Making Curriculum Pop

I'm teaching summer school to 6th graders going into 7th grade.  These are students who are recommended for the summer program because they need "extra academic intervention."


I currently teach high school and haven't had any experience with teaching any grade below 8th.


Any suggestions for high interest books we could read together as a class, in addition to a few suggestions that I could recommend for independent reading.


Any ideas would be extremely helpful.



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Freak The Mighty

Hunger Games


The Maze Runner

You might consider doing Reading Ladders with the kids ... see Reading Ladders: Leading Students from Where They Are to Where We'd...

Great books for rising seventh graders: 


Once by Morris Gleitzmann.  Short - high interest but an easy read. Powerful.

Boy Overboard - this is actually also by Morris Gleitzmann. This my favorite read-aloud of all time. There's a cliffhanger about every couple of pages.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko


My seventh graders LOVE The Hunger Games. It is quite violent though. I do The Maze Runner with my 8th graders, although it's becoming so popular I think next year too many of the kids will have already read it.


Perfection Learning has many low-reading level (grades 3-6) high interest books that are good reads. (You'll need to be selective as you consider your students.) There's a series called Passages that has resources for those needing "extra academic intervention." The books are thin with wide margins. They also have other classroom books for Middle School, some geared towards struggling learners.

For independent reading, again, you need to consider your students' likely interests.

  • For those into adventure try the fantasy novels of Tamora Pierce. She is extremely popular with LD students for some reason. She has strong female protagonists as well as the occasional male protagonist.
  • Also in the fantasy mode are James Patterson's Maximum Ride novels. Endless action and stories that interest adolescents.
  • Sharon Draper also appeals to some of my reluctant readers, especially those who are African American but by no means limited to them. Draper (a former teacher, I believe) has many teaching resources available on her website.
  • Since many of my students are African American, I have a list of writers that appeal to them. This list includes Walter Dean Myers and Jacqueline Woodson. They write for students through high school, sometimes with controversial  language and topics; you may need to be selective for 7th graders.
  • A great resource is Townsend Press. My high school students LOVE their Bluford series and you may be able to get them FREE. Depending on your middle schoolers, they might enjoy them, too. Check out their website for other resources as well.

Here at, we host two podcast series that give great book suggestions:


Chatting About Books: Recommendations for Young Readers (

Emily Manning chats with kids, parents, and teachers about the best in children’s literature for ages 4 through 11. Discussions include reading tips and fun activities to do with children before, during, and after reading.


Text Messages: Recommendations for Adolescent Readers (

Text Messages is a monthly podcast providing families, educators, out-of-school practitioners, and tutors reading recommendations they can pass along to teen readers. Each episode will feature in-depth recommendations of titles that will engage and excite teen readers.


I am sure you could find a good read by listening to one or both of those podcast series!

I've used Perfection Learning books in the past. Disadvantage: they're expensive. Advantage: good intervention teacher resources (great if this is a new teaching experience for you) and students loved the Passages books I taught (When a Hero Dies -- a teen decides to investigate the murder of his mentor after the police don't seem to be solving the crime -- and The Shining Star -- its sequel about sports, love, and bullying?). I tried An Alien Spring but my students didn't engage with it. Some students tried reading Don't Blame the Children independently but didn't seem to like it. They seem to have a new series -- Summit -- since I've used them that look equally good if not better.

Individual novels my students loved when I taught junior high:

I have more but I have to go.



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