Friday, April 28, 2017

Reading in the Middle Grades

As much as I love blogging, I have found over and over again that life happens and blogging is the first thing to go.  I like to use blogging as a way to reflect on my teaching and make my teaching practices better.  This is why I really should make blogging one of my priorities.

Since my last blog post, my life has changed dramatically.  I got a new job at a public school, and I'm also expecting my second baby in July.  It has been an unforgettable school-year, and with just over six weeks to go, I think I should get back to blogging!

So let's talk today about reading in the middle grades.  My current position is as a sixth grade English teacher.  This seems to be one of the hardest grades to find books for.  The problem is that the students are still interested in the books that were popular in elementary school, but they are actually ready for some more advanced reading material, if they would just take a risk.  When we take trips to the library, my students often gravitate towards graphic novels and books in the Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries Series.  I encourage them to (or force them to) pick chapter books, and most of the time these end of being forgotten in the classroom.  When the students aren't invested, they just don't seem to read the books.  For all these reasons, and more, if you can find a GREAT book for students in the middle grades, you take note.  I want to have a long list of recommendations that students can draw from so that when they pick up a "chapter book," they keep on reading it.  With that being said, check out a book review for a middle grades book that I recently read.

I recently read The Kingdom of Oceana by Mitchell Charles.  From the first pages it was clear that this book would be full of action and adventure.  There is a strong theme of sibling rivalry which is evident through quests that the brothers take in the historic Hawaiian setting.  With such a setting, it is no surprise that the reader is drawn into the story with magic, spirit animals, and a mysterious (and cursed) tiki.   For lovers of Disney’s Moana, there are many similarities in Charles’s adventure tale.  Thankfully, his tale is more developed, with a wider range of conflicts and characters than the Disney movie that shares a similar setting.  Charles also has a writing style that I appreciate as an English teacher.  It is fluid and descriptive and ultimately enjoyable.  However, I did feel that the book was a bit of a slow read.  The book felt very authentic, which translated to a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary that personally slowed me down.  I think this would also be true for a reader who is in the middle grades. Due to the wide range of characters, you should also be wary about putting the book down for any extended period of time.  Even over a week or two, you may easily forget significant people that will come back in the end of the story.  This is a plus for the Kindle version, because you can easily search for a character’s name and find out when and where you met that person.  I feel that this book is well suited to a school-age reader, but due to the complexities that I mentioned above, they may find it a frustrating read.  If they stick with it, I think your students will find that it is well worth the time and effort.  It is an unforgettable story!  And stay tuned because it appears that Charles is also writing a sequel!  Want more information about The Kingdom of Oceana?  Check out Charles’s website-  

*Disclaimer- I received a complementary copy of the book for my honest review.