In the age of social media and streaming TV, reading can often get sidelined to make way for viewing cat videos and binge-watching hit shows. Books, the original "texts," are underrated forms of knowledge and entertainment. So, both of you, stop texting, put down your phones, and pick up these 10 books you can "share" with your tween—not only to expand your minds but the quality time you spend together.
1. "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Rigg's fantasy novel is great for engaging with and enlarging kids' imaginations. Protagonist Jacob follows a mysterious letter that takes him to an abandoned orphanage on the island where his grandfather grew up. Using clues from old photographs—of levitating girls and invisible boys—Jacob embarks on a mysterious journey where he learns about monsters, "peculiar" children, and his grandfather's childhood.
2. "Holes" by Louis Sachar
A mystery comedy novel, "Holes" won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature and the Newbery Medal. It stars Stanley Yelnats, who goes to Camp Green Lake, the boys' detention center where he joins other boys in digging holes. Stanley realizes that there's more to these holes than retribution and character improvement, and thus spends his time there seeking truth. The declarative, and often direct, sentences give an entryway into a suspenseful story and provide scaffolding to kids starting to build their comprehension skills.
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3. "Fever 1793" by Laurie Halse Anderson
"Fever 1793" is a great source of historical fiction that features Mattie Cook, a young girl who lives in Philadelphia during an epidemic of fever. Mattie lives above her family's coffee shop when the fever breaks out and completely changes the community. With her grandfather, she flees the city, encounters the sickness around her and learns about survival. This novel teaches readers about the past in an imaginative way, and it includes epigraphs from famous texts and people at the beginning of each chapter.
4. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
Winner of several awards, "The Book Thief" revolves around the life of Liesel Meminger, who lives outside of Munich during World War II. In the midst of the destructive environment of Nazi Germany, Liesel learns to read in secret and steals books forbidden by the Nazi regime, which she shares with a Jewish man her parents are hiding in the basement. This book is great for learning about the historical context of WWII and improving comprehension through strong imagery and vocabulary.
5. "19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East" by Naomi Shihab Nye
"19 Varieties of Gazelle" is a great way to expose children to poetry, along with poetic devices like alliteration, similes, metaphors, and form. In this collection of new and previously published poems, Naomi Shihab Nye explores the Arab-American experience, as well as important and moving themes of storytelling, family, and war.
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6. "American-Born Chinese" by Gene Luen Yang
Written by the current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, this graphic novel intertwines three storylines that touch on fitting in, identity, and stereotypes. The main character, Jin Wang, comes of age as a second-generation Chinese-American who wants to belong in mainstream American culture. This book offers us an important story for our increasingly multicultural society, and its pictures may speak to children who enjoy art or maybe struggle with text-only books.
7. "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros
Cisneros' book is a collection of vignettes of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago. Cisneros' character, Esperanza Cordero, invents and reinvents herself as she engages with her surroundings and society's expectations for her. This book may be a great entry point for talking with your child about the challenging topics of racism and sexism; it's also good for developing comprehension and stamina through stories that are shorter in length.
8. "Brown Girl Dreaming" by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson received the National Book Award for Young People's Literature for this novel in verse in 2014. This collection of poems recounts the author's childhood as an African-American girl in the 1960s and '70s, and it spans both South Carolina and New York. This book is great to teach children about poetry, including figurative language, repetition, and finding voice; the Civil Rights movement; and family strength.
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9. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry
"The Giver" is a young adult dystopian novel excellent for engaging with your child on the "ideal" world and community living, and it can help expand your child's idea of what literature is and can do. In Lowry's futuristic, pain-free society, Jonas's world (and life) is all set up for him—most notably, his career as one of the community's most important members. Jonas struggles as he learns more about the world around him and the cracks he sees in the system.
10. "Monster" by Walter Dean Myers
In Walter Dean Myers' genre-bending book, main character Steve Harmon has been accused for being a lookout for a store robbery and put in juvenile detention. While awaiting trial for murder of the store's owner, Harmon tells his story in the form of a movie screenplay and diary entries. Tweens will learn about different genres and points of view of writing, as well as intersections of teen-age life, race, crime, and truth.
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.