Boosting Reading Comprehension in Middle School Students

It's all about connections!

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Boosting Reading Comprehension in Middle School Students

Now that you’ve received your summer reading information, here are a few thoughts behind the selections shared by our Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Petrie. Remember to check in on the communications portal (click here for link) to see additional titles recommended in our theme of nature and the environment. These selections are being updated on a weekly basis. The bolded areas below are reflective questions to share with your child as they read. Students gain a deeper understanding of books when they make connections. These questions will help make connections from the book to their own lives, another text they have read or the world around them. 

Fifth Grade

Required Reading Grade 5 – The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars

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.)

Sixth Grade

Required Reading Grade 6 – Brian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen

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?

Looking for another environmental issue novel?
Lily loves her halfbrother, Adam, but his autism has taken over her life. Lily can’t make friends or go out after school — caring for Adam has forced Lily to become as much mother as sister. All Lily wants is for her stepfather, Don, to acknowledge that Adam has a real issue, and to find some kind of program that can help him. Then maybe she can have a life of her own. Adam’s always loved dolphins, so when Don, an oncologist, hears about a young dolphin with cancer, he offers to help. He brings Lily and Adam along, and Adam and the dolphin — Nori — bond instantly. Don is sure this is the answer to their problems.Though Lily sees how much Adam loves Nori, she also knows deep down that the dolphin shouldn’t spend the rest of her life in captivity, away from her own family. Can Adam find real help somewhere else? And can Lily help Nori regain her freedom without betraying her family? This is a deeply moving story about love, freedom, and letting go.

Eighth Grade

Required Reading Grade 8 – Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool 

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?

Looking for something else by Clare Vanderpool?
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was. Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.” Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters–and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.