Boosting Reading Comprehension in Middle School Students
In fifth grade, we will read several novels and stories where the main characters are animals. This novel, written by one of the most popular female authors of young adult fiction of the late 20th century, is a story about a young boy who learns to be independent and to care for something in nature, even when he is unfamiliar with his surroundings. Thanks to his older girl cousin and this beautiful fox, he learns a lot about himself and gains confidence and respect for others and wildlife.
Think about it – Have you ever had to try something new that made you uncomfortable and a little nervous? Maybe you went to a camp or visited relatives you didn’t know very well. What were the circumstances that made that experience easier for you? Have you ever encountered a wild animal unexpectedly, like a deer or a bear? What do you notice about how that creature reacts to you? What did you notice about its behavior that surprised you?
Looking for another animal adventure?
Click here to check out Moo by Sharon Creech
When Reena’s family moves to Maine, she’s expecting beaches, blueberries, and lobster — not being “volunteered” to work for Mrs. Falala on a farm with animals like Paulie the Pig, Edna the snake, China the cat, and a very stubborn cow named Zora. Even more unexpectedly, Reena discovers a surprising bond with the ornery but somehow lovable cow — and learns more about Mrs. Falala, which in turn affects her family in ways she’d never predicted. Told in a combination of prose and free verse poems, this book celebrates the power of being open to new experiences and the bonds we can form with the most unexpected people (and creatures.)
Last year, many of you enjoyed the novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Millions of fans have loved this novel, and Mr. Paulsen received fan mail requesting more adventure about Brian and his lone adventure to survive in the Canadian woods. This novel answers the question, “What if Brian had not been rescued that summer and had been forced to learn how to survive in the cold of winter?” It’s not a sequel exactly, but this book takes our popular hero and puts him in an even more dangerous situation!
Think about it – When we imagined Brian’s situation as we read Hatchet, we weren’t thinking about freezing conditions, snow, and ice. With no more berries available and the frozen lake, what will Brian do for food and warmth? Before you read, remember back to a cold day and think about what you might do to survive.
Looking for another survival adventure?
Click here to check out Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
To her small Eskimo village, she is known as Miyax; to her friend in San Francisco, she is Julie. When her life in the village becomes dangerous, Miyax runs away, only to find herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness.Without food and time running out, Miyax tries to survive by copying the ways of a pack of wolves. Accepted by their leader and befriended by a feisty pup named Kapu, she soon grows to love her new wolf family. Life in the wilderness is a struggle, but when she finds her way back to civilization, Miyax is torn between her old new lives. Is she Miyax of the Eskimos — or Julie of the wolves?
Many of the novels that we read in the seventh grade are about young people facing very important issues with the help of friends or family. Flush is a great introduction to that theme because it’s not just about Noah, but it is also about his sister Abbey and their adventure together to take on powerful adults and save the environment. Like all novels of this genre by Carl Hiaasen, Flush has a very serious message, but there are plenty of laughs along the way.
Think about it -If you are faced with an important topic or challenge, to whom do you turn for support and ideas? When have you taken on an ‘adult problem’ – like recycling, wildlife preservation, animal care, or any worthy charity – and tackled that challenge with action? What is an issue that you are passionate about and might be willing to fight to resolve?
In eighth grade, we read several “journey stories” about heroes who take on great quests and long journeys into unfamiliar territory. The first one we read is The Odyssey, an epic tale of adventure! Journey stories are an important literary genre, as the reader follows the hero’s travels and discovers thematic truths along the way. I have to admit, Clare Vanderpool is an author that I just “discovered,” and I’m very excited about this journey book and its beautiful descriptions of an adventure on the Appalachian Trail.
Think about it – Have you ever gone on a vacation or trip, only to discover that the journey itself was even more of an adventure than the destination? Is there a far-off place you would love to visit? What would be your preferred method of travel in order to maximize the journey and see the most sites? Have you ever kept a travel journal to record your observations?