A lot of my middle school readers aren't so into reading - but they are into sports. So, I try to order and read a wide range of books about sports. The great thing about these books is that they often appeal to kids who don't see themselves as readers. And although they are about sports, they are often about much more than that.
Takedown by Laura Shovan - Mikayla is interested in wrestling because of her older brothers' experiences in wrestling and because she feels like it is the one way she can stay connected to her dad, who has moved out after Mikayla's parents divorced. Now in middle school Mikayla will be wrestling on a co-ed team, and her best friend has decided not to wrestle this year, leaving Mikayla as the only girl on her team. There's plenty to think about in this book as the idea of allowing girls on a boy's team is explored. (As the wife of a high school wrestling coach, this topic has come up more than once in our house).
Hooper by Geoff Herbach - Adam is a talented basketball player who has moved with his adopted mother to a small college town in Minnesota. Although he may look like he has it all together and is perceived by some in his high school as stuck up because he has a hard time communicating, there's more to Adam than they know. He is still struggling to come to terms with things that happened in his past, and is also busy learning about life in the United States. There's plenty of basketball action in this novel along with some good lessons on friendship and acceptance.
Boy 21 by Matthew Quick - my 6th grade boys book club is reading this one right now, and there are several members who are not into sports at all. They're still finding it enjoyable, because there's more to this story than basketball. Finley's coach asks him to befriend a new boy who is moving in with his grandparents. It is the son of the coach's good friends who were murdered, and he trusts Finley to help Russell out as he tries to process and grieve the loss of his parents. It also turns out that Russell, who now refers to himself as Boy 21, is an amazing basketball player. Although Russell is going through a lot as the story unfolds, we learn more about Finley's past and the struggles he also faces.
These three books were all pretty great. I am excited to hand them off to any of my students, and also think that there are plenty of readers who aren't sports fans that will enjoy these stories.