Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What Do Middle Schoolers Read?

As previously mentioned, I'm embarking on a new career as a middle school librarian this fall. I'm very excited about this, but I'm also very nervous because, while I have read and do read books that are targeted to the middle school audience, my reading tastes generally tend toward the older end of the YA spectrum, and as I reflect on the books that I personally read when I was in middle school, the list contains mostly V.C. Andrews, R.L. Stine's Fear Street series, Stephen King's The Stand, Treasure Island (assigned), Animal Farm (assigned), 1984 (assigned), a few Agatha Christie mysteries and an assorted array of books that causes me to wonder "What on earth was I doing reading those books?". I mean, a book is a book, and it's great that I was reading, but couldn't I find something more appropriate for my stage in life?

My doubts about my own reading choices have left me anxious about building a collection others. The former librarian was awesome, so I believe that the existing collection should be well-stocked, but I'm not sure whether I know what "classic" titles are "must-haves" for middle schoolers, and most teen lists don't separate out this group. So I'm coming to you, dear blog readers, for suggestions of titles new and old. I've brainstormed a short list of newer titles that I think will be good selections, but I need your help!

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jill Wolfson
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

What other titles, new and old, would you put in a middle school collection*?

*The only real guidelines I have from the previous librarian are "no sex."


  1. I just saw this post today, but it's dated in May, so I hope you still need some ideas.

    If the librarian before you was ordering stuff, you should have newer books and old stand-bys.

    Be sure to have anything by Margaret Peterson Haddix-those books are always popular with my MG readers.

    Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman was a new release this year, but great to booktalk and great for reluctant readers. It has videos that go along with the book and it's a scary story.

    I really like Jenny Han's Shug which is the perfect tween book. Anything by Jerry Spinelli is good too. And the Aladdin Mix line is a good publisher of tween/MG books.

  2. If you're not part of it already, you should check out the Middle School Lit yahoo group. There was recently a discussion about people's top ten middle school reads - tons of classics showed up there! Personally, I remember reading The Hobbit, The Outsiders, Tuck Everlasting, Bridge to Terabithia, The Giver, etc. Newer titles I'd add include Al Capone Does My Shirts and its forthcoming sequel, the Alex Rider series, Maximum Ride series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequels, and many more I can't think of right now. Congrats on the new job!

  3. Ditto on Percy Jackson and Alex Rider, and I'd add Gordon Korman (humor), Sonya Sones (romance), and Tamora Pierce (fantasy) as must-haves too. (There're hints of sex in The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce but her others should be fine.) I also love Franny Billingsley's two books (The Folk Keeper and Well Wished) - I've seen them shelved in children's but would put them in the younger end of YA myself. Then there's pretty much all of Neil Gaiman's children's/YA stuff - The Graveyard Book for one thing, but also his picturebooks-for-older-readers like The Wolves in the Walls.

    I could go on and on but those are something to start with...

  4. Hey lady,
    We're in the same boat! I plan on reading a lot of the books that my middle school field placement librarian put on the summer reading list. Before she started at SP, the list was VERY short and then she expanded it to a very long list, broken down by genre- sports tales, "girl talk", sci-fi/fantasy, etc.

    Here's the link to their reading lists:

    (sorry, it didn't let me directly copy and paste the link so I had to type it- hope it works)

  5. Egad, I meant Shannon Hale for fantasy, not Tamora Pierce, some of whom's later books in each series do indeed have sex in them. Where is my head these days? Stuck in the 90 degree humidity, apparently. :P

  6. I definitely agree with Alex Rider and Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is good, too. My favorite authors throughout middle school were definitely Tamora Pierce, Shannon Hale, and Tanith Lee.

    You may also want to include Twilight, because a lot of people love those books.

    Good luck!

  7. Check out the VOYA archives. They have an annual list in the beginning of the year called Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers, listing the previous year's heavy hitters. Good luck!

  8. Thanks for all the suggestions. The old librarian was quite good, so I shouldn't have to do much looking back, but moving forward. But I'll definitely make sure some key titles/authors mentioned are in the collection.

  9. Oh my gosh, you're gonna have a dream job! It's like this life of reading every single book that goes into the library, which will just totally be awesome. And you'll have so many kids who'll love you 'cause librarians usually awesome.

    The Underland Chronicles, by Suzanne Collins. I read it back in 6th grade and I still love it now (going into 10th).

    Then you'll probably need some of those classics, which were said before me. ^