What Book Do You Give the Teen Who Refuses to Read?


I just read Maggie‘s post about how she will inspire students to read in her classroom. She includes a list of 30 very good books she wants to have on desks when students first walk into the room. Her list got me thinking about the most popular books in my classroom library, the ones I couldn’t keep on the shelves and usually had to repurchase year after year.

One challenge in book matchmaking is reading enough outside our own reading comfort zones to be able to recommend the right book for readers whose interests and tastes are very different from our own. Reading voraciously ourselves is an important part of our own work as book matchmakers, but it’s only part of that work. We also need to find ways to become familiar with books we don’t actually want to read when those are the books that are going to hook our students on reading. (And sometimes, that book you don’t really want to read turns out to be something you actually like.)

What are you going to give the gym nut who lives and breathes sports? What are you going to give the quiet boy in the back row who says cars are the only thing he cares about? Well, cars and tractors. What are you going to give the gang member who says he doesn’t want to be in school anyway and he is DEFINITELY not going to be reading any books while he’s here? What about the girl in the front who is absolutely addicted to soap operas?

Here’s a list of surefire-can’t-fail books for some of your tricky-to-reach readers:

1. Stanley Tookie Williams, Life in Prison

life in prison

2. Sharon Draper, Tears of a Tiger

tears of a tiger

3. Dave Peltzer, A Child Called It


4. David Lee Morgan, Lebron James: The Rise of a Star

lebron james

5. Jeff Kinney, Diary of a Wimpy Kid

diary of a wimpy kid

6. Tupac Shakur, The Rose that Grew From Concrete

rose that grew

7. Paul Langan, The Bully (and the whole Bluford High series)

the bully

8. Torey Hayden, One Child

one child

9. Matt de la Pena, Ball Don’t Lie

ball dont lie

10. Ellen Hopkins, Crank


11. Gary Paulsen, The Car

the car

12. Todd Strasser, Boot Camp

boot camp

13. Allison Van Diepen, Snitch


14. Sonya Sones, Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy

stop pretending

15. G. Neri, Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty


16. Brian K. Vaughn, Pride of Baghdad

pride of baghdad

17. Walter Dean Myers, Sunrise over Fallujah

sunrise over falluhaj

18. John Coy, Crackback


19. Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

chicken soup

20. Sister Souljah, The Coldest Winter Ever

coldest winter ever

One thought on “What Book Do You Give the Teen Who Refuses to Read?

  1. Pingback: Reading in the Writing Workshop | kelseyempfield

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