Capturing the imagination of your tween readers (aged about 9–12 years) requires a broad range of genres and formats — fiction and non-fiction with plenty of series fiction, humour and mystery.

Tweens don't want to read (or be seen to be reading) anything that seems too young. But some may not be ready for the sophisticated and challenging themes of teenage titles. Keep this balance in mind when developing your school library or class library collection.

  • What do tweens want to read?

    Research by Strommen and Mates (2004) found that fostering a love of reading means “making age- and interest-appropriate books easily available as the child matures.”

    Scholastic's Kids & Family Reading Report (2016) showed that kids' favourite books are ones they get to choose themselves. The 2015 version of the report showed that 9–11 year-olds are keen to have books with a mystery or problem to solve, while 12–14 year olds want books with smart, strong or brave characters.

    Scholastic's Kids & Family Reading Report

  • What do tweens want to read?

    Research by Strommen and Mates (2004) found that fostering a love of reading means “making age- and interest-appropriate books easily available as the child matures.”

    Scholastic's Kids & Family Reading Report (2016) showed that kids' favourite books are ones they get to choose themselves. The 2015 version of the report showed that 9–11 year-olds are keen to have books with a mystery or problem to solve, while 12–14 year olds want books with smart, strong or brave characters.

    Scholastic's Kids & Family Reading Report

  • Offer a broad range of genres and formats

    When deciding what to buy and recommend for your tween readers, there are some genres and formats they find particularly appealing.

    Associate Professor Teri S. Lesesne has been book-talking to middle-school students for many years. In her book, Naked reading: Uncovering what tweens need to become lifelong readers, she found that intermediate-aged students enjoy the following materials and genres:

    • Comics and magazines — by far the most popular reading material for year 8s. Comics often have a movie tie-in that's also appealing to these readers.
    • Series fiction — “easy, enjoyable and accessible”. Consistency in plot, character, approach or genre make for a familiar and comfortable reading experience.
    • Non-fiction — consult with your students for their particular interests. Be prepared to buy appropriate titles, which are aimed at older readers. For example, students who are interested in science may love a title like The elements by Theodore Gray. Although not specifically aimed at this age-group, it's written in an accessible and humorous style.
    • Horror, suspense, supernatural — great for total immersion in another world or reality, often with heroes who defeat their foes against the odds.
    • Humour — Lesesne comments that books tend to get more serious as readers get older. However, students still want books that make them laugh.
    • Mystery — equally enjoyed by boys and girls.

    Tween readers — keeping them motivated

    Magazines for New Zealand school libraries

  • Offer a broad range of genres and formats

    When deciding what to buy and recommend for your tween readers, there are some genres and formats they find particularly appealing.

    Associate Professor Teri S. Lesesne has been book-talking to middle-school students for many years. In her book, Naked reading: Uncovering what tweens need to become lifelong readers, she found that intermediate-aged students enjoy the following materials and genres:

    • Comics and magazines — by far the most popular reading material for year 8s. Comics often have a movie tie-in that's also appealing to these readers.
    • Series fiction — “easy, enjoyable and accessible”. Consistency in plot, character, approach or genre make for a familiar and comfortable reading experience.
    • Non-fiction — consult with your students for their particular interests. Be prepared to buy appropriate titles, which are aimed at older readers. For example, students who are interested in science may love a title like The elements by Theodore Gray. Although not specifically aimed at this age-group, it's written in an accessible and humorous style.
    • Horror, suspense, supernatural — great for total immersion in another world or reality, often with heroes who defeat their foes against the odds.
    • Humour — Lesesne comments that books tend to get more serious as readers get older. However, students still want books that make them laugh.
    • Mystery — equally enjoyed by boys and girls.

    Tween readers — keeping them motivated

    Magazines for New Zealand school libraries

  • Reading through life’s transitions

    Stories provide the possibility of educating the feelings and can offer their readers potential growth points for the development of a more subtle awareness of human behaviour.
    — Benton and Fox (1985)

    The intermediate-age years are a time of many transitions — physical, emotional and psychological. Research referred to in the Newsweek article A peaceful adolescence suggests most kids do just fine. And, psychologists point to the development of the 'five Cs' personality traits "possessed by all adolescents who manage to get to adulthood without major problems":

    • competence
    • confidence
    • connection
    • character
    • caring.

    A peaceful adolescence

    Select books with good role-models

    Books with characters that portray these traits can help adolescents by giving them the opportunity to observe how characters resolve issues and face different challenges.

    Ensure your Year 7–8s have access to juvenile fiction that:

    • explores family and friendships (for example Dunger by Joy Cowley, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo)
    • have characters that are:
      • independent and face adversity — like Beatriz in Island of Lost Horses by Stacy Gregg
      • curious and are questioning parental expectations — such as The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.
  • Reading through life’s transitions

    Stories provide the possibility of educating the feelings and can offer their readers potential growth points for the development of a more subtle awareness of human behaviour.
    — Benton and Fox (1985)

    The intermediate-age years are a time of many transitions — physical, emotional and psychological. Research referred to in the Newsweek article A peaceful adolescence suggests most kids do just fine. And, psychologists point to the development of the 'five Cs' personality traits "possessed by all adolescents who manage to get to adulthood without major problems":

    • competence
    • confidence
    • connection
    • character
    • caring.

    A peaceful adolescence

    Select books with good role-models

    Books with characters that portray these traits can help adolescents by giving them the opportunity to observe how characters resolve issues and face different challenges.

    Ensure your Year 7–8s have access to juvenile fiction that:

    • explores family and friendships (for example Dunger by Joy Cowley, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo)
    • have characters that are:
      • independent and face adversity — like Beatriz in Island of Lost Horses by Stacy Gregg
      • curious and are questioning parental expectations — such as The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly.
  • Sources for book titles

    In 2013, Wayne Mills and Celeste Harrington surveyed over 1500 New Zealand students in years 6–8 for their favourite reads. The result was a list of 1350 titles.

    Mills and Harrington survey results about favourite reads

    Other sources

    Cross-unders: Great teen books for tween readers (the HUB) — a good list for your keen readers who have exhausted the traditional titles of your collection for this upper-primary age group

    Horror books for kids and teens (Common Sense Media)

    NZ Intermediate School Librarians group on Goodreads — follow link on the page for 'discussions' to read reviews from librarians

    Reads4tweens — created for adults who care about tween readers. This website has spoilers as the reviews have been created to inform about content, "not explicitly persuade anyone to read the book".

    The ultimate backseat bookshelf (NPR) — 100 must-reads for kids 9-14

    Tween (9–12) (Brightly) — this Random/Penguin site aimed at parents has information and book suggestions for a range of age groups, including tweens

  • Sources for book titles

    In 2013, Wayne Mills and Celeste Harrington surveyed over 1500 New Zealand students in years 6–8 for their favourite reads. The result was a list of 1350 titles.

    Mills and Harrington survey results about favourite reads

    Other sources

    Cross-unders: Great teen books for tween readers (the HUB) — a good list for your keen readers who have exhausted the traditional titles of your collection for this upper-primary age group

    Horror books for kids and teens (Common Sense Media)

    NZ Intermediate School Librarians group on Goodreads — follow link on the page for 'discussions' to read reviews from librarians

    Reads4tweens — created for adults who care about tween readers. This website has spoilers as the reviews have been created to inform about content, "not explicitly persuade anyone to read the book".

    The ultimate backseat bookshelf (NPR) — 100 must-reads for kids 9-14

    Tween (9–12) (Brightly) — this Random/Penguin site aimed at parents has information and book suggestions for a range of age groups, including tweens

  • Find out more

    Benton and Fox (1985) referred to in Sainsbury, M. and Schagen, I. (2004) Attitudes to reading at ages nine and eleven. Journal of Research in Reading, 27(4) pp 373–386

    Lesesne, T. (2006). Naked reading: uncovering what tweens need to become lifelong readers. Stenhouse

    Strommen, L., & Mates, B. (2004). Learning to love reading: interviews with older children and teens. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, p 188

    The online reading habits of New Zealand intermediate school students and the significance of web-based fiction (Otago University Research Archive) — thesis by Michelle Harnett

  • Find out more

    Benton and Fox (1985) referred to in Sainsbury, M. and Schagen, I. (2004) Attitudes to reading at ages nine and eleven. Journal of Research in Reading, 27(4) pp 373–386

    Lesesne, T. (2006). Naked reading: uncovering what tweens need to become lifelong readers. Stenhouse

    Strommen, L., & Mates, B. (2004). Learning to love reading: interviews with older children and teens. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, p 188

    The online reading habits of New Zealand intermediate school students and the significance of web-based fiction (Otago University Research Archive) — thesis by Michelle Harnett