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Cool summer reads for tweens and teens

Published on: May 27, 2011

Summer reading picks for teens and tweensSummertime, and — for teens, at least — the reading is not easy.

According to Hayden Bass, teen services librarian at Seattle’s Central Library, many teens’ reading habits are so constrained during the school year by assigned reading that it’s hard for them to switch gears and pick up a book for pleasure.

“When summer comes,” she says, “they don’t necessarily know how to find books that they enjoy, and it’s not something they’re used to doing.”

But reading over the summer is important, and not only because it’s one of the most intrinsically rewarding, least expensive activities available to anyone (thank you, public library system!). Study after study has shown that kids lose ground over the summer — the so-called “summer slide” — if they’re not engaged in educational activities. When they go back to school, they have, as Bass puts it, “trouble getting back in the groove.”

Educational activities don’t have to be pricey. A 2010 University of Tennessee study found that kids who simply pick out a few books to read over the summer (being able to choose their own books is key) don’t succumb to the summer slide.

Seattle Public Library's reading program for teens
The Seattle Public Library (SPL) offers a robust summer reading program tailored to teens and tweens. The program kicks off early this month with librarian visits to most local schools.

This year’s theme is “Steampunk Summer” (steampunk is a science fiction genre that combines elements of Victorian fashion and style with anachronistic technology), and librarians will be bringing two steampunk-themed books to the schools for kids to take home with them: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

Once kids are done with their book, they’ll be asked to put their initials in the back and give it to a friend — or, more interestingly, hide it somewhere for strangers to find. Kids who decide to hide the book can visit the SPL teen blog and enter GPS coordinates or a clue with a photograph, so others can try to locate the book.

If teens and tweens are having a tough time deciding what they want to read over the summer, they can get a personalized reading list from SPL librarians by visiting the library’s website. All they have to do is enter a few books that they love — and hate! — and a librarian will send back a link to a list of “Your Next Five Books.” To access the service, visit and click on “NextReads.”

Branch libraries also offer workshops and programs to get tweens and teens in the door, including workshops on graphic novels, ’zines, henna, book making and duct tape art; and free drop-in Wii time. For the schedule, pick up a copy of the library’s summer reading program guide, once it becomes available, or visit the branch’s teen section for information.

For more information about library tween and teen programs, visit

Mortal Engines by Phillip ReeveSeattle Public Library's top 5 steampunk books for this summer
Here’s a list of tops pics for tweens and teens from Hayden Bass, teen services librarian at Seattle’s Central Library. If you loved Leviathan and Boneshaker, give these excellent steampunk books a try!

1. Foundling by D.M. Cornish. Rossamund lives in a world where cities are relatively safe, but the countryside is haunted by monsters. (This book is the first in the “Monster Blood Tattoo” series.)

2. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. When Tessa’s brother vanishes, her search for him leads to Victorian London’s strange, supernatural underworld. (This book is the first in the “Infernal Devices” series.)

3. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. Aboard a giant airship, a cabin boy and a wealthy young girl make an amazing discovery. (This book is the first in the “Airborn” series.)

4. Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. In the future, cities are mobile and cannibalistic, devouring smaller towns. (This book is the first in the “Hungry City Chronicles” series.)

5. Airman by Eoin Colfer. Conor must build a flying machine to escape his brutal prison.

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