Raise a Reader: A Parent Guide to Reading for Ages 11-13

Keep your kids reading with our guide to great book lists, book-related articles, and activities for children aged 11-13.




Just as your  teen is now asserting her independence and also negotiating a new world, she is also starting a new world of responsibility in middle school. If you are feeling chagrined at the quality of your teen’s reading choices, suggest alternatives, but consider letting him choose his own books. Kids and teens like choosing their own books — 89 percent say their favorite books are the ones they picked out themselves.

In most elementary schools, students have just one main teacher for the year. In middle school, your  teen will likely have a different teacher for each subject. Each teacher deals with hundreds of students. It can be easy for your young learner to slip through the cracks.

Reading Intervention

At this age, your preteen should be reading history and science books, exploring the world of research on the web — and using these sources for school assignments. She should feel confident using dictionaries, glossaries, and reading diagrams and charts. If you have concerns about your  teen’s reading progress, address them as soon as you can. Why? If her reading skills are not on level, she will not be able to achieve her potential in most of her subjects.

For students who need help catching up with reading skills, schools in your district may offer reading intervention programs, such as Scholastic’s READ 180. A good intervention program can bring up reading scores up by several grade levels over the course of a single year. Then, your  teen can rejoin her peers and succeed. Intervention does work.

For more information on learning disabilities, visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Preparing for “Real Life Reading”

In school, your  teen will be challenged to read literature, social studies, and science texts. However, students learn about “real-life” text forms mostly at home. Show and discuss cell phone and credit card bills, tax and insurance forms, medicine labels, and online “user agreements,” GPS instructions, and car registration.

By the End of Sixth Grade, Your Tween Will Be Expected to:

  • Cite evidence to support analysis and draw inferences from a text.
  • Determine the meanings of words and phrases, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings.
  • Integrate information from different sources (for example, an article and a chart).
  • Describe how a plot of a story unfolds in episodes.
  • Compare and contrast texts in different forms (drama and poetry, for example) that cover the same theme.

By the End of Seventh Grade, Your Tween Will Be Expected to:

  • Determine two or more central ideas in a text and explain their development.
  • Compare and contrast audio and multimedia interpretations of a text.
  • Analyze the reasoning of authors and the evidence that supports their claims.
  • Compare fiction and nonfiction from the same time period.
  • Analyze the elements of poetry, drama, and multimedia presentations.

By the End of Eighth Grade, Your Teen Will Be Expected to:

  • Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing and speaking.
  • Analyze how a text uses comparisons, analogies, or categories.
  • Analyze the structure of a paragraph and the rhetorical purpose of different sentences.
  • Analyze texts that present conflicting information on the same topic.
  • Contrast modern and classic stories with similar themes.

Don’t Be Concerned if These Skills Develop Erratically, Unless Your  Teen:

  • Reads very slowly with many inaccuracies.
  • Continues to spell inaccurately; spells the same word in several different ways.
  • Avoids reading and writing.
  • Has poor memory skills.
  • Has difficulty with planning, organizing and managing time, materials, and tasks.

Reading Activities for Ages 11-13 

Encourage your older reader to pick up a book and read for pleasure with these fun strategies:

1. Book Club
Start a book club with your teen Invite her to choose a book you’ll each read, and then you choose the next one. You’ll both be motivated to pick something the other will really enjoy. Don’t shy away from gross, silly, or even racy (Gossip Girl or The Demonata, for example) books that your child might pick. Showing an interest in her literary taste — whatever it might be — is a sign of respect.

2. The Behind-the-Scenes Story
As your teen looks forward into his own future, he might start to identify with various celebrities. He may want to become a pro ball player or a scientist. Help him find age-appropriate biographies so he can learn all the facts about what it takes to succeed in the fields he is interested in.

3. Mom or Dad’s Executive Assistant

Planning a vacation? Ask your teen to do some legwork on the Internet. Ask him to research accommodations, driving routes, bus or plane schedules, or other necessary planning tasks. He will take pleasure in helping to make decisions for the family. You can translate this activity into research for buying a new television or finding a new public park to visit.

Online Literacy for Ages 11-13

Preteens are huge fans of online games, fan sites, and social networking. Here’s what you need to know about staying safe, while promoting good online reading skills.

Passwords, History, and More
According to the Tweenren’s Online Privacy Protection Act, tweenren under age 13 are not allowed to have personal accounts on Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites. To have a login on YouTube, you also need to be age 13 or older. Despite that, many 11- to 13-year-olds list YouTube and Facebook as their favorite sites. To offer your tween an alternative, point him or her toward  social networking sites that are specifically for younger kids.

As you set limits with your tween, make sure that she understands the law and your own family rules for using social networking, email, and instant messaging. Search for your tween’s name regularly on the most popular sites to see whether or not she has set up a new account. As much as it is your responsibility to make sure you tween is safe in the world outside your home, you also need to think about your tween’s online safety.

Reading for Fun
What do teens want to read online? Many teens enjoy celebrity gossip. Reading volume and endurance — often best developed by reading something you are interested in — is an important part of reading development. Common Sense Media has a list of celebrity sites with parent-friendly reviews. To take your teen’s interest in celebrities to a critical thinking level, try MyPopStudio. This engaging site offers savvy media literacy activities that help your teen understand the techniques that go into the creation of celebrity journalism.

Many teens may also enjoy sports sites. Complex, rich sites like NFL.com and MLB.com have new articles daily on sports news. While there are also videos and games that can keep your teens busy for hours, encourage them to read the news — the stats, quotes, and details will keep them in the know about their favorite players and teams.

Reading these sites is not a waste of time. Your teen is actually learning valuable skills. Using menus, navigating between pages, bookmarking pages, and skimming and scanning text are some of the reading and navigating techniques that he is developing and will serve him well in the future.

In addition to these websites, eBooks offer tweens and teens a fun way to explore many different subjects. 

Reading for School
Of course, the Internet is the most important resource your teen has for doing research and reading to support his schoolwork. Familiarize yourself with your teen’s school resources on the web. Many teachers have a class blog, along with helpful links for your teen to use with school assignments.

For a list of reviewed reference sites, check out Great Web Sites for Kids, a list put together and reviewed by the American Library Association. Their selections cover history, math, science, languages, and more.

Recommended Books for 11-13

Looking for options your teen is likely to love? Try these titles, which hit on teen issues, but aren't excessively challenging to read. Or, share these edgy books

Guides to Reading
Age 13
Age 12
Age 11