By Adrienne Poon, AmeriCorps member serving on the Staples, Inc. team at the Rogers Middle School
Middle school is a transitional time in life as students develop into young adults, and try to figure out who they want to become as individuals. With this in mind, I have tried to think of book recommendations for my students for their independent reading homework. The book should be enjoyable, accessible, inspire, and an excellent story. One title stood out to me: Matilda.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda is a perfect book for sparking confidence in young people. The title protagonist is a bright girl with an untapped abundance of intelligence that manifests itself in telekinetic powers. As with many of Dahl books, Matilda is laced with the lesson that children can be powerful individuals with control over their own lives and that the keys to success are dreams and determination. The subtlety of the delivery of these themes allows the book to remain clever and entertaining while still educational. Dahl’s signature dashes of mischief and magic throughout the book capture the attention and imagination, providing more than enough of a draw for even the most sullen of readers.
I have no doubt that Matilda shaped who I am today. Matilda was the first young female protagonist I read about who was highly intelligent and demonstrated said intelligence with humility. I realized through reading this book as a child that while some adults may treat me as a young child, others would encourage my creativity and wit. I learned that I am smart, and that I should have confidence in myself and my ideas. The message that young people must advocate for themselves alongside others is one that I hope to help instill in the students I serve.
There is one last lesson that I hope my students may glean from Matilda though, if they choose to read it, and this is the reason why I picked a Roald Dahl book over other favorite authors of mine. If there is one lesson that I believe that Dahl’s work teaches best, it is that there is magic in the world. Imagination has no limits. Courage, curiosity, and wonder are the best weapons that I can hope to provide my students against the cynicism and dramatics of middle school and life at large. Above all, I want my students to imagine often, to dream big, and to work hard, and I believe that Matilda is a perfect book for that.
Looking for other books your middle school students might enjoy?
10 Novels Every Middle Schooler Should Read (We are Teachers)
13 Funny Middle School Books with Diverse Characters (Lee & Low)
Book Recommendations for Middle School Boys (Recipe Boy)