One of the first questions I ask new college-bound students is “Tell me about the last book you read for pleasure”. Usually there’s a pause and they mention a book that’s clearly from a school reading list like “Catcher in the Rye” or “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Once I call them out on it, “Really? For pleasure?” then they confess that the last book was a Harry Potter novel from several years ago. My bolder students will come out and admit that they “hate” reading.


Over the years, about 25% of these students have been real readers. And not so surprising, that same 25% are the students who’ve been admitted to the most selective colleges, like Stanford, Harvard, University of Chicago, MIT and similar.


What’s even more interesting is that when I ask parents, “Is Jodie a reader?” About 75% of parents say that their teen “used to be” a reader. My next question is then, “When did they stop?” The most common response. . . . “Sixth grade”


Why teens stop reading in grade 6


I think there may be several reasons that teens stop reading:

  • the influence of screen time
  • pressure to “be cool”
  • friends don’t read nor talk about books
  • parents stop reading aloud


Yes, I did suggest that parents should continue reading aloud even through high school. Reading aloud to your teen is a great way to model reading and expose your teen to an expanded vocabulary and important ideas. It goes back to the James Baldwin quote: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”


Middle School Reading List

More middle school readings
Cornelia Funke
The Cay
Theodore Taylor
Gary Paulsen
Among the Hidden
Margaret Peterson Haddix and Cliff Nielsen
Mysterious Benedict Society
Trenton Lee Stewart
Laurie Halse Anderson
Chasing Vermeer
Blue Balliett
Al Capone Does My Shirts
Gennifer Choldenko
Eoin Colfer
Code Orange
Caroline B. Cooney
8thThe Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Red Kayak
Priscilla Cummings
Hattie Big Sky
Kirby Larson
Scott Westerfeld
To Be A Slave
Julius Lester


What is your teen reading this summer?

I understand that the school year is busy and your teen has a lot of homework. Summer break then, is a good time for your teen to read. Many studies, including this article from The School Library Journal, have shown that students who don’t read consistently over their summers see their reading abilities stagnate or decline. Even worse, this effect grows more prominent as they advance into high school.


Here are 5 tips to prevent “summer slide” for your teen:

  • Have your teen set a summer reading goal and keep them accountable
  • Have your teen  choose their own book to read, whether it’s graphic novels, cookbooks, or romance novels about vampires. . . . reading is reading.
  • Encourage your teen to read a book they enjoy for at least thirty minutes a day
  • Model reading for your teen. The more they see you reading, the more likely they are to follow your example.
  • Have your teen sign up for the summer reading challenge at a local  library. This could be fun competition, a way to meet other teen readers, and win some cool prizes!


Becoming a real reader can improve your teen’s vocabulary, make them a better writer, and enlarge their breadth of understanding of the world around them. And it’s not too late…. To help your teen pick out books to read this summer, we’ve compiled this list from several libraries and organized them by grade. What books would you add to these lists?


High School Reading List

More high school readings
9thDrowned City: Hurricane Katrina
and New Orleans
Don Brown
We Were Liars
E. Lockhart
Marcus Sedgwick
Between Shades of Gray
Ruta Sepetys
Code Name Verity
Elizabeth Wein
10thReady Player One
Ernest Cline
The Last Lecture
Randy Pausch
Into Thin Air
Jon Krakauer
Six of Crows
Leigh Bardugo
Bone Gap
Laura Ruby
11thI’ll Give You the Sun
Jandy Nelson
Debunk It!: How To Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation
John Grant
Defy the Stars
Claudia Gray
The May Queen Murders
Sarah Jude
In the Shadow of Blackbirds
Cat Winters
12thThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
Jeff Hobbs
Enter Title Here
Rahul Kanakia
American Girls
Alison Umminger
Dirt Bikes, Drones, & Other Ways to Fly
Conrad Wesselhoeft
Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History
Molly Schiot

Author: Pamela E

Dr. Pamela has helped thousands of teens attend the college of their choice. She brings her 25 years experience in education to assist families, schools, and employers with college selection, admissions, financial aid, and more. Dr. Pamela holds a PhD from Stanford School of Education, and an MBA from Dartmouth.

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