Books for tweens

A school library collection with a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books will help motivate your upper primary ( 'tween' or intermediate-aged) readers. When it comes to books, Year 7-8 students don’t want to read (or be seen to be reading) anything that seems too young. But, some may not be ready for the sophisticated and challenging themes of teenage titles. Keep this balance in mind when developing your school library collection.

Contents

Developing your tween collection
Sources for titles
Reading through life’s transition
Further reading

Developing your upper primary or 'tween' collection

Research by Strommen and Mates (2004) found that fostering a love of reading means “making age- and interest-appropriate books easily available as the child matures.” When it comes to books, Year 7 and 8 students don’t want to read (or be seen to be reading) anything that seems too young. But, some may not be ready for the sophisticated and challenging themes of teenage titles. Keep this balance in mind when developing your school library collection.

Read more about motivating tween readers.

When deciding what to buy and then recommend for your upper primary readers there are some useful resources to be aware of and consult.

What Kids Want to Read: An Infographic summarises the 5th edition of Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report. It indicates that 9-11 year olds are keen to have books with a mystery or problem to solve, while 12-14 year olds want books with smart, strong or brave characters.

Associate Professor Teri S. Lesesne has been book talking to middle school students for many years. In her book, Naked reading: uncovering what tweens need to become lifelong readers, she found that intermediate aged students enjoy the following materials and genres:

  • Comics and magazines (confirmed by the 2008 NEMP report) – magazines were by far the most popular reading material for year 8s. Comics often have a movie tie-in that is also appealing to these readers.
  • Series fiction – “easy, enjoyable and accessible” – consistency in plot, character, approach or genre make for a familiar and comfortable reading experience.
  • Nonfiction – consult with your students for their particular interests. Be prepared to buy appropriate titles, which are aimed at older readers. For example, students who are interested in science may love a title like The elements by Theodore Gray. Although not specifically aimed at this age-group it is written in an accessible and humorous style.
  • Horror, suspense, supernatural – great for total immersion in another world or reality, often with heroes who defeat their foes against the odds.
  • Humour– Lesesne comments that books tend to get more serious as readers get older. However, students still want books that make them laugh.
  • Mystery – equally enjoyed by boys and girls.

Sources for book titles

In 2013 Wayne Mills and Celeste Harrington surveyed over 1500 New Zealand students in years 6-8 for their favourite reads. The result was a list of 1350 titles.

Other sources for title ideas include:

  • Cross unders – great teen books for tween readers – a good list for your keen readers who have exhausted the traditional titles of your collection for this upper primary age-group
  • Read Brightly - This Random/Penguin site aimed at parents has information and book suggestions for a range of age groups including tweens.

Reading through life’s transitions

Stories provide the possibility of educating the feelings and can offer their readers potential growth points for the development of a more subtle awareness of human behaviour. Benton and Fox (1985)

The intermediate-age years are a time of many transitions – emotional, physical, mental, psychological . Research referred to in the Newsweek article A peaceful adolescence suggests most kids do just fine. And, psychologists point to the development of the 'five Cs' personality traits "possessed by all adolescents who manage to get to adulthood without major problems":

  1. Competence
  2. Confidence 
  3. Connection
  4. Character
  5. Caring

Books that assist emotional development and transition to adolescence can encompass these traits. They give students in this phase of their development the opportunity to observe how characters in books resolve issues and face different challenges.

Ensure your Year 7-8s have access to books about family and friendships, for example Dunger by Joy Cowley, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Or with characters that are:

  • independent and face adversity like Beatriz in Island of lost horses by Stacy Gregg
  • curious and are questioning parental expectations such as The evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly).

Read more about Helping students choose books to read for pleasure.

Read more about Students reading interests.

Further reading

Strommen, L. and Mates, B. (2004) Learning to love reading: interviews with older children and teens, in Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy. 48.3 (Nov. 2004): p188.

Lesesne, T. Naked reading: uncovering what tweens need to become lifelong readers. Stenhouse, 2006.

Benton and Fox (1985) referred to in Sainsbury, M. and Schagen, I. (2004) Attitudes to reading at ages nine and eleven, in Journal of Research in Reading, 27(4) pp 373–386

Image: Books  by Sharon Drummon on Flickr