Hey! Happy to see you at this week’s Summer Reading Stash! Today we’re sharing books in a series that have memorable characters. But the real challenge is to pick just five series! A difficult task since there are so many wonderful series written for middle schoolers.
Teachers know series are serious
Series are important business when it comes to keeping middle school students reading. Reluctant readers love them because they are easy to slip into. Students don’t have to invest a lot of energy into figuring out who the characters are, what the setting is, and what kinds of problems the main character is going to be grappling with. If you binged on Nancy Drew books or the Hardy Boys in middle school, you know what I’m talking about.
As a teacher, I love getting my students hooked on series. Kids get so enthusiastic about the story…and before they know it, they’ve read several books in a row! This is perfect if you are challenging each student in your class to read 40 books this year. A good series will get your students (especially the reluctant readers) off to a great reading start.
So after much agony that I couldn’t include everything, here are my top five favorite series for middle school:
1. Okay…I have to say it…
Harry Potter. If you have students who fall into the gap of having only seen the movies but haven’t read the books…oh they must! What is not to love about Harry Potter?
If the sheer size of the books intimidate your students, get the audio versions. They are superbly narrated.
2. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Take a pinch of magic, and a spoonful of James Bond, stir in a deliciously, devious child genius, and a dash of mythical quirky Irish fairies and folklore — and you’ve got a fabulous series!
You know how you read a series and after the first few you think, okay, this series is over? Well that is NOT the case with the Artemis Fowl books. Each book just gets better than the last!
The series starts with teen genius Artemis Fowl kidnaping Holly Short, a fairy who works for LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Recon). He wants her pot of gold in order to restore the family fortune. The reader meets the delightful, tunneling dwarf Mulch Diggums and quirky technology whiz centaur Foaly as the underworld of Irish fairies tries to thwart Artemis’s plan and rescue Holly.
One of the most interesting aspects for the reader is how we feel about Artemis. Even though he’s the protagonist, in the first book, he’s really evil…yet the reader finds herself liking him.
The series is now coming out with graphic novels, which is yet another way to entice your reluctant readers!
As an adult, I love this series! So, so cleverly written, funny, and satisfying.
3. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
If your middle school or high school students can’t get enough dystopia (and I shared in last week’s post that my students can’t), then they will love this series!
Protagonist Tally Youngblood can’t wait until her sixteenth birthday when she’ll have surgery to make her “pretty.” Then her life will be full of fun and games. However, Tally’s plans to become pretty and live happily ever after are sabotaged by Shay who has a way of making Tally see that something more is going on with their society.
This is a fast-paced, well-written story that describes Tally’s futuristic world. Hover boards, talking closets, and parachute vests all add to the delightful, believable (and creepy) world that Scott Westerfeld creates.
I love Scott Westerfeld’s other books as well, but this series went like wildfire around my classroom — primarily with the girls since it contains a romance element. There are a few mature themes, so it’s worth a read before passing it on to a younger reader.
4. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Suzanne Collins wrote this fantasy series before writing The Hunger Games (and oh my yes, yet another amazing series!!).
Gregor and his little sister find a mysterious passage (in the laundry room of their apartment complex!) to the underworld beneath New York City. They are treated by the underworld creatures as royalty that will fulfill a prophecy. Gregor proceeds to go on a quest while meeting all kinds of underworld animals and insects. I promise you, after reading this book you will never look at a cockroach the same way!
This is a wonderful series. The reader (okay, that’s me) will fall in love with Gregor and Boots and their underworld friends. You will emerge from reading this and wonder why your world is so…”uplander.”
“Fly you high, overlanders,” became how my sixth graders said goodbye at the end of the day!
5. Alex Rider Novels by Anthony Horowitz
The boys in my class loved this series!
James Bond challenges, cliff-hanger chapter endings, and cool gadgets. This series is fun, fast paced, and action-packed. Anthony Horowitz is a genius at keeping the action going with chapters ending with cliff-hangers that keep kids reading. Great for boys who tell you they don’t like to read!
Alex Rider, the protagonist, is smart, clever, and quick thinking. Plus, he’s a spy. Very cool.
The first book in the series is Stormbreaker. And I think I had to replace that book at least three times in my class library due to its popularity!
There are ten books in the series, so even if your students have seen the movie, they’re sure to enjoy the other books.
But wait, there’s more!
There are so many fantastic middle grade series that your students will love. Margaret Peterson Haddix Among the Hidden series is great! I read the first one as a read aloud to my students, and after that, they were always checked out of my classroom library.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is another favorite. My students also loved Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.
Stock your Classroom Library!
How to get your students hooked on a series?
- Use it as a read aloud. You don’t even have to read the entire book to your class — a few chapters will get the story rolling. Then offer the book to your students. I’ve found that read alouds are the best way to get my students interested in new titles.
- Have the whole series in your class library. Sure, copies will get checked out, but when a reluctant reader wants to read something, you want to get that book into his or her hands right now!
- Read the first book in a lot of different series yourself. You are the best person to recommend books to your students — but you don’t have to read every book in the series to know what kind of students will like it.
- Displays are important! That prime real estate on the top of your bookshelves or at the open end of a shelf is important. Face those enticing covers to the outside where your students will see them. Notice how bookstores display books. Kids most definitely judge books by their covers!
- Talk about what your reading! Book talks are a great way to get your students to share what they’re reading. A great way for a book to spread like wildfire! (If you’d like help hosting book talks, check out this resource on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.)
I hope you’ve found a few ideas here for your middle school readers. I’d love to know what memorable characters you love! Please share in the comments!