What should at-risk youth read?

Edgy books, relatively short books, nonfiction books and “high interest, low vocabulary” books, also known as hi-low, reluctant-reader or quick-read books.

Why? Here’s a paragraph I came across on a website for teacher-librarians:

“As library workers, especially those of us who work with teens, our role can shift to ‘social worker’ in an instant. Our teen patrons visit the library everyday and they begin to trust and confide in us.  Because most of us don’t have the training to work with at-risk youth, we can feel a little helpless but we don’t have to because we have the power of a good book.”

Goes for parents and mentors too, of course.

Below is a list of websites and publishers to help you find books for at-risk youth. More and more publishers are addressing this contingent, an example being Dundurn Press’s anti-bullying category.

When I recently heard a fellow author being asked, “What recurring theme marks all the novels you’ve written?”, I was momentarily taken aback. Recurring theme? Is there as assumption all authors have a recurring theme? Do I? It had never occurred to me before to wonder. But as soon as I turned that question on myself, I knew the answer: anti-racism, multiculturalism or, more broadly, social justice. I’m known for doing adventure and extreme sports themes, for sure, but running subtly beneath virtually all my narratives (and especially my more recent ones: First Descent, Andreo’s Race), is that message.

Some of my favorite authors write in the “social justice” category: Don Aker, Edeet Ravel and Deborah Ellis.

Who else? Here are some lists to help you locate them (even though some of the websites neglect to mention my favorite authors, or me for that matter!).


PUBLISHERS OF RELUCTANT-READER BOOKS (excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions)

ABDO Publishing Company

Badger Publishing

Bearport Publishing

Black Rabbit Publishing

Capstone Press/Stone Arch Books

Gareth Stevens Publishing

Heinemann-Raintree nonfiction books

H-I-P Books

Orca Book Publishers (Currents, Soundings, Orca Sports) — MY FAVORITE

Rosen Publishing

Saddleback Educational Publishing

Scholastic Books’ Bluford Series

Sundance Publishing

Tea Leaf Press

WEBSITES (excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions).

154 Best Books for Reluctant Readers

Literacy Trust (U.K.) Booklist Recommendations for 13-plus

Literacy Trust (U.K.) Booklist Recommendations for ages 9–12

Literacy Trust (U.K.) Booklist Recommendations for nonfiction

for ages 8–11

Who did I miss? Feel free to write me! Pam