Thursday, August 22, 2013

4 Young Adult Books to Engage and Inspire Girls

I've been working on "refreshing" my classroom library, and I want to share with you some terrific books I've come across.  There's always a lot of talk about how characters in books provide role models (either consciously or unconsciously) for students, can provide a window into a different world, and can provide a mirror into girls’ own lives.  I, for one, am a big believer in connecting kids to books that will instruct, soothe, and inspire.

Today's list is going to be specifically for girls because -- let's face it, being a teenage girl is not for the faint of heart!  I know some (actually, maybe many) boys will like these books too, but the boys will also get their own post on another day!

** I should warn that this blog post WILL include spoilers.  Sorry!  I will try to keep them to a minimum, but it's the best way to tell you about these books! ** 

Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox
Do you want your female students to have strong, positive role models?  Meet Lynne Cox, distance swimmer extraordinaire!  When I started the book, I thought that "swimming to Antarctica" was metaphoric -- like achieving an impossible goal.  NOPE!  This poetic memoir chronicles Cox's swimming conquests around the world, from the Bering Strait during the height of the Cold War to the Nile River to (wait for it)... Antarctica!  Cox's tenacity, competitive spirit, and warmth is completely inspiring.  I couldn't put the book down, and -- although it is a challenging read -- the students to whom I have recommended it have loved it as well.  Lynne is certainly the epitome of what it means to be a female athlete! 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Beginning high school is a stressful time in any girl’s life, but for Melinda, it’s a living nightmare.  Raped at a summer party, Melinda called the police, which resulted in many popular kids getting in trouble.  She refuses to talk about why she called the police and becomes the victim of relentless bullying.  As the year progresses, she sinks deep into depression, neglecting her studies, and refusing to speak.  When she begins to connect with her art class and an inspirational teacher, she finally finds her voice, learns to speak out about the rape, and even confronts her rapist.  It might sound like depressing fare, but Speak provides a very honest look at resiliency and empowerment.  This book has also won more awards that I care to list here. Trust me, it’s good!

Divergent by Veronica Roth
This book, which I can't stop talking about, is sort of like The Hunger Games for older teens.  Tris is a girl growing up in a future society in which teens must choose one of five "Factions" to join for life.  Each faction prizes a specific virtue: honesty, bravery, selflessness, peace, and intelligence.  When Tris finds out that she is "divergent," a special type of person with an aptitude for all five factions, she must choose a faction in which she will remain for the rest of her life.  Her choice is Dauntless, the faction for the brave (and possibly foolhardy).  During her initiation to the faction, she struggles to find her identity and establish friends, ultimately becoming romantically involved with another character.  As the plot progresses, Tris’ status as Divergent ends up thrusting her into the middle of a situation that may lead to civil war among the factions.  Tris is an admirable character -- courageous and strong, but also pleasantly vulnerable and flawed. Girls will definitely relate to her!  Bonus: It’s also going to be a movie in 2014, which is sure to motivate kids to read it!

Sold by Patricia McCormick
Sold is a National Book Award Finalist novel composed
entirely in snippets of poetry.  It provides a window into the life of Lakshmi, a Nepalese girl sold by her unsuspecting, poverty-stricken family into the sex trade industry.  Thinking she has procured a job as a maid in a fancy hotel, Lakshmi is brought to India and forced to work as a prostitute.  Obviously, this is not a book for 6th graders, but older students will have their eyes opened to some of the incredible injustices that girls face around the world.  In Lakshmi, they will find an optimistic heroine who triumphs over adversity – a young woman well worth their admiration. Also, contrary to what one might initially think, novels written in poetry are surprisingly accessible for struggling readers, as they have fewer words on each page, allowing students to progress relatively quickly through the book.   

I hope you and your students enjoy these books! Stay tuned for "Engaging and Inspiring Books for Boys" coming soon to a blog near you! :)

Happy reading!

Katrina, The Teacher Lady

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