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Best Books to Get Your Middle Schooler Interested in Reading

If your middle schooler hasn’t fallen in love with reading, take a look at this list of books. From fantasy to nonfiction to movie stories and more …

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Getting your child to read can be a matter of simply putting engaging material in front of them. My personal strategy is to pre-read books with my son’s taste in mind, then put only the best books in front of him. Not only does this ensure my tween has compelling (and appropriate) reading material, but it also gives us plenty of things to talk about around the dinner table. Consider trying out lit in many forms — graphic novels, Kindle books and good old fashioned paperbacks.

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Here’s an intriguing roundup of everything from end-of-the-world tales to mysteries to nonfiction. You just might find a title that will entice your middle school child to start turning pages (whether paper or electronic) immediately!

Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic Books for Middle Schoolers

Dystopian literature is a popular Young Adult genre that is typified by a society unlike our own with unsettling or unpleasant living conditions that must be overcome. Post-apocalyptic novels are set in a period after a world-changing cataclysm. Here are a few in this category to consider if your tween likes games and TV shows that are a little darker.

Matched by Ally Condie

In a world rigidly controlled by the “Society,” young people at age 17 are matched (by the powers that be) to their life partner. Cassia is matched with her best friend, Xander, but sees that an outcast named Ky was a discarded possibility. This sends her on a journey to question the choices made for them and how little control they have over their futures. It’s the first in a three-book series that Disney purchased for future film production.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Teen Thomas wakes in a service elevator being lifted into a harsh world populated only by other boys his age. They have to survive within a courtyard surrounded by a maze with walls 50 feet high and dodge the monsters that lurk in it. When they don’t progress fast enough, the stakes get higher. This has been made into a hit movie and is the first of a trilogy, so there’s plenty of reading available.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

The setting: an alternate world where everyone grows up looking average until they get mandatory life-changing cosmetic surgery when they reach age 16. But physical perfection comes at a mind-numbing cost. A band of rebels fights against the ruling overlords to be who they are no matter how they look. This is a great book for pre-pubescent kids already feeling the pressure to look a certain way. It’s the first in a series of four novels.

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Science Fiction Books for Middle Schoolers

This isn’t your mother or father’s sci-fi. Today’s futuristic YA novels are more complex and look beyond simple travel to (or life on) another planet. Or they look to the future of our own Earth, where new technologies craft our societies and how we live. If your tween is all about high-tech stuff and enjoys movies like Ender’s Game, this is a category of fiction that encourages them to explore their imaginations.

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Michael and a group of teens were born in a hospital while a new medical devices were being tested — and now they all have superpowers. Vey can manipulate electricity. He has Tourette’s and is being raised by a single mom while on the run from the corporation trying to collect the kids. He makes friends with more super kids and they confront the evil Dr Hatch. Four books have been released of this gripping seven-novel series.

Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith

The sci-fi Escape from Furnace series borders on horror and is perfect for tweens who dig The Walking Dead and Attack on Titan. In the distant future, Furnace Penitentiary, a fictional highly secure London prison for troubled teens, is buried a mile beneath the earth and is guarded by creatures in gas masks and deformed howling beasts. Chills ensue as the teens try to escape unjust sentences and monsters.

Feed by MT Anderson

This science fiction novel falls under the new class of cyberpunk. Set in the near future, people have brain implants called a “feed” that is a pipeline to an advanced and aggressive Internet. Corporate ads, social media, and online chats consume the brain while corporations run America. Teens enjoying Spring Break on the moon begin to question the system and try to break free of the feed.

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Fantasy Books for Middle Schoolers

For tweens who have an interest in supernatural shows and movies, YA fantasy covers a wide swath of subjects. From vampires to werewolves, fairies to witches, angels to ghosts, there is a wide array of books and authors to choose from — and best of all, many come in a series that will keep them reading.

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Set in New York City, this series starts with City of Bones. It’s considered urban fantasy and involves a set of young teens. Demons have invaded the world, and part-angel part-human Nephilim, called Shadowhunters, hunt them down and protect the world. Fifteen-year-old Clary doesn’t know she’s a Shadowhunter, but soon finds out and discovers her world has werewolves and vampires as well. It is a gripping series.

The Secret Watchers by Lauren Klever

A rare YA fantasy with a male protagonist, this series starts with Visions where 14-year-old Owen Ryer visits a pawn shop and happens upon an old watch that unlocks a gift to sense dark energy and evil. Now he has to figure out how to support the greater good while dealing with homework, bullies, and other challenges that high schoolers face. Owen is an unintentional hero that will inspire your teen reader.

Echo’s Revenge by Sean Austin

Everyone likes a good video game, and 14-year-old Reggie draws the admiration of fellow teen gamer Claire. A new game monster ECHO-7 is released into the real world by game developers, and this fantastical creature is now going after the top gamers and taking them out. Reggie has to learn to apply his online gaming skills into real-world adventures to keep his fellow gamers safe. Great for gamers that hate to read!

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Movie Adaptation Books for Middle Schoolers

This may be one of the easiest ways to lure your tween into reading: Get them to investigate their favorite movie in book form. While a number of the above have been adapted into movies, most of those listed below became popular after they hit the big screen. Leverage your kids’ interest in the characters to get them reading.

Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

If your tween ever wondered exactly how Katniss came to be so good with that bow, the trilogy of books offers lot more back-story on her (and Peeta’s and Gale’s) childhood in District 12. There’s a lot more story than even four movies can show, and these books are great reads.

Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

The Divergent movie didn’t have enough screen time to truly explore the strange and dangerous world Tris grew up in, the books do so quite nicely. And once your tween hits the halfway point of book two, they will be shocked to find out the real story of how Chicago came to be the land of factions and what waits beyond Amity and that imposing fence. This is one you may enjoy reading along with them!

Percy Jackson Series by Rick Riordan

The Percy Jackson movies were fun, but the books may help your tween pick up knowledge to ace a class on mythology. There’s enough story there to keep them reading all summer long. Riordan wrote seven primary novels about Jackson and his pals, plus five supplementary books and three graphic novels. The cast of characters suits male and female readers alike.

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Mysteries for Middle Schoolers

If your tween is a fan of the shows Sherlock and Elementary or could never stop solving Blue’s Clues as a toddler, mystery may be a great genre to unveil for them. Some of these mysteries are whodunits where crime takes a darker and more lethal turn, while other books involve less deadly crimes. A good mystery can be quite the page-turner to keep your tween reading and engaged.

Heist Society Series by Ally Carter

This one is fun because the female heroine is both criminal and crime solver. Katarina was raised in a family of highly skilled cat burglars, but then she chooses to leave the family business. When her dad is suspected of stealing a painting from a dangerous mobster, his life is on the line. Katarina and her crew of teen accomplices must find the painting to save her dad. There are three novels and counting.

Young Sherlock Holmes Series by Andrew Lane

Picture Sherlock as a teen in Victorian England solving crimes as a young rogue. The series begins with 14-year-old Holmes investigating mysterious deaths. The second installment has him investigating whether John Wilkes Booth is alive and well in England. Intrigue and adventure accompany the teen prodigy as he develops his investigative skills across the UK, Russia and even China.

Echo Falls Mystery series by Peter Abrahams

A YA series by a best-selling writer of crime novels for adults, these books are genuinely thrilling and perfect for tweens. Ingrid is a busy girl and a big fan of mysteries, but when her shoes are left at a murder scene, she has to retrieve them without implicating herself. Ingrid must solve the murder of the town’s resident loon while sorting out the strange undercurrents she never noticed in her small town. You may want to read it too.

Nonfiction Books for Middle Schoolers

Not every kid digs fiction, and that’s okay. There are a ton of great reads on the nonfiction shelves, from biographies to how-to’s to historical accounts of great events. This is a genre to experiment with, so explore your local library’s generous nonfiction section. Below are a few suggestions to get you thinking about what true-life things your tween may like.

We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist

This memoir by a Paralympian who lost a leg at age 9 to Ewing’s Sarcoma is surprisingly hilarious. He’s been unlucky in love since middle school and goes back to talk to each of his former girlfriends to find out why he’s so clueless and where he went wrong. In addition to being a compelling coming-of-age story, this book explores Josh’s cancer struggle, what it’s like to have lost a limb, and how he found the courage to compete as a Paralympian.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L Swanson

This slice of American history vividly describes the race to capture John Wilkes Booth. Swanson used rare manuscripts, as well as interviews with those who pursued Booth, to explore the 12-day manhunt that ran from the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C., across Maryland and into Virginia before they caught Lincoln’s assassin. Your tween will impress their Social Studies teacher with knowledge gleaned from this book.

I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust by Livia Bitton-Jackson

This is a survivor’s account of life in a concentration camp. The author was 13 when her family was sent by Nazis to the Jewish ghetto and then to Auschwitz. She details living at the camp, wearing the yellow star, and being forced into labor, as well as how her experience strengthened her faith. Bitton-Jackson’s survival tale is moving and poignant, and it brings to life this terrible and important chapter of history.

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Whether reading entertaining novels, visiting museums or attending academics-focused summer camps, make sure your tween makes the most of summer by keeping their brain active!

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Those of you located in the Bay Area should look into Journey Across Time’s Marco Polo Camp in Palo Alto. Children are taken on a 10-week journey through time as they read and learn about art, culture, languages, and history through a unique, hands-on, role-playing summer camp experience for kids ages 8 to 13. Storytelling and role-playing historic events are a great way to immerse your children in reading historical literature, while also keeping them entertained all summer long!

Categories
Math

Celebrating Pi Day With Kids

March 14th is the perfect time to break out all things pie…or pi. You see, 3.14 is both pi and March 14. Even if math isn’t your strong subject, you can still celebrate this infinite number and add a little bit of extra fun into an otherwise ordinary day.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. Remember, you don’t have to do all of them to make your family feel extra special. I’m a big fan of taking something silly or different and finding easy ways to celebrate. Let’s get started!

Eat All the Pie

While you can certainly pick up a pie from your favorite store or bakery to enjoy for dessert, you can also get your child involved in making one from scratch. While I don’t make my own pie dough very often (holla for store bought crusts!), I do try to make my own filling. My 4 year old son loves helping Mama in the kitchen and pies are one of his specialities. When he is helping me make filling, he is learning how we use math to measure. He is also working on his excellent stirring skills.

Depending on what you are in the mood for, you can make this easy apple pie recipe or this chocolate meringue pie recipe. My little man loved making the meringue, but if that freaks you out or if you are running low on time, just pour some cooked chocolate pudding into the pie crust and add some whipped cream to the top once it has cooled. You will be a superstar and I will personally award you with the Mother Of the Year award.

And your Pi Day celebration does not just have to include dessert pie. Bake an egg casserole in a pie pan for breakfast pie, or make a shepherd’s pie for dinner. Listen, if you can put it in a pie pan, do it. It adds to the excitement and your kids will love watching you get creative in the kitchen.

Craft Pi

Get out your finger paints or watercolors and show your children what the pi symbol looks like. My preschooler loved learning this new symbol; it was fun for him to paint, sculpt with playdoh, and draw. Try glueing dry beans or craft pompoms to a piece of paper in the shape of the pi symbol. For extra credit, glue the pompoms at the bottom of a foil pie tin.

Quantify the Numbers

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While I wasn’t going to give my preschooler a full lesson on the quantity of pi and how it works, I did involve some fun activities that revolved around pi. First, I told him that pi had to do with circles. We took a walk and tried to point out and find as many circles on our walk as we could. Give this a try, and see if you can find more than 10, more than 20, or more than 30 circles on your walk or adventure.

Next, explain that the numbers in pi are 3, 1 and 4. Then, try to find clusters of things that have 3, 1 and 4 things in them. Four grapes on his plate at lunch, one cardinal on the bird feeder outside, three kids playing at the library. It is a fun game that you can play together throughout the day. Plus, it is great practice on quantifying numbers, which is a math readiness skill that he will use in elementary school.

Finally, with all this talk of circles, this might be a good time to introduce the Venn Diagram to  your child. Try two intersecting circles and give your child an age and skill appropriate task. For us, we counted how many superhero toys in his books wore red, wore blue, and wore red/blue. I didn’t know if this would go over well or not, but it was a hit! We ended up doing more diagrams that involved color combinations of superheroes; it kept us busy for quite awhile before Daddy came home for the evening.

No matter how you decide to bring a little Pi(e) into your life this month, I think you will find yourself with a new family tradition on your hands.

Categories
Finance

Wondering How to Teach Your Kids About Money? Try These Money Games

Do you question your children’s entertainment habits?

See them taking the time to watch Ben 10 Ultimate Alien and play Diner Dash and the other internet games and wish they’d do something more fruitful?

Most parents assume that online games and cartoons are bad for their kids.

After all, they should be outside playing, right?

They must be damaging their eyes by staring at the screen for so long, right?

Games for Good

how to teach your kids about money laptops
Photo by Flickr user Wesley Fryer

However, the sheer number of benefits associated with game playing is staggering. There are reports that video games can help children to with their hand eye coordination.

Today, there are even games nowadays which help to combat obesity, such as Dance Revolution.

The educational benefits associated with game playing are vast as well. Games tie topics that you want your children to know about into a fun framework that enables friction-free learning.

One area of learning which children can receive a head start with is financial education. Money-based games get accustomed to the way the economy works and how to manage their money.

Why is Financial Education So Important?

how to teach your kids about money piggy bank
Photo by Flickr user Jamie Anderson

It is crucial that children learn about finances and the economy from as early age as possible. Unfortunately, many parents and schools don’t delve into this area until later in children’s lives.

But given the way the economy is changing, the sooner they learn the better.

Your child needs to learn the value of money so that they know how important it is to be cost effective and to save.

You’ll even find that this proves to be beneficial in your home life because they are more likely to back off when it comes to nagging you about the new toys and the games that they want.

Okay, so now you’re wondering how to teach your kids about money.

What Money-based Games Are Available?

how to teach your kids about money games
Photo by Flickr user Dajan

There is a vast selection of games available which contain some focus on money:

  • basic games which revolve around collecting coins
  • educational games specifically designed to teach children about the economy and finances
  • management games, such as Diner Dash, which revolve around running and owning a particular business

In the case of Diner Dash this obviously relates to restaurants. Nevertheless, there are a vast array of other options, including; spas, retail shops, and cafes.

These are great because they teach your child about revenue, profit and how to spend wisely.

How Do these Games Give Your Child a Head Start?

how to teach your kids about money life lessons
Photo by Flickr user Maze Walker

Quite simply, they get your child thinking about money.

Without releasing it, your child will become more accustomed to the way the financial world operates. They being to pay particular attention and are more likely to realize the cost of things, how you need to save and how you need to spend wisely.

Next time your child is about to watch Ben 10 Ultimate Alien or play an action game, encourage them to play something which is based around money.

Give them a financial head start for the future.

Guest blogger Emily Steves is a freelance writer. From the best online games for learning to the best ways to monitor children’s video playing habits, she has written on a whole host of cartoon and game related topics.

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Categories
After-School Activities Community Service Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Parenting Resources

Activities that Teach Kids Empathy & Compassion

From sports leagues to community centers, there are plenty of things demanding your family’s attention. Children today tend to have jam packed schedules with plenty of kids’ activities available to them.

While we are fortunate enough to afford our children plenty of avenues to broaden their horizons, at times we forget to remind them how fortunate they truly are.

Taking some time out of your family’s busy lives to gain some healthy perspective is well worth the effort. It can help your kids truly practice gratefulness, humbleness and provide them a sense of compassion for others that can last a lifetime.

Disaster Relief

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Photo by Flickr user regionalfoodbank

Sure, your town may not get hit with hurricanes or reside in earthquake country, but there are still plenty of ways to get your kids involved with disaster relief.

Encourage them to raise their own money to donate to a worthy cause. Lemonade stands, collection jars and letter writing for sponsorships are incredible ways to raise funds for the Red Cross or a local fundraiser aimed at a particular issue.

Your child will gain self-confidence, feel accomplished when they reach their personal fundraising goal, and learn that giving money away instead of spending it can be just as rewarding as receiving a new toy or taking a special outing.

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Religious Opportunities

Photo by Flickr user St. Louis Area Foodbank
Photo by Flickr user St. Louis Area Foodbank

From food closets to special children’s events around the holidays, almost every church is equipped with at least a handful of activities each calendar year where families can serve together. Perhaps you are already plugged into a particular church or spiritual center. If this is the case, there are usually instant ways to get involved with helping others. If your child is older, teen missions trips and service days are the norm in many churches.

If you aren’t particularly religious, you can still call your neighborhood church and ask for ways your family can help out. Chances are plenty of needs have yet to be met and they will welcome your willing service.

The best part of church involvement is many service projects only last a day or weekend. You can get your kids connected to a world of compassion and humanitarianism without having to commit to months at a time.

Habitat for Humanity and other groups that focus on providing basic resources for low-income families may also be more local to you than you think. Sometimes you can conduct a United States search and find a project happening practically in your own backyard.  These local tasks often involve families working together – and if not, they certainly can direct you toward a regional group that does.

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Community Service

Finally, one of the simplest and most practical ways to teach kids empathy is to have them volunteer in an arena they are already interested in.

Photo by Flickr user Sergio Piumatti
Photo by Flickr user Sergio Piumatti

Does your child love animals? Find out if your local humane society is in need of dog walkers.

Do your kids’ grandparents live far away? Encourage them to still spend time with the elderly through visiting a convalescent home and bringing crafted gifts or a performance of dance, music or drama.

Call up local shelters, soup kitchens or community centers. They are usually overflowing with opportunities to get involved, and are often well-equipped to give tasks to young people.

The best time of year to call? During the school year away from major holidays. This is when many groups are forgotten – they are overwhelmed with donations and offers for assistance during the Christmas season – but not so much in May or October.

Photo by Flickr user Amy O'Neill Houck
Photo by Flickr user Amy O’Neill Houck

Whatever you decide to do, try to find an activity your child will recognize as helpful to others, and they will soon find it is in fact helpful to them as well!

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Written by Tamara Warta

Activities that Teach Kids Empathy & Compassion
Photo by Flickr user dzbass