The Middle Years: Keeping Kids Reading by Danielle Binks

The Middle Years: Keeping Kids Reading by Danielle Binks
When you’re a kid, reading is all about fun. Books are read for the sheer pleasure of story, and connection – especially because as a child, you get books read to you (sound-effects and all, usually!).

But as you grow up, books become work. Or at least – it seems that way. Books suddenly get taught, not told. A pastime that was all about enjoyment becomes about education, and good stories suddenly don’t matter so much as good grades based on deconstructing those stories and picking them apart down to the bone.

A recent study out of America by the Common Sense Media group articulated this transition when they found that 53% of 9-year-olds vs. 17% of 17-year-olds are daily readers.

Suddenly the most important age-bracket to encourage to keep reading, and rediscovering the joy of books, is the 8-12 year-olds. If you can keep these kids hooked on reading they’ll be readers for life – even through the gruelling task of school book-reports, assigned reading and English exams.

This age-group is commonly referred to as “middle grade” – a term that alludes to the American three-tiered school system of junior, middle and high school, and which does perfectly capture those “middle years” when readers are either turned-off reading or consumed by story.

And while the impulse can be to keep encouraging kids to read their very favourite books from those early reading days (“junior fiction”) the key is to gently nudge them to older and more complex, but equally captivating, stories.

Think of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series – the first book Philosopher's Stone was really more a junior-fiction title, and the series got progressively harder and into middle-grade territory, then darker and longer until around Goblet of Fire when it really transitions into young adult literature – running the entire gamut of a young reader’s life. Harry Potter highlights how stories evolve and grow with young readers, and why this 8-12 age-bracket is when we have to keep giving readers a variety of stories to challenge and carry them, to keep them coming back to books.

With this in mind, here is a brief list of fantastic middle-grade literature across all genres, to keep kids reading and loving books well into their teens and beyond:

·         When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
·         My Australian Story: Our Race for Reconciliation by Anita Heiss
·         The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer
·         Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall
·         Ranger's Apprentice 1: The Ruins Of Gorlan by John Flanagan
·         The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
·         A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
·         10 Futures by Michael Pryor
·         The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
·         Wonder by R. J. Palacio
·         A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
·         The Billionaire's Curse by Richard Newsome
·         Once by Morris Gleitzman
·         The Secrets We Keep by Nova Weetman
·         My Life As an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg
·         Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
·         How to Bee by Bren MacDibble
·         Two Wolves by Tristan Bancks
·         El Deafo by Cece Bell
·         Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
·         The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
·         500 Minutes of Danger by Jack Heath
·         Impossible Quest: #1 Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth


Danielle Binks is an editor, book blogger, literary agent and youth literature advocate. She edited and contributed to Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, of new Australian young adult writing by some of Australia’s favourite YA authors and inspired by the grassroots #LoveOzYA movement. Find her at:


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