Thursday, June 18, 2015

summer blog party!

Hello friends, teachers, and parents! Welcome to BigTime Literacy! The Reading Crew is bringing you a great blog hop today with tons of ideas for supporting our kiddos literacy development during the summer...and freebies! Then, we'll be back on Wednesdays for weekly linky parties to share reading and writing strategies. We hope you'll join us each week for that, but for now, let's get to one way that you can help your child beat the Summer Slide: reading lots of great books!

As a former middle school teacher, you have to know how much I enjoy young adult literature. Getting great books in the hands of my students is obviously one of my biggest drives as a teacher, and as such, I have to stay ahead of them. This summer, I'm starting off with this stack:

I've already finished brown girl dreaming and Out of My Mind. That being said, I have a freebie for you - a recommended reading list for middle school kiddos!

We'll get to the download in a few, but let me share a few of my absolute faves for middle school kids. These are tried and tested with kids and always get a big thumbs-up!

For Rising Sixth Graders: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

from Amazon:
Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first. 

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

I always loved reading this book to my middle school kids - the scene on the Hot Seat is awesome and the voice I used for Hillary Kimble makes her sound like the brat of a cheerleader she is. Your kiddo will love this story and hopefully, will walk away from it knowing it's okay to be you, no matter what that means.

Rising Seventh Graders: The Boy Who Couldn't Die by William Sleator

from Amazon:
Sleator, a recognized master of sci-fi and horror and a favorite of reluctant readers, is a paperback powerhouse, with more than 600,000 copies of his novels sold in softcover. Here he gives fans a spin on the classic zombie story, following sixteen-year-old Ken as he bargains with a psychic to gain immortality, only to awaken one night with blood-spattered clothes and the realization that he's sold more than his soul.

I actually haven't read this, but I would always give it to the guys in my class who had a hard time finding something they clicked with, and this book would get them every time. My copy is warn and the cover is ratty, but it will hook anyone - pretty much just on the cover art and title alone. Have your kiddo give it a try!

Rising Eighth Graders: A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

from Amazon:
This is the remarkable story of one endearing dog's search for his purpose over the course of several lives. More than just another charming dog story, A Dog's Purpose touches on the universal quest for an answer to life's most basic question: Why are we here?
Surprised to find himself reborn as a rambunctious golden-haired puppy after a tragically short life as a stray mutt, Bailey's search for his new life's meaning leads him into the loving arms of 8-year-old Ethan. During their countless adventures Bailey joyously discovers how to be a good dog.
But this life as a beloved family pet is not the end of Bailey's journey. Reborn as a puppy yet again, Bailey wonders--will he ever find his purpose?
Heartwarming, insightful, and often laugh-out-loud funny, A Dog's Purpose is not only the emotional and hilarious story of a dog's many lives, but also a dog's-eye commentary on human relationships and the unbreakable bonds between man and man's best friend. This moving and beautifully crafted story teaches us that love never dies, that our true friends are always with us, and that every creature on earth is born with a purpose.

I came across this one the last time I had been teaching eighth grade and loved it - and so did my students who were animal lovers! This book follows the soul of a dog who is born, lives a life, and then is reborn to a new body. With each life he lives, he learns new things and impacts the families that love him in different ways. This book is beautiful and I highly recommend it!

and something new for high school readers....

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

from Amazon:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he's never met.
Incredibly funny and poignant, this twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance—is a knockout of a debut novel by Becky Albertalli.

This book came to my attention via Twitter, and I think from someone who writes over at Two Writing Teachers. I just started it yesterday and am already halfway through! Simon is the narrator, and in such a hard position because someone read one of his emails and now is asking for a favor in return for keeping his private information confidential. The chapters alternate between Simon narrating and emails between Simon and a secret friend, Blue, who is also gay and hasn't come out yet. The book is peppered with mature language and engaging high school conversation and so cute. Highly recommended for those older readers!

So those are a few I have loved recommending and reading, hopefully one of them will speak to you! If not, please jump over to my Teachers Pay Teachers store for my freebie: a list of recommended reading in the following categories:

  • Rising Sixth Graders
  • Rising Seventh Graders
  • Rising Eighth Graders
  • For the Girls
  • For the Guys
  • Mature Reads
What are your favorite middle-school level books to read? Please leave me a comment below and let me know!

If you like what you've read here, be sure to follow my blog!

You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Let's get connected!

After you grab your freebie, head on over to Growing Little Learners and grab some writing ideas from Pixie Anne!

Happy Summer!


  1. I LOVE Star Girl! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for the recommendations! I actually love reading middle school books for myself. Ha, ha! :) I will pass this post along to my friends who teach middle school, too. :)

  3. Oh my gosh! This post reminds me of "The Book Whisperer". I think you are her twin! I will keep these suggestions in mind as my son approaches middle school. Great post.
    That Literacy Blog

  4. Fabulous post, Michelle!! #awesomesauce #yousurearethebookwhispererstwin #bookrecommendationsgalore
    Literacy Loving Gals

  5. I was also a middle school ELA teacher and reading specialist before going to the elementary level! Stargirl was one of my favs and one my students really liked. I bought my sister A Dog's Purpose after her beloved dog died. Such a great, tender story! :-)

  6. I adore STARGIRL! It is one of my favorites! I am heading to the bookstore and library to find some of these other amazing suggestions! Thanks for sharing, Michelle! Great list!

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