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Included in these resource is a First Chapter Friday curated list of book recommendations for middle school (6th, 7th, and 8th) students. There are forty different titles for each grade level with varied genres (realistic fiction, historical fiction, dystopian/science fiction, and fantasy) and formats (verse novels).
What is First Chapter Friday?
First Chapter Friday is simply a way to introduce students to books that they may not otherwise pick. You simply read the first chapter of a novel every Friday (or whatever day of the week you want). Then display the book or have a sign-up list or whatever you choose, so kids can read the books.
Every school, classroom, and book is going to be different. It may not be possible to read an entire chapter each time. Also, some books have really short chapters and you might be able to read three or four of those chapters. In my class I just allot eight to ten minutes each time to read as far as I can get in that amount of time.
Whether it’s the first chapter, or just a set amount of time you will read the beginnings of books to them, the goal is to just continually try to expose them to a book they might want to read.
When students actually read or listen to someone read the beginning of books, they are much more likely to be hooked. That is the point of this method. Don’t get hung up on the amount of pages, chapters, or time. Just read the start of the books to them!
How were the books selected for each grade level?
I taught sixth grade ELA for one year, and have now taught seventh and eighth grade ELA for four years. I also have taught a sixth grade books and movies elective for the last four years.
Because of this I know there is a HUGE difference in these grade levels, especially when it comes to the novels they read. The lists are based on interests and content (level was not considered for any of the lists, because that’s not the purpose of this method).
How were the genres decided? Why not more fantasy or dystopian?
The whole point of First Chapter Friday is to get kids interested in books that they might not otherwise read. I did try to vary the genres (realistic fiction, historical fiction, dystopian/science fiction, or fantasy) while also including some format variation (verse novels). Certain genres do have some limitations and I didn’t want to include different genres just for the sake of it. I wanted to read the first chapters of these books to get my kids reading. This influenced the genres highlighted for each grade.
Dystopian novels tend to be most appropriate for eighth grade in terms of content, so more middle school dystopian novels are recommended in the eighth grade lists. Again, I didn’t try to force dystopian novels in the other grades, but there are some recommendations when it made sense.
Fantasy novels present the opposite issue. Trying to get an eighth grader interested in the fantasy genre, who isn’t already interested in fantasy books, is honestly pretty difficult. In general, my eighth graders who will read middle grade fantasy will read just about anything. Plus, fantasy doesn’t usually even hook fantasy readers right away, so many first chapters don’t do fantasy books justice. Again, I included some of these titles when it made sense, and to vary the genres, but I didn’t force it so as to stay true to the purpose of this method.
What else should I know about the different grade level lists?
I was pretty good about not putting young adult titles in the sixth and seventh grade lists. In eighth grade, I do treat them much more like high schoolers, and there are young adult titles. Most of these eighth grade recommendations are considered young adult because of violence, but some do have references to and/or imply sexual content. However, you could easily replace any of those titles with a sixth or seventh grade recommendation.