Good morning, internet! I'm here once again to bestow my sage advice on the world. Here's a pro-tip from Dr. FYA: don't drink so much during national holidays that the next morning, you forget what day of the week it is and that you have a post due at 9am. And also, some reading list advice:
Dear Dr. FYA,
I am a high school teacher and this summer I will be working with incoming freshman that are considered "academically at risk." These kids failed most of their 8th grade courses and now are in a program to help them be more successful in school. I have been specifically asked to help them find books to read that gasp! "actually interest them." All freshman at our school do "independent reading" each quarter, so that means 4 different books that each kid must read on their own throughout the year--truly a daunting task for an unmotivated student. Can you help me compile a list that might engage these kids? I know that they could really succeed if I just find the right book for each of them.
For the most part kids get to pick their own books because we want them to read something they will enjoy. Occasionally teachers put restrictions on the books such as a page requirement or no movie adaptations. This year I am playing around with "themes and motifs" so students read something that relates in some way to what we read in class. (For example, when my students read A Separate Peace they will pick a "coming of age" book.) Each English teacher is different, but I am working with the kids from my question on a mentoring basis and won't actually be teaching them content. I am just trying to help them be successful with their transition. A lot of them just. don't. read. They have never latched on to something they enjoy. That leads to tons of problems in other contents because if reading books is distasteful, what will make you read a textbook? Over the summer, though, they will have set aside time for reading simply for pleasure and I hope to make it just that-a pleasure. Thanks for helping me help them!
What an excellent question! First of all, thanks for being so committed to your students. We need more teachers who are interested in making the curriculum work for their students. Lucky for you, I worked in a public library in one of my past lives. This list is primarily based on the kinds of books that were hot among the 8th and 9th graders back then -- it's a good mix of fantasy and romance, with a little contemporary thrown in for the few who just want to read about real people. There's some real garbage on here (James Patterson, anyone?), but you know what? Adults read garbage, too. Also, Ender's Game is being made into a movie right now, so there might be some interest with that.
Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Whale Talk or Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes - Chris Crutcher
Almost Perfect - Brian Katcher
Percy Jackson - Rick Riordan
Maximum Ride - James Patterson
Ranger's Apprentice - John Flanagan
Scorch Trials - James Dasher
Delirium - Lauren Oliver
Matched - Allie Condie
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
Shipbreaker - Paolo Bacigalupi
Incarceron - Catherine Fisher
Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Graceling - Kristin Cashore
Not that Kind of Girl - Siobhan Vivian
Looking for Alaska - John Green
Please Ignore Vera Dietz - A.S. King
Little Brother - Cory Doctorow
I am Number Four - Pittacus Lore
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
And remember, presentation is half the battle. If you go up to a reluctant teen reader with a copy of Part Time Indian and say, "Now, you should probably check with your parents before reading this one, because there are some swear words and mild sexual content," your student will have their nose to the page before you can finish your sentence.
I hope they can find something they like -- even if it's just an issue of ElleGirl or MotorTrend. From what I remember of high school, and from what I saw working with teens in a public library setting, you might also try adult lit. The books are longer, but there's something enticing about reading about grownups when you're a teenager. Fantasy/sci-fi is usually huge, and (IF you can get away with it), paranormal romance is too. Linking book suggestions to favorite TV or movies is also a good way to get started, even if it's a book version of a movie like the zillions of Star Wars novelizations out there. Like you said, reading is reading is reading, and if they find something they enjoy, it helps -- even if it never leads to devouring Dickens' entire oeuvre.