Reading List for Middle School ESL Students
What English Language Learners (ELLs) lack in English skill, they make up for in determination. It is no easy task to learn a new language. When it comes to reading, I have found that students would rather read a book they are actually interested in, even if it is way above their level. With guidance and perseverance, English learners can read any book they put their mind to. I have seen students at a high-beginning to low-intermediate level read young adult novels. They may not have understood EVERY word in the novel, but they understood most of it, and more importantly, enjoyed it.
Frindle by Andrew Clements
While Frindle is aimed at a slightly younger age group, it is a charming tale of a 4th grade boy named Nick Allen who creates a new word as a practical joke. This story takes you through the ups and downs Nick faces. I like this book for ELLs because it's fun and it makes the reader think about words. It opens up the conversation about what are words, how do they come to be, and how to they become part of our actual daily language.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza means hope. In this novel, the main character, Esperanza, is forced from her home in Mexico and moves with her mother and grandmother to California. She finds herself in a world much unlike her own with a new language, new people, and new cultural expectations. Her whole world changes before her eyes. She must learn to adapt to her new life if she wants to survive and she must learn to have hope. I like this book for ELLs because a lot of my past students have found that they can make connections to the text: connections from their own experiences or experiences of people they know. This book also shows how people can flourish when their world feels out of control, how people can grow after loss, and that people can learn to belong among people who are different than them.
I am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader's Edition) by Malala Yousafzi with Patricia McCormick
In 2012, Malala was on her way home from school when she was shot by a member of the Taliban in her home country of Pakistan. Despite all odds, Malala survived. Instead of giving up, she became a powerful voice for education and stands up for girl's right to go to school. She was the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This his her memoir for young readers. I like this book for ELLs because it is non-fiction and tells the story of someone who faced adversity, but overcame it. She became stronger because of the challenges she faced. She is an inspiration for students and faced problems that some ELLs or immigrants may have faced. She is an excellent role model for teens and this story shows why.
The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo
The Tiger Rising is a tale of a young boy who is grieving the death of his mother. He struggles with many things that a lot of middle school students deal with: making friends, bullying, dealing with his emotions. He meets a new girl who makes him think about everything differently and his world changes in this novel. I like this book for ELLs because it is a powerful story told in only 121 pages. The quality of this novel does not lack because of its length. It addresses tough topics that teens experience. The vocabulary is accessible to ELLs and the themes are relatable.