One of the foundations of a strong reading and writing workshop is providing students access to a wide variety of excellent mentor texts. You may provide access to those books through your classroom library, school media center, or public library–but how do you know which books to purchase? How do you predict which titles will be most popular with teens? How do you know which authors will teach your students the most about writing?
We hope to offer you a few answers to these questions on Shelfie Saturdays. Here, we’ll share shots of our classroom library shelves, bookstore tables, yard sale treasures, and more. We hope these will act as examples of which books to buy, how to shelve them, and which ones to get into the hands of your readers.
So, to get us started, here’s one of my most popular library shelves–the Award Winners shelf. This shelf houses winners of the Printz Award for Young Adult Literature, the Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award, and more. I also include nominees for all of those awards, as well as honorable mentions. The genres are varied–YA, nonfiction, general fiction, even multigenre. The books are at a range of difficulty levels–some have complex narrative structures, others are very long, and others are tough only because of their dense topics.
I asked a few students why they liked this shelf so much. Mylana said, “I want to challenge myself sometimes. Whenever I read for fun I usually choose fiction, so I like to pick a nonfiction book that’s long but not boring. I know I can find that on this shelf.”
I asked Garrett how he chose books on this shelf. He said, “I pick books on this shelf because I hear about them on GoodReads or because they’re made into movies. So I go to this shelf and pick the ones with the coolest covers. The length is challenging, but if I get far enough in I won’t give up as a point of pride.”
Students gravitate toward The Goldfinch, Jellicoe Road, Grasshopper Jungle, The Round House, and Why We Broke Up more than any other texts on this shelf. Again and again, I hear the same refrains during conferences regarding award-winning books–this book was hard, but I finished it because I just couldn’t put it down. Award winners are shelved so for a reason–they’re the best writing has to offer in a given year, and are incredibly valuable teachers for the young readers and writers in my classroom.
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