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Middle Grades Literature

Anyone wanting to help a young person read--whether the former be a parent or a grandparent, a teacher or a librarian--must first know that reader interest is key. Getting a child/adolescent to enjoy reading first requires helping that reader find texts that are age appropriate, reading-level appropriate, and that contain engaging content (cultural-relevance). These criteria are critical to creating engaged readers who will, through continued engagement with texts, become stronger life-long readers (whereas forcing the wrong text on a young reader can undermine his/her development as a reader and the likelihood that she/he will see reading as an enjoyable pursuit).

While the genre of young adult literature (YAL) has received much attention over the past two decades, there is also a separate category that has expanded its offerings and that has played a major role in creating new generations of readers (but that has unfortunately received far less attention): middle grades literature.  Middle grades literature has qualities that distinguish it from YAL (aside from the intended audience). Most notable among these are:

  • They contain no profanity or graphic violence.

  • Romance is limited to crushes and first kisses.

  • Protagonists are roughly between the ages of 10 and 13.

  • Middle-grade novels are typically between 30,000 and 50,000 words long and voiced in the third person.

  • Characters typically react to what happens to them within their immediate world with a focus on friends and family.

  • The protagonist (and narrator) generally do not delve too much into self-reflection but instead focus on real-life situations.

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For more on this topic, click image above.

A Note on Graphic Texts:  Some adults are highly critical of the graphic texts/novels written for upper-elementary and middle grades readers (e.g., Captain Underpants, Dogman, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, etc.). Among other things, they complain that these texts are silly, have too much potty-humor, that the characters are immature, and that the genre lacks clear moral messages. Such criticisms miss the point:  texts like these were written to engage young readers and that is precisely what they do! The first step in creating lifelong readers is to help them find texts that they enjoy. And younger readers love these texts! Additionally, some adults also fear that the graphics in the texts detract from a child's ability to read extended, lexically-focused books (i.e., they fear that reading a graphic text is not really reading). This is not the case; a wealth of literacy scholarship highlights the fact that graphic texts enhance decoding, comprehension, vocabulary development, and fluency. And like any other skill, reading is strengthened by practice.

Never forget that for countless young people, graphic texts are the gateway to developing a love for reading!


Where to Find Great Middle Grades Texts

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Click HERE or on the image below for my favorite Middle Grades Texts

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