This summer we mixed things up. We took a break from the kids watching videos in the backseat of our drives and opted for family audio books. Along our journey this summer, I've found two fantastic audio books for middle grade students (grades 4-9).
Over the years, we've had mixed success with audio books. When the girls were quite young the Roald Dahl series of CD's was a huge hit. This set lasted us a few years.
Then we went through the entire Harry Potter series (more than once). Also on CD's, but the books are all available digitally as well. Jim Dale, the narrator is simply genius.
Why Audio Books are Ideal for Middle Grade Readers
When the girls hit middle school they got phones. The dynamic changed in the car. The drivers/grown-ups listened to podcasts as the girls in the back played games or watch videos on their phones.
I regret the missed opportunities of the two years of screen time, but instead of dwelling on the past I'm moving forward and hoping my audible book picks can help other families that spend a lot of time in the car or in transit.
Through our summer of "reading together" in the car our eyes have been opened to the power of the middle grade novel. There are deep topics that take on current events and turn books into launching pads. Thanks to these books we've talked about immigration and diversity a TON this summer.
Momtrends Tip: Pause the books periodically at the end of chapters to talk about what happened. This is a great way to test reading comprehension and clear up any vocabulary questions.
My first pick is Amina's Voice. Author, Hena Khan, brings a bit of her life as a Pakistani-American to this book about clashing cultures and community. Named by the Washington Post as a Best Children’s Book of 2017, this book is an immigration tale with heart.
Amina is a 6th grader with a passion for music, but a fear of standing out. As a Pakistani-American Muslim, she struggles to find a place where she fit in. Her family embraces a lot of Pakistan's culture in the US while also adopting more American views on sports and extra-curricular activities.
Khan paints beautiful images of the family's food, clothes and religious practices that make the warmth surrounding Amina's home inviting.
The climax of the book happens when a hate-crime occurs in the midwestern town where Amina's family has settled. When Amina's local mosque is vandalized the town comes together to support the Pakistani community.
It's nice to see Amina struggle with the every day issues of 6th grade, like crushes and where to sit at lunch. These more mundane storylines temper the BIG themes that Khan tackles in this sweet story.
You can learn more about Hena by visiting her website: www.henakhan.com.
Recommended for: Grades 4-7.
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Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. She's a splendid storyteller and a master at turning current events into books kids want to read.
Harbor Me is set in Brooklyn (which is where we live) and centers on six middle schoolers. Each student has a different background with the common thread being that they all share a learning support classroom and teacher.
I'm not alone in my praise, the book became a New York Times bestseller. The book talks about the power of sharing our stories. As the students get to know each other in a weekly meetup they build a support circle. With no adults invited into the support circle (dubbed the ARTT room), the six open up and share very real family struggles.
Middle school gets a bad wrap for how terrible the kids can be. This group of kids will give you hope. They take on deportation, racial profiling, class bias and more.
The audio book features wonderful fresh voices as the characters of the six students. Harbor Me is a great book to start conversations about our country's current immigration crisis.
Find out more about Jacqueline Woodson here and be sure to keep listening after the book ends. Woodson does a charming Q & A with her son.
Recommended for: Grades 4-9.
Thanks to Woodson and her son, we have one of his picks, Long Way Down, from Jason Reynolds up next.
Where to get audio books
Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans: 30 day free trial and then $9.99 after that. 2 month trial deal $0.99 a month and then $9.99 after that. 1 million titles, plus current magazines, unlimited audible audio books. Use the Kindle app on any device.
Apple has audio books available from the iTunes store.
Libby app. Borrow books and audiobooks from your public library right from your phone.You can read and listen to them without stepping inside for a physical copy. All you need is a library card and an app named Libby.
More Momtrends Book Recommendations
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This Audio Books for Middle Grade feature is not sponsored.