I teach 8th grade literature. I want to expose the children to literature that they can relate to. Any recommendations would be appreciated. 

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It's so wonderful to see someone trying to hard to connect to his/her students!  How about Speak and The Lovely Bones ?  Now, I'll admit that these have a general "female" feel to them, but they can serve as such wonderful springboards to many contemporary subjects such as bullying and...

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It's so wonderful to see someone trying to hard to connect to his/her students!  How about Speak and The Lovely Bones?  Now, I'll admit that these have a general "female" feel to them, but they can serve as such wonderful springboards to many contemporary subjects such as bullying and first love, ... not to mention the tragedy of rape & murder found in the latter novel.

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I would recommend Where the Red Fern Grows.  I remember using it with very low level freshman readers, and even these reluctant readers where drawn into this story about a boy and his beloved dogs. 

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The Outsiders - like linda-allen said - is a classic to teach. I think A Day No Pigs Would Die is another good 8th grade book. I teach 9-12 Basic English and teach it to my 9th graders and they like it. Holes is also a good one as well.

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Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli has always been a favorite of mine, and eventhough the reading level is quite basic, you could do a great deal with themes of individuality and feelings of being an outcast.  A friend of mine who teaches 7th and 8th grade (mostly at - risk students) loves the book Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson, though I have never read it myself.

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I have great success teaching Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven.  This book is short and is an easy read for students.  It also generates good discussion that students can relate to.

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It's old but it still has an appeal: The Outsiders. I think "Stargirl" would be good too; at least my 8th graders liked it when I taught middle school.

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Where do you teach? I am currently teaching in an urban environment in NYC and I am planning a unit using The Freedom Writers Diary. I know they will relate to it because it shows how students who nobody believed in overcame.

I am also writing a unit on Lord of the Flies. This book can be broken down into good vs. evil. They deal with situations of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, etc. on a daily basis.

What have you already taught? What do you think they are into?

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I've had pretty good luck with two books.  One of them is "The Lottery Rose" by Irene Hunt.  Copyright 1976 by Pacer Books for Young Adults/Berkley Books, New York.  ISBN 0-425-10153-3.  This book was very useful with studnets who have experienced some "difficulties" in their lives.  I was apprehensive about using the book; suprisingly, it was one of their favorites.  The other, which might be hard to get, is "My Brother Stealing Second"  by Jim Naughton.  It is farily easy reading and deals with some complicated ethical questions (do you tell the truth in a small town if it will cost your father his livelihood and most of the damage was done years ago?).

I think your students would enjoy both of these, especially since they're "off the beaten track."

The positive comments reflect student opinion, not mine, although I heartily concur :)

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The Giver by Lois Lowry - amazing!!! I teach high school, but my students still list it as one of their all time favorites from when they read it in middle school.

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