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READALICIOUS! Books for Tweens

Return of the ARC (Advanced Reader Craze) Club!

I've already taught my class how to quickly evaluate books based on the cover art and copy. Let the reading frenzy begin!
As a blogger of books for tweens (ages 10.5-12, specifically), I spend my summers reading ARCs—Advanced Reading Copies—of upcoming books that aren't quite published yet. I try to sneak in a title or two during the school year, but time is precious when lessons are in session.

My goal is to find fresh books to add to my locally famous FREADom Classroom Library, a highly selective set that sixth graders can check out at will. I can't go by reviews or word-of-mouth; I have to read the books myself for levels of maturity, quality, appropriate themes, and tween appeal.

Falling behind a couple of years ago, I decided to take a risk and entrust this job to my best readers. I decided to give them books, unread by me, to evaluate for their peers. As I set out the crisp titles, to my glee, a READING FRENZY broke out!!!

This year was no different, except that the principal herself got into the act. As before, the club expanded well beyond my initial list of good readers as word got around that tweens could be the first ones in school to read an unpublished book and perhaps discover the next Harry Potter or Wimpy Kid.

Students can choose any title from the pile, and I ask them to write a one-paragraph report—not necessarily a book report or review, per se—but a report that details why I should or shouldn't include the book in my library. Will their peers like it? Does it include anything "dicy"? (We talk a lot about that in my censorship unit.) It is well-written and engaging? Are there certain types of readers who will like it best?

I've already received my first report, from Abby, a fast reader.

She gives a thumbs up to The Wrong Train, by Jeremy de Quidt:

I chose The Wrong Train to try something new. I was rewarded with a suspenseful, spooky, and bone-chilling story full of horrors and ghosts like you never would have imagined. The switches between the train station and the stories are so smooth that you feel like you are in the story.

de Quidt is the new Mary Hahn. The stories are new but feel like they've been around for years. They are so interesting to read that you just don't want to put the book down. I would suggest it to anyone who dares to read it!"

This report reads more like a book review, which is fine, but others are careful to point out any incidences of swear words or other red flags, to be sure that I know about them. That usually kicks off a healthy discussion about censorship, maturity, and how to draw that line. Here's a roundup of scores and reports from a previous ARC club.

With about a month to go in the school year, I now have a giant head start on my summer reading list, as the soon-to-be rising seventh graders a helping me rule out some books and zero in on others. I am curious to hear what my principal reports about the ARC she chose!

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