Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tough Customer: Books for a 12-year-old Boy

My BF is tutoring a 12-year-old boy, and one of the goals is getting him to read more. "No problem!" I said. So this summer we went to the bookstore with his summer reading list. He had to read The Witch of Blackbird Pond which I was pretty sure he wouldn't like even though it was awesome (I was right. He hated it, but it was required reading.) And then I was looking through the list of supplemental books, where he had to choose one. I got to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and I said, that's it. I hadn't ever even read the book but I knew it was very popular with boys and was about living outdoors or something. He loved it!

So then we thought we'd try to get him to read more, and naturally Brian's Winter had to come next, another success. And then last week his mother told us that he took The River by Paulsen, said he was going to read for "just 15 minutes" and then 2 1/2 hours later had finished the entire book which was "awesome." She told us to buy him a dozen or so books - she trusts our (my!) suggestions, yay! So we went to another Borders going out of business sale (now 50-70% off) and while of course they didn't have all the books I had in mind, they did have a couple, which I supplemented with other books they had that either hadn't come to mind initially, or I just hadn't ever heard of at all. While we're thrilled he liked Gary Paulsen so much, we don't want him to get so stuck on one author that he's unwilling to try others. Here's what we got:

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Newbery Winner
The Omnivore's Dilemma (Young Reader's Edition) by Michael Pollan
That Was Then, This is Now by S. E. Hinton
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus (Newbery Honor)
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Giver by Lois Lowry (Newbery Winner)
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (Newbery Winner)
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick (Newbery Honor)
Peak by Roland Smith
Redwall by Brian Jacques

I think it's a good mix. One nonfiction, 3 modern classics, 5 Newbery Winners/Honors, 2 post-apocalyptic novels, 2 set in Asia, 2 historicals, 1 action/adventure, 1 fantasy, 1/2 by women (although I'll bet he doesn't figure out that S. E. Hinton is a woman.)

Because the BF (and me) want to read most of these before we give them to him, were going to dole them out. But because we want to see which ones appeal to him most and which he would pick, we're going to let him select the order. We're entering them into his GoodReads account, so he can read about them and pick.

Any suggestions for the next batch of books after these? Do you think I picked a good list? I do hope he likes these. This is exactly when boys often stop reading, and I think if we can get him through the next couple of years with pre-selected books specifically chosen with him in mind, we can maybe make him a lifelong reader.


Jesse said...

My mom teaches sixth grade, so of course she comes across of unwilling readers (especially boys!). She always gives the Drive-By by Lynne Ewing or Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers. Both are always huge hits!

Such a great thing you are both doing; it's so nice to hear he read an entire book in one sitting!

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

I work with high school boys and they always want something funny or adventure stories. I would guess that Maze Runner would be a bit old for him. The characters are older and there is foul language and sexual tension. How about something by Neal Shusterman like the Schwa Was Here? Or books by Konigsburg. Otherwise a really good list.

My Head is Full of Books

BookGal said...

How about the Percy Jackson books? The author is Rick Riordan. They were a hit in my daughter's class last year.

Miss Dizzy said...

My 13 year old son is a great reader, but some of his favorites have been Hatchet, like you mentioned, plus the Harry Potter series, Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, The Hunger Games series, and the Gregor and the Overlander series. He also loves nonfiction and trivia books.

Christy said...

Good pick with the Redwall series and yay for your success with recommending books! That is so awesome. I don't know much about what boys like to read now. However, do you think Jack London's Call of the Wild & White Fang would work?