Ages 11-18

Meagan Raviele and Danya Williams have different reads on how to fill their school-free summer hours.

Meagan hits the books. Lots of them, reading for fun and as part of her school’s Battle of the Books team. She’ll tackle A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and To Kill a Mockingbird for next school year’s competition while waiting for the August release of Stephenie Meyer’s latest, Eclipse.

Summertime is for fun, said the sixth-grader at Durham’s Lowe’s Grove Middle School, and reading is part of that.

“I like the stories. I get really into them,” Meagan said. “Page-turner books, I guess you call them.”

Danya, a seventh-grader at Lowe’s Grove, has other ideas for the warm months.

“During the summer, you’re outside or hanging with your friends or going on vacation,” she said. “You don’t think about reading.”

Expanded Options

The two sides of the summer reading dilemma seem most sharply defined when it comes to tweens and teens. Many carry heavy course loads during the school year with lots of required reading. For others, finding things they want to read is a challenge. And then there’s the allure of sunshine, bicycles and all things un-schoolish.

But local experts on literature for young people say this is a great time for luring in even the most reluctant readers, and some of those readers’ classmates agree.

“There’s so much more than when we were younger. More than Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” said Elise Thrash, Upper School librarian at Ravenscroft in Raleigh. “There are good books out there. You just have to sort through them.”

Several librarians and reading teachers pointed to a surge in youth readership around the Harry Potter books as pushing the demand for quality literature for older kids. And with the final volume of that wizarding series due out in July, there will be plenty of room for new competitors.

Books that Appeal

One of the keys to successful summer reading is matching the reader to the book. Some publishers increasingly print stories focused on heavy, painful issues that extend beyond typical coming-of-age themes.

“Many, many teens have told me they aren’t interested in books that deal with angst and dysfunctional families,” said Carol Moyer, manager of the children’s department at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books & Music. “They say they do enough heavy reading for school. They want to be entertained.”

Moyer suggests hooking middle- and high-school readers with humor and fantasy and being sure not to over-schedule the summer so that there’s time to read. Boys, who must battle cultural messages that push athletics and video games ahead of reading, might be engaged by mysteries or books about sports.

“Have books around that say, ‘Pick me up and read me,’” Moyer advised.

She also encouraged parents to be aware of what their ‘tweens and teens are reading. As the kids grow older, the content of the books they read grows more mature. That doesn’t mean they’re inappropriate for a given reader, but moms and dads might want to know what’s being read just like they know what’s being watched on television. When in doubt, “Google them” Moyer suggested, querying the author and the book.

Ready Reading

Thrash, at Ravenscroft, also encouraged parents to be role models as readers, just as they are in other ways. And families should take advantage of the region’s many libraries.

“If [kids] say they don’t want to read, take them to the library. They’re bound to find something they want.”

Michael Shelton, an eighth-grader at Chapel Hill’s McDougle Middle School, has found plenty he wants to read. He expects to finish 20 books this summer, but that number is low for him because he’s going to be busy. A big fan of fantasy, Michael is a regular participant in his local library book club.

“I don’t like to be forced to read stuff,” he said. “In the summer, you have time on your hands. [Reading is] something you can do to occupy your mind.”

Resources for Tweens and Teens Looking for a Good Read

Check the following Web sites for help finding books that appeal to teens and tweens:

– www.ala.org/teenread and www.ala.org/yalsa/printz — the Web site of the American Library Association. The first link is to a special section about Teen Read Week and the second is to the Michael L. Printz Award, which is given for excellence in young adult literature.

– Many local public library Web sites include teen sections and recommendations for teen reading.

Aleta Payne is associate editor of Carolina Parent and the mother of three sons who are already negotiating who gets first read of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in July.