But I Don’t Wanna Read…

How to Encourage Reading For the Reluctant Tween Reader

Scholastic’s recent article Spark Your Tween’s Interest in Reading discussed strategies for keeping tweens engaged in reading, especially when so many other activities are vying for their attention.  My favorite tip from this article was:

Encourage freedom.

Teens and tweens like to make their own selections…Let your child choose her own books from the library and for purchase.

Allowing tweens to make their own reading selections involves a few key pieces for surefire success. I would suggest trying the following:

1) Taking tweens to visit the library and have a librarian engage in what’s called a ‘reader’s advisory’ session. Librarians will ask questions like “What types of books do you like to read?” or “Is there a book you’ve read recently that you really love?”.  If the tween doesn’t really have a favorite book, the librarian might ask what movies or television series they enjoy to watch.

Often times the movie or TV series is based off a book, like some of these recent book to the screen phenoma: the Twilight, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Pretty Little Liars, the Lying Game, Eragon or Inkheart series. As a teen myself, I only really started reading trilogies and series when I saw a movie adaptation and thought “now I *must* read what happens next!”. This can help spark in an interest in those types of books.

2) Join a book club appropiate for that age group. Noted in the scholastic article, tweens tend to be very social & are developing their social skills. By participating in a book club, tweens can read & discuss new books or books that they might not have normally picked up on their own.

3) Trying using pre-made book lists and read-a-like lists.  Online sources like blogs, articles and databases provide an abundance of resources to find the type of book for a tween reader.

4) Graphic novels! I am obsessed with graphic novels. I believe that this book format in particular helps readers transition to new levels of reading (or transition into reading in general( through providing so many different genres and levels of interest.  Library Journal published this list of Graphic Novels for Reluctant Readers in 2010. There are some new titles since the list was published but it’s a wonderful starting point.

Useful articles for reluctant tween readers

Tween Bullying

Tween Bullying

Need resources about tween bullying?

Below I have compiled a list of fiction and non-fiction books that deal with issue of bullying for kids ages 8-12. I have also researched a collection of parent/teacher guides and books designed to help cope with tween bullying. Links to all the books will take you to a description and user reviews on Amazon. I have found close to a dozen free online resources, ranging from government sources to library websites. Have another book or website to suggest?

Please comment below!


  1. Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja. (ages 11 and up)
  2. Schooled by Gordan Korman  (age 8 and up)
  3. Fourth Grade Rats by Jerry Spinelli (ages 7 and up)
  4. Crash by Jerry Spinelli (ages 11 and up)
  5. Adam Canfield, Watch Your Back! by Michael Winerip (ages 8 and up)
  6. Drowning Anna By Sue Mayfield (ages 10 and up)
  7. Blubber by Judy Blume (ages 8 and up)
  8. Stick Boy by Joan Zeier
  9. Amelia’s Bully Survival Guide by Marissa Moss (ages 7 and up)
  10. Field of Dogs by Katherine Paterson (ages 8 and up)


  1. Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends by Patti Kelley Criswell (ages 8 and up)
  2. Bullying and Me: Schoolyard Stories by Ouisie Shapiro (ages 8 and up)
  3. We Want You to Know: Kids talk about Bullying by Deborah Ellis (ages 10 and up)

Parent/Teacher Guides

  1. Why Good Kids Act Cruel : The Hidden Truth about the Pre-teen Years by Carl E Pickhardt (parents’ guide from children ages 9-13)
  2. Drama Years: Real Girls Talk About Surviving Middle school- Bullies, Brands, Body Image and More by Haley Kilpatrick
  3. Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard : Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying by Sameer Hinduja (parent/teacher guide)
  4. Understanding Girl Bullying and What to Do about It : Strategies to Help Heal the Divide by Julaine E. Field (parent/teacher guide)
  5. Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World by Rosalind Wiseman 
  6. How to Stop Bullying Behavior in the Tween Years by , About.com Guide
  7. A Parent’s Guide to Cyberbullying by Christy Matte, About.com Guide
  8. Bullying in Middle Schools: Prevention and Intervention by Amy Milsom and Laura Gallo

MORE Free Resources Found Online

  1. Stop Bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/
  2. Medline Plus: Bullying: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bullying.html
  3. Girl’s Health: Why Some Girls Are Bullied: http://www.girlshealth.gov/bullying/whybullied/index.cfm
  4. Kids health: Dealing with Bullying: http://kidshealth.org/PageManager.jsp?dn=girlshealth&article_set=20425&lic=175&cat_id=20128
  5. Cyberbullying: Tips for Parents: http://onguardonline.gov/articles/0028-cyberbullying
  6. PBS Kids
  7. Growing Roots for a Better Tomorrow Blog: http://lettersnumbersandbooksohmy.blogspot.com/2012/02/stop-bullying-books-preschool-through.html
  8. Fairlands Elementary PTA:http://www.fairlandspta.com/files/Children_TeenBooks-Bullying.pdf
  9. Springfield City Library:. http://www.springfieldlibrary.org/reading/bullies_teens.html

Tween Summer Reading!

The Summer Reading Program begins today, May 1, at my local public library in Frederick. Students going into grades 6 and up can join the Teen Program. The theme this year is Own The Night.  Tweens and teens are encouraged to attend library programs, read, and complete various activities provided on a cool game board. By logging their Summer Reading program hours online through the library website, tweens & teens are entered into some pretty cool prize drawings- they could win a Kindle Fire, gift cards or even a Great Wolf Lodge vacation package!

If that isn’t cool enough, our library also provides summer reading lists with tons of book recommendations. I helped this year with the 6th through 8th grade book selections. We selected the top 100 books this summer for tweens (PDF version of list is found here).

Need a good summer reading book? Choose from any of these top picks listed in under 10 different categories, including Adventure, Classics, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Biography, Sports, Realistic and Quick Reads! At the end of the list, be sure to check out a compiled listing other library summer reading program resources. Enjoy!

Adventure / Survival


Fantasy / Science Fiction

Graphic Novels

Historical Fiction

Mystery / Thriller

Non-fiction & Biography

Quick Reads



Other Resources

See what other states are doing this year for tween summer reading and other recommended reading book lists!

Tween Books set in Outer Space

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There are plenty of YA novels set in a science fictionalized paradise, full of battling aliens, space exploration and other worldly encounters. Yet when digging through reader’s advisory resources, reading lists and blog sites, I found that there are far less resources about outer space books targeted at tweens specifically. When I was a tween myself, I remember reading all the Star Trek the Next Generation books from our adult science fiction section- an avid trekkie, I knew the characters well enough and did not have much trouble understanding the adventures of Picard and the crew’s Enterprise ventures. These television-inspired science fiction books are still being read and devoured by readers of all ages.

Yet I challenged myself, what tween books are out there written with the outer space setting? I had to use a variety of subject headings, space colonization, outer space exploration, universal travels, and using a variety of keywords, I found a bunch of neat titles. Here are a few I’ve found.  (Suggested grade  levels are indicated.)

Young Adult (YA)
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, 6-8
Princess of Neptune by Quentin Dodd, 5-8
Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel and Curious Hats by Philip Reeve, 5-8
Marco’s Millions by William Sleator, 5-9
Putting Up Roots, A Jupiter Novel (book 3) by Charles Sheffeld, 5-8
The Comet’s Curse (Galahad Book 1 of 5) by Dom Testa, 7-10

Juvenile (J)

Bongo Fishing by Thacher Hurd, 4-7
Cosmic by Frank Cottrel Boyce, 3-6
Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Bransford, 4-7
Constellation of Sylvie by Roderick Townley, 4-8
Space Race by Sylvia Waugh, 4-7
Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause, 5-8
Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron, grades 3-7
Star Wars: the Clone wars (series) by Tracey West, 4-7
Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel by K.A. Holt, 4-7
Shanghaied to the Moon by Michael Daley, 5-8

Graphic Novel format
Laika by Nick Abadzis, 5-8
Tom Corbett: Space Cadet by Bill Spangler, 5-8
Laddertop, Vol. 1 by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card, 5-8

Swans in Space, Vol. 1 by Lun Lun Yamamoto, 4-6
Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatka, 2-5

I am in the process of selecting my favorites, which I hope to write some reviews about and let you know why I chose them. Maybe in the month of May I’ll blast off a bunch of outer space tween book reviews.  Would you like that? Or do you prefer more listings like the ones above? I’m open to all suggestions. Also, please do share any you’ve read or have been recommended to read in the comments below. Thanks!

Tween Book Trailers

Book trailers are short films, anywhere from a minute to 3 or 4 minutes, that promote books and allure viewers into wanting to read that book.  For the past two years, my library system has hosted a book trailer contest for tweens and teens as a part of annual festival BookFest.

This past year, we focused on mysteries and thrillers and the winning book trailer called “Where Are the Children?” was made by two 11th graders from a local school. We had so much fun reviewing book trailers made by tweens and teens and I would highly encourage you use these tools to help promote creativity and reading.  Book trailers are an excellent way for libraries and schools to get tweens involved both in programming and allows them to channel their creativity in a positive, productive way. Book trailers appeal to a variety of people too, from aspiring film makers, designers, editors, to vivacious readers, artists and authors.

Another wordpress blog called the “Tween Book Blog” has grouped together a few neat tween-aged Book Trailers including Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune and Bunnicula. If you simply look around on Youtube and type in teen book trailer, you’ll find over 5,000 uploaded.  Use “kid book trailer” and you’ll yield over 7000 hits!

School Library Journal created a Book Trailer Award called Trailee in 2010. The 2012 winners are listed on the SLJ site. If you’re unfamiliar with how to make book trailers or just like to know a bit more, there is of information already out there on the web, including:

Please share links to your favorite book trailers or book trailer websites below! Thanks for sharing.

Dark, Dim, Grim and Gruesome: An Issue Worth Discussing?

Microsoft Word Free Clip Art

I just read a thought-provoking article in Discovery News called “Hunger Games: Confronting Violence in Tween Books” written by Emily Sohn.  Interestingly, the word tween is not used at all in the article, well, except for in the title.  Ms. Sohn doesn’t exactly confront the topic of violence in tween literature head on,  using the example of Hunger Games and more teenage aimed books; however, she does raise several points about the exposure of violence in books that could readily distributed to tween readers. The Hunger Games is recommended for ages 13 or 14 and up, begging the question: “Should we at all be concerned about tweens reading ‘teen’ books with content perhaps more suited for an older audience?”

I’ve said this before and I’ll type it again, every reader is different in terms of his or her maturity level, including what they can handle in terms of content & context. A handful of authors agree that exposing young readers to violence in literature is dependent on a number of factors, one being that the parent understands what their child is reading and be available to talk to their child about the darker parts of the book. In defense of exposing ‘kids’ to novels like the Hunger Games, Ms. Sohn pulls quotes from several Wall Street Journal contributors & authors, including Meghan Cox Gurdon,  Christopher John Farley and  Sherman Alexie.

While I feel that the presence of violence in teen books is related to its counterpart in tween literature, we are still left with a separate and different need for its own discussion. Books aimed at 8 to 12 year olds (or up to 14 depending on your definition of tween) will for the most part be very different from teens books in terms of their violent content. Are there lines to be crossed and does the topic of the book matter when presenting images and actions deemed dark, grim and gruesome?

Some might say, truth be told, as plainly as it is, that some tween books do contain violence and that is OK. Others might disagree, pointing out that books are labeled YA for a reason, and that exposing an 8 year old to content more suited for a 15 year old is alarming. Where do you stand on this issue, or do you think this is an issue worth discussing at all?

While writing this post, I stumbled upon a blog post called “Violence in Tween Literature” by Sarah Elwell, in which the blogger disagrees with the notion that books aimed at tweens should contain violence at all. She writes, “I have been reading about violence in tween novels, and am appalled by the theory that children as young as twelve face real monsters in their lives… None of the several children of my acquaintance suffer miserable lives teeming with dangers, heavy sorrows, or even lesser monsters of the domestic kind.” I can see where Ms. Elwell is coming from, that promoting more positive books with less of a focus on doom and gloom, benefits those tweens who do not relate to books containing more darker images. Yet, this is where our views differ.

I usually do not write about my own stance on topics such as these, referring to other articles and positions to bring light to a new, blog worthy discussion. Yet, I will do so on this topic. To me, limiting what types of books are available to any reader is in itself a form of censorship-  a role that every parent has the right to fulfill for their children, deeming what they think is appropriate for their child to read. But in my opinion, that is not the right of librarians. If a 10 year old wants to read the Hunger Games, and their parent is not sure if they want their tween reading the material, I am happy to provide the parent or guardian tools that help determine if they believe the book is appropriate for their child- yet, I will never refuse a book to a tween based on my own opinion that they may need more uplifting reads. I provide access to information, tools and books of all sorts. I will not restrict who gets what type of book, even if that YA novel does contain violence in it. I will offer disclaimers, in case there is a concern about this topic, and try to be as familiar as possible with popular tween books with perhaps questionable content. Access to books on a variety of topics, whether dark, dim and grim or warm, sunny and cheerful, is vital for readers with different needs and interests.

Like this post or other posts on this blog? Then log in to GoodReads and vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Award! Voting starts today, April 10, and ends on April. 23 at midnight.

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