Ah, summertime! The beach, the sea, the pool. Long days and hot nights. The perfect time for summer reading. James S. Kim and Thomas G. White (2011) note that one of the reasons that low-income students lose ground to middle-income kids in reading is due, in large part, to different rates of learning during the summer months. Even small differences in summer learning accumulate over the years, resulting in an achievement gap that continues to grow from elementary to high school (p. 64). Kim and White also discovered, however, that it is not enough to just provide books for kids for summer reading. The key is to provide books that are individually matched to the students' interests and reading levels (p. 67).
The books on the list below have already been proven to appeal to teens. Although both genders could certainly enjoy them, these five books are tried and true favorites that will please a decidedly female audience. Books that match a teen's interest can help motivate students to read and help teens continue to improve their reading skills.
It's no secret that I'm a HUGE Blake Nelson fan, so it should be no surprise that Nelson's latest, Recovery Road, is at the top of my list. Recovery Road tackles the heavy issues of addiction and sobriety, as well as peer pressure and falling in love. Madeline and Stewart meet while Maddie is in rehab, and once she gets out, she finds it very difficult to stay connected with Stewart, especially while dealing with the stress and demands of life. No one captures the voice of a teenager quite like Nelson. This is a sad and beautiful love story and a very important book. Every teen should be required to read it.
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg is yet another retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, this time set in a rich Connecticut prep school. Even so, this is the perfect summer read as, like the original, it is a book that explores love, class, and social expectations. I would argue that the original Lizzie is much stronger than the one in this newer version.
For teens who are completely immersed in the precarious world of social networking, Top 8 is a cautionary tale wrapped in a mystery. Madison MacDonald's whole life changes when she and her family spend spring break in the Galapagos Islands — miles away from the Internet. Before her trip, Madison had a new boyfriend, the lead role in the school play, and devoted friends. When she returns, she finds that someone has hacked her "Friendserve," and it's goodbye boyfriend, goodbye friends, and hello, trouble! This is a very fun read.
Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins is the perfect antidote to the materialism and shallowness displayed by some of the characters in Top 8 and Prom and Prejudice. This Newbery Award-winning book is set on a remote island off the coast of California in 1835. A 12-year-old Native American girl is stranded on the island for almost eighteen years. While there, she must learn to survive and to deal with her solitude. Although the book is a bit dated, it is still a beautiful story.
Many girls will relate to I Now Pronounce You Someone Else by Erin McCahan because who among us, looking at our families, hasn't thought that we might have been switched at birth? Bronwen Oliver has invented an entire alter ego named Phoebe Lilywhite. When Bronwen-Phoebe's boyfriend proposes, she feels she might actually have the family she always wished for. While planning the wedding, however, Bronwen discovers she might be someone else altogether. This chatty narrative explores questions of identity and self-discovery.
Once again, I suggest handing out the 2011 Summer Challenge Booklist, which provides a wonderful selection of high-interest young adult literature. Students can check off books as they read them and participate in the Scholastic Summer Challenge with other teens from around the world. Keeping students actively engaged in reading this summer will surely benefit them in a myriad of ways!
Twenty-seven more days till summer vacation!
Kim, J. S., & White, T. G. (2011, March). Solving the problem of summer reading loss. Phi Delta Kappan, 92 (7), 64–67.