As a writer, it is important to keep up or even be ahead of trends in reading with your target audience. There is no better list than the one put out yearly from Renaissance Learning called What Kids are Reading.
The list is a summary of books read during the 2011-2012 school year. I zeroed in on the results for Grades 3-7, but the list goes all the way up to 12th grade. The top 40 books for girls, boys, and overall ranking are listed. By far Jeff Kinney series Diary of a Wimpy Kid dominates the 3rd-6th grade level. Not as much in seventh grade (though it still appears in the top 10 for eight grade) as Suzanne Collins Hunger Games series takes over. I peaked ahead at the 9-12 list and saw the classics beginning to creep into the top ten.
If you are writing for this age I would encourage you to take a look at the list. The report would also help adult authors whose audience often include high school age. Conclusions for my Middle Level audience:
- Novels with a mix of words and images are the most popular. In this busy visual intensive world these kids are growing up in, it’s no surprise.
- Humor is important as is action. This is the Always On generation so keeping their interest is an author’s huge undertaking.
- Kids like to read up to the next level. Third graders are reading fifth grade level books like the Wimpy Kid series and fifth graders are beginning to look into Young Adult.
As a writer, I take this information and incorporate what may work in my story telling. I love humor and try and include a surprise laugh in each of my chapters. There is already a glut of image intensive books for middle level as everyone tries to capitalize on the success of Jeff Kinney. Although pictures will be important in the stories I tell, I don’t see myself jumping in any further.
To me it’s more about gripping a reader with the way a story is told. Making them not want to put it down until every plot point is solved. Amen for great writing.