“Can you recommend a book for my middle schooler?
As an educator, I have heard this question numerous times from parents. Often, their inquiry is followed with this caveat: “My child is reading at the adult level, but I don’t want him reading other adult themes.” Of course, by “adult themes,” parents are referring to violence, tragedy, horror, profanity, or sex (both explicit and implied).
Without a doubt, it can be difficult for parents of gifted elementary and middle schoolers to find books that suit their children’s advanced interests, but which are also appropriate for their social and emotional needs. Despite their youth, gifted kids are often interested in the concepts that are usually found in adult books, and their advanced reasoning abilities mean that they can also comprehend these ideas. However, they don’t yet have the emotional maturity to deal with the “other” themes that are also contained in these books.
Another challenge for parents is that, while many young readers enjoy stories about teenage love or seek an escape to the world of fantasy and sci-fi (genres that are extremely popular and widely available), young gifted readers are increasingly drawn to the “real world” of politics, history, and current events. As a Social Studies teacher, I worked with 5th graders who were just as interested in an upcoming election, or Constitutional history, or a particular sociopolitical issue as they were in elves or dragons. On their desks, it was common to see an adult book written by a contemporary political critic sandwiched between Lord of the Rings or Ender’s Game. Unfortunately, there are much fewer young adult books that explore fact-based politics or current events than there are books about elves or dragons.
So what’s the parent of a gifted middle schooler to do? Well, it depends on your child’s reading interests. There are lots of great books out there that will stimulate the minds of middle school readers, while keeping the content emotionally appropriate.
Among many others, Chaturanga was written for young readers (and adults too) who seek a story of adventure, self-discovery and family values – and without tragedy, profanity, violence, and crude behavior.
Check out the “extras” page for links that identify other books suitable for young, gifted middle schoolers.