length, writing style, and vocabulary. Readers will get immersed in a fantasy world that they will wish existed. There are Quidditch matches, a mystery to solve, a three headed dog and magic waiting for readers to experience.

3. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Whenever I summarize this book for my students, I call it the boy version of The Hunger Games. Readers follow the story of why a group of boys (and a girl) are all brought to the same place with no recollection of the past. The sentence structure is a great mix  that helps the story flow without exhausting readers. From the first page this novel will hook readers as they try to put the pieces of a puzzle together.

4. Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. Capturing the attitude and reality of a middle schooler is not an easy task, but Steven’s character is truly a reflection of a typical eighth grade boy. The characterization is flawless and will have readers laughing and crying as Steven deals with his eighth grade year, jazz band, and his little brother who is battling cancer. The dialogue between characters and inner voice of Steven will immediately connect with tween readers.

5. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Greek mythology that comes to life in modern day, complete with mythical creatures and just the right amount of sarcasm, makes this a favorite with my students. The exciting fantasy elements and engaging plot events allow readers to get lost in a world without getting overwhelmed by a too much complexity. The writing style is clear and the author does a great job of making the plot easy for readers to comprehend. I’ve literally ordered every book in the series for my classroom library because my students requested them.

6. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Even though this text is a little dated, the overall premise still captivates readers. This text is challenging, with advanced vocabulary and sentence structure, but there is so much detail with back stories that students are still able to comprehend the plot.  This book is perfect for students who like mysteries and are looking for a challenge.

7. Psion Beta by Jacob Gowans. Sammy is just like any other 14 year old boy. Except that he’s a fugitive. And he has powers. Readers follow Sammy’s journey as he is trained with the latest technology to fight, complete missions and engage in rigorous training. The writing style is spot on with a plot that is exciting and anything but predictable. This is the only series in my classroom library that had a waiting list because it really is just that good.

Also see My 10 Favorite YA Novels for more book suggestions.

 

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) who offers virtual reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here. 

My 5 Favorite Books of 2019

2019 was a really big year for this blog. I took a HUGE nose dove into book reviews, and I loved every second of it. I have worked with some absolutely incredible writers and read some amazing texts. As 2019 draws to a close, I thought I would recap my favorite five books of the year before we ring in 2020 (in no particular order).

Bound in Silver

Bound in Silver by Marie Grace. This book is the ultimate YA fangirl book. I love the creativity and all of the amazing reminders of other great YA books (Harry Potter, Divergent, The Hunger Games, etc.). The plot moves at a great pace and really sets up ideas for the next books. And, as a plus, the author is a true book lover with an amazing Instagram account.

Arial the Youtuber

Arial the Youtuber by Mary Nhin. It’s no secret that I have fondness for this incredible unicorn, but this is my favorite Arial book. Being a virtual teacher, I’m drawn to ideas that involve technology, and this one shows how much work is involved in making it in the Youtube world. Nhin allows has life lessons mixed into inventive plots making her books engaging for young readers.

Timothy's

Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values by Christopher Gordon.  I always find it hard to find good books for boys that teach life lessons that don’t feel super Disneyish. This text definitely engages all readers, especially boys, with the use of a superhero. The stories are quick and effective, while focusing on one core value at a time. The questions at the end of each story also allow readers to interact with the text and make it personal.

Under the Scars

Under the Scars by Isabella Morgan.  This book is a little outside my usual review genres, as it’s an adult romance novel. It’s nothing like 50 Shades. It’s an incredible love story that will have you falling in love with Nick from the moment you meet him. This book will make you believe in the power and magic of love, and I guarantee each reader will want their own Nick or Violet.

Swimming Sideways

Swimming Sideways by C.L. Walters. This realistic fiction YA book is truly one of a kind. It’s the first in a trilogy that follows three extremely relatable characters as they struggle through life as teenagers in today’s world. The characterization is so intense and realistic that I can picture Abby, Seth, and Gabe as my own students. The realness of this book will leave an impression on any reader, especially those in high school.

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read Book Review

Two weeks ago I shared a post about the 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas and I wanted to share some of my personal faves from the list. I’ve already shared Arial the Secret Santa and A Christmas Cookie Exchange , and today I’m sharing my current favorite.

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read, by Sonica Ellis, takes a look at the realities of reading struggles in a fun, festive way that encourages readers to not give up.

I’ve been teaching reading for ten years. I have seen kids struggle to read aloud in front of their peers and how difficult it can be. We know these situations exist, but we often don’t see it in movies or books.

This story starts with Santa needing some help reading his list, after all the man is pretty old. Jingles, the elf, is asked by Santa to read the list to the other elves, and Jingles has a very difficult time reading the words. I LOVE how Ellis makes it a point for Santa to express that Jingles knows all his letters and sounds, but he needs time to practice and to take his time when reading.

Santa encourages and supports Jingles in his practice by working with him. With Santa’s assistance, Jingles gains confidence in his reading to feel comfortable reading in front of the other elves. When he gets stuck, he has no problem taking his time to sound out each word.

The story concludes with Jingles accompanying Santa on his Christmas Eve ride. Jingles is responsible for telling Santa where to go by reading the names on the list. Readers can see how Jingles sounds out the various names, and that even though he has gotten better, he is still working on improving his reading skills.

There are so many things I love about this book. I love the positive approach the author took about the challenges struggling readers face. I love how Santa is so supportive. We typically think of Santa as generous, but this shows a whole new side of Santa that really embodies the Christmas spirit. I love that the story teaches kids to not give up when a task is hard. I love that readers come away knowing that reading can be fun.

I was a struggling reader when I was in kindergarten, which is why I repeated. I think a book like this would have truly spoken to me as a kid because I could relate to Jingles. This book would be ideal for a class read aloud in for preschool through second grade.

To purchase the book click here.

A Christmas Cookie Exchange Book Review

One of my favorite parts about Christmas are the seasonal foods and Starbucks lattes. I have a pretty insane sweet tooth, so I take advantage of the cookies this time of year. As I mentioned last week, I’m diving into my list of 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas.  I truly can’t think of a time when I’ve read a holiday book about cookies, which is what caught my attention with today’s book.

A Christmas Cookie Exchange, by Sheri Wall, is a delicious Christmas picture book that teaches readers not to compare themselves to others.

Right away I was drawn to the writing style of this text. There is end rhyme on each page that helps the flow of the story and makes it super fun to read aloud. The sophisticated language paired with classy pictures, makes readers feel like they are attending a fancy holiday party.

However, my absolute favorite part is the characterization of the different cookies. Our main cookie, Phil, is just a basic cookie and he compares himself to the flashy holiday cookies. Each cookie has a unique personality that relates to their flavor. I really enjoyed “the Man” (a gingerbread man) personality the most and actually laughed out loud while I read his pages. I was also very entertained when Phil imagined himself as each cookie. The illustrations truly capture the essence of the text.

As a teacher, there were two elements I really liked about this text. Through the use of repetition, readers are able to piece the different themes together. But, just in case some readers struggle to do this, the author was kind enough to list the different themes at the end of the book s lessons Phil learned. I also LOVED how Wall included a glossary at the end of the book for readers. Her writing is so rich, but it may be a little advanced for some of the younger readers.

I can see this book being used in an preschool through second grade classroom during the month of December. It’s a truly great text to discuss characterization and vocabulary.

To purchase this book click here.

For more information about the author and to purchase other books click here.

15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas

One of my favorite things about connecting with members of the literacy world is being able to share great books. Today I’m super excited to share a blog post written by Jennie Lyon about the 15 Best Children’s Books for Christmas.

Christmas Hot Chocolate

Do you remember what Christmas was like when you were a child?

Sure, as an adult, the winter holidays can be filled with all kinds of stress. You have to worry about family, hosting a big dinner, making sure that all of the presents are under the tree… It’s crazy!

But if you’re a child, it can be pure magic. Santa Claus and snow and reindeer and stockings! They get to be around all of their favorite people for days and be showered with nothing but love and attention. It’s little wonder why kids love Christmas.

And if you really want to build up the Christmas spirit in them, you can work in some fantastic children’s books about Christmas into the evening bedtime story rotation! Here are some of my favorites that I highly recommend you share with them:

Polar Express

The Polar Express: 30th Anniversary Edition by Chris Van Allsburg

Before it was a Tom Hanks movie, The Polar Express was one of the most beloved Christmas books ever written. If you’ve only seen the film, then you should definitely check out the original it’s based on.

On Christmas Eve, a little boy boards a mysterious train bound for the North Pole. Once there, he meets Santa himself, who gives him any gift he desires. His choice isn’t what you might expect and leads to a magical tale filled with beautiful images.

Arial Christmas

Arial the Secret Santa by Mary Nhin

I love Christmas. It’s a time of peace and kindness. And kindness and compassion are the traits I most want to instill in our kids.

In Arial the Secret Santa, children will follow Arial the unicorn through school, in her community and in nature as she models how easy it can be to share kindness. From giving a compliment to smiling at someone who’s having a bad day, Arial shows children that, no matter how small, words and act of kindness MATTER, especially at Christmas! Included in the book is the Kindness Tree Activity to help encourage your child to give praise and spread positivity into the world.

If you’re looking for a book this Christmas to help teach your kids about the power of kindness, then this is the book to have under the tree. I highly recommend this book!

Festive Flamingo

Festive Flamingo by Shaula Maitland

If you would like a moment of calm this Christmas (and a brilliant night’s sleep, shh…) then Festive Flamingo is the book for you!
Flamingo shares a festive selection of breathing exercises and relaxing
visualizations. She joins you for twelve magical meditations, where you explore
positive themes such as perseverance, curiosity and self-belief. Build a magical
camel out of snow, learn to ice-skate with the woodland animals and create an
exciting game for the elves.

Enjoy the benefits of meditation, alongside adventure and festive fun!

Grinch Stole Christmas

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

I mean, do you really need a summary of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? It’s one of the most celebrated children’s books of all-time, let alone one of the all-time great Christmas books! It’s also a brilliant cartoon, two big-budget movies, and the basis of countless toys. And you know what? It deserves every single bit of praise it gets.

The Grinch that Stole Christmas perfectly communicates the meaning of Christmas and is filled with stunning art, hilarious rhymes, and some truly funny jokes. It’s a true classic that should be on every child’s bookshelf. If you’ve never encountered it before, you owe it to yourself to give it a read (even if you’re an adult)!

Little Squirrel

Little Squirrel Squish Gets His Christmas Wish by Ross Hammond

Do you remember the story of Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer? Everyone told him that he couldn’t be a member of Santa’s reindeer team. Well, here is a children’s book that reflects that story, putting a whole new spin on the idea of following your dreams!

Little Squirrel Squish is a tiny squirrel who wants to be part of Santa’s flying crew. But because he’s so small (and because he’s not a reindeer), everyone keeps telling him to forget about his dreams. But one Christmas, he decides to go for it, changing everything! This book will teach your children that their every dream, no matter how seemingly out of reach, is worth exploring!

Santa's Reindeer

Santa’s Reindeer by Brooke Stevens

Getting back to Santa’s reindeer, let’s talk about Santa’s Reindeer, the book! Discovering that everyone is different is one of the most important lessons a child can be taught. In this adorable Christmas book, all of the various personalities of Santa’s reindeer are explored. It’s a perfect read for small children, full of cute illustrations and a lovely Christmas message!

The Mouse

The Mouse in the Hammock, a Christmas Tale by Bethany Brevard

If you think it’s only Santa who does good deeds on Christmas Eve, you need to meet a very special mouse!

Spinning off from the “Not a creature was stirring…” line from Twas the Night Before Christmas, this wonderful book features a mouse who is busy all Christmas night doing small acts of kindness, such a cooling the cocoa for Santa, hanging up the mistletoe, and taste testing the cookies! It’s a fabulous lesson for kids who are looking to drive the meaning of Christmas home: that you’re never too little to make a big difference!

The Elf Who Couldn't Read

The Elf Who Couldn’t Read by Sonica Ellis

Do your children know how to read yet?

Countless children learn how to read their first words while sitting on their parents’ laps. And if you want a book that will help them sound out letters while also embracing the Christmas spirit, then this is it!

In it, Jingles the elf doesn’t know how to read yet, but needs to figure out Santa’s Christmas list. With the help of your child, they read the list together and make sure that Christmas is a huge success!

Secret Santas

Secret Santas And The Twelve Days of Christmas Giving by Courtney Petruzzelli

One of the reasons why I love Secret Santas so much is that it makes giving anonymous. You aren’t giving someone something with the expectation of a “thank you” from them. Instead, their enjoyment is its own reward.

In this wonderful Christmas book, your kids will learn about Secret Santas and why it can be such a wonderful Christmas tradition. Beautiful art and a wonderful message make this a Christmas must!

Christmas Cookie Exchange

A Christmas Cookie Exchange by Sheri Wall

Who doesn’t love Christmas cookies? But have you ever noticed that there tends to be one seemingly plain oatmeal cookie left on the plate after all the other cookies are eaten? Well, this is HIS story!

Meet Phil, an insecure fruit-filled oatmeal cookie who longs to be more fancy and famous. With help from his cookie friends, he learns what’s on the inside is more important than fancy sprinkles. Self-love and acceptance are essential qualities for kids to learn, and this rhyming Christmas tale teaches them that character and self-confidence really do matter.

How to Catch an Elf

How To Catch An Elf by Adam Wallace

Have you kids ever wanted to catch an elf? It turns out that it’s trickier than you might think…

In this fun and silly story, a clever elf manages to elude all of the traps that children set for him on Christmas Eve! There are lots of fun rhymes and some inventive illustrations that your kids are sure to love!

Never Let a Unicorn

Never Let A Unicorn Meet A Reindeer! by Diane Alber

If you’re looking for a Christmas story with a twist, this might be the book for you and your kid!

Instead of it being Christmas in the book, it’s about a birthday wish gone wrong. A little girl (who has a unicorn) sends a letter to Santa to ask if she can borrow one of his reindeer during their “off-season.” He sends one with a note saying that the reindeer should never meet any unicorns. It turns out that unicorns and reindeer get highly competitive around each other, so the little girl soon has a mess on her hands! This is a funny and delightful book that can even be read when it isn’t Christmas!

Adventures of Pookie

The Adventures of Pookie: Mission Fat Hearts by Rebecca Yee

If you want your kids to take lessons of kindness and caring into the real world, this book might be the perfect way to do it. It not only tells a Christmas story about three of Santa’s helpers doing missions of good deeds before Christmas but gives your children some missions of their own!

For example, their Christmas mission might be to give an extra hug to someone they love that day. Or to leave a “thank you” note for the mailman. With these Christmas missions, your kids will be brightening up someone else’s Christmas, a wonderful lesson to learn!

God Gave Us Christmas

God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

If you worry that presents, tinsel, and trees are distorting the true meaning of Christmas, then this might just be the book for you and your child.

In it, a Mama Bear and her cub explore what Christmas truly means, from what Santa truly represents (the spirit of giving) to the birth of Jesus. It’s filled with beautiful art and a wonderful Christian message.

Construction

Construction Site on Christmas Night by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Have you ever read any books from the Construction Site series? If not, this might be the perfect place to introduce you and your children to some fun and entertaining characters!

In this Christmas tale, all of the vehicles of the construction site get together to build a new home for the fire engines and, after they finish that important job, find Christmas surprises of their very own! A lovely message and some adorable art make for a great Christmas book!

What are some of your favorite Christmas children’s books? Please share them in the comments below!

Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I took a survey for a fellow woman entrepreneur about how I choose which books to read/purchase. Some of the options included: cover art, cute characters, genres, etc., but none focused on quality content. When I choose books to read with Molly, I like to focus on ones that have good morals and values because there are so many life lessons Molly needs exposure to.

Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values, by Christopher Gordon, is a picture book that reinforces good values and sparks conversation.

In simply flipping through the book, readers get a sense of the organization. It is broken up into three different components, each focusing on a different value (obedience, responsibility, kindness). There is a quick story about the value then a page of questions for young readers to answer. How do readers learn about the value? Timothy transforms into the Warrior of Good Values and jumps in to save the day!

I liked that each value is given it’s own short story. It’s not overwhelming and the message is quite clear. The three stories are all totally different with their settings and conflict.

My personal favorite is the story of obedience. In my opinion, this is a value we don’t really talk about much on a daily basis. The setting is at a school after winter break, and a blue monster convinces Timothy’s friend, Emily, to skip school. Timothy explains to readers that Emily promised her parents she would go right to school and right home. I think this simplifies the value of obedience and makes it easier for young readers to grasp. I really liked the concept of skipping school because it’s not over used, but it’s also a lesson I could see kids applying to their real lives. I should also admit I never skipped school or even a class growing up.

I was also a fan of a super hero being used in the story. Young readers, especially boys I’ve noticed, gravitate towards superheroes, so utilizing one in the story hooks and speaks to readers. It has a little bit of a Superman feel to it, but in a more realistic way.

Each story ends with a page of questions. There are lines included so kids can either write directly in the book or copies can be made. Kids can answer the questions on their own for reading comprehension questions, or parents/teachers can use the questions to springboard discussions.

I could see this working in an elementary classroom for character education. The teacher reads the story and uses the questions to spark whole class discussions. The book also includes coloring and drawing pages, which can easily be used in the classroom.

For more information about the author click here

To purchase the book from Amazon click here

 

Miss Tree Tales #2 Incredible Cacao Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

So a fun fact about me: I have the world’s biggest sweet tooth. If you have ever seen how much sugar I put in coffee/tea you’d think I was a five year old. Which is why I couldn’t say no to reading a book all about chocolate.

Miss Tree Tales #2 Incredible Cacao, by Deepa Remesh, is a great short novel for young scientists about discovering where chocolate comes from.

What first caught my reader eye with this text was the pleasant blend of fantasy, science, time travel and farming. It reminded me a little bit of  The Magic School Bus, but instead of a class taking a field trip the book revolves around a sister (Mia) and brother (Nik).

Personally, I am not a big nature girl. I don’t find pleasure in gardening or learning about seeds. However, our main characters were not only knowledgable, they were enthusiastic about learning! Mia and Nik soaked in every bit of science thrown at them while showing young readers it can be enjoyable to plant a garden with one’s family. Having grown up in the 90s where I was always outside, I really liked that the author includes this to show readers that not everything takes place on a screen. Mia and Nik really enforce the magic of being outside in nature and the science that is all around.

I do like the use of made up nature gadgets the characters used on their mission to learn about cacao, and I thought the use of traveling to Costa Rica in 1998 and Switzerland in 2005 were both effective settings. Both show how cacao is processed to become chocolate, but I really liked Costa Rica. Readers learn  A LOT about the environment cacao is grown in. I love that the helpers in this part included a close knit family, who really embraced our characters. Although, I wish Mia and Nik had said goodbye to the family before moving on to the next part of their journey.

In Switzerland, the siblings took a tour of a factory. Readers can really see the difference in the process and it brings up some great discussion points about technology. A small, but important piece was when Nik fell into the chocolate because he did not read the sign. The adults reinforced the importance of safety and cleanliness, which I thought translated seamlessly to readers.

My teacher brain was going a little crazy while reading this. I think this book would be a fantastic cross curricular activity for grades 3-5. Social studies could focus on map skills and cultures, science can elaborate on fermentation and the growing process with seeds, math can explore percentages and measurements, language arts on reading and comprehending the story and vocabulary.

To purchase the book click here.

For more information about the series click here

The Fever King Book Review

I really feel like my TBR pile has exploded in the last few weeks. I feel truly touched that authors and agents have reached out to me for book reviews, so be prepared for a lot of great new texts appearing on this little blog in the near future.

In the past I have reviewed books I’ve won from Goodreads giveaways (see Dating a Quarterback Secret #3). Today I’m sharing another one of my wins!

Fever King, by Victoria Lee, is a YA political novel about trust, love, and change.

The setting is futuristic in America that is no longer the country we all know. We follow Noam, a teenage boy, as he navigates the world among refugees, a virus, and a very tense political climate. Early on, Noam is infected with the virus and turns into a witching (a survivor of the virus with magical powers). His magic is so special, he is to be trained with the most elite witchings and has private tutoring sessions with Lehrer. Lehrer is the most powerful witching, who survived the catastrophe that transformed America over a hundred years ago.

In all honesty, it took me a while to wrap my head around the history of story. While texts like The Hunger Games are super straightforward about the history, Fever King was not as upfront. There are bread crumbs here and there to provide the reader with more background (letters, videos, etc), but it was hard for me to keep all of the information straight. I’m also not very big into politics to begin with, so my brain isn’t used to reading about political issues in a text. In my opinion, this text is a HUGE social commentary, and the timing of it is perfect with our current society.

I realized while reading this text, that most popular YA novels have a female main character, so it was quite a treat to have a male one. Noam is an incredibly intelligent, mature and responsible individual. It is also revealed that he is bi-sexual, which I loved. Since it is a YA book, there is a hint of romance, but it is not the center of the plot. Noam is a character that does wrong things for the right reason. He has difficulties trusting others and takes this very seriously. He is an extremely loyal individual, until he has a reason not to be.

I can honestly say I haven’t read any other books that are similar to Fever King. Between the heavy politics, bi-sexual romance, and complicated relationships, this book keeps readers on their toes. While reading the last few chapters, I found myself skipping lines to find out what happens next.

One aspect that caught my eye right away was style of writing. Usually YA books are written on a less complex writing level, making it user friendly for readers in middle school. Fever King‘s sophisticated writing is definitely geared towards an older audience, I would suggest sophomores and up. I can’t wait for the next book!!