I’m always a bit nervous about how to introduce the volume of reading we will do in my AP Language class. Although students have heard that AP is “hard,” they don’t really know what that means until they start to see some of the texts they must read, understand, unpack, and analyze.
The biggest problem with all this reading: most 16-year-olds are not readers. At least not when they come to me. (They do change.) Somewhere along their educational journey, the love of reading has gone by the wayside. Most tell me in our very first conference that they used to love to read. Few can tell with any specificity why they stopped. (I have my own theories.)
I’m constantly thinking of ways to help my readers fall in love again. If students are not reading, they are not growing as readers. It’s pretty simple logic.
And frankly, I want to live in a community of people who read. My current students will live on my street, work in the shops I patron, send their kids to my new grandson’s school. I want to be surrounded by families who enjoy literate lives because their lives will rub shoulders with mine.
Literature could change the world if we let it — if more people read it.
If we encourage what Louise Rosenblatt calls a sense of emotion, an aesthetic experience, in our young people, more of them would read. Rosenblatt explains how our readers need transactional experiences with the books they read:
“The transaction involving a reader and a printed text … can be viewed as an event occurring at a particular time in a particular environment at a particular moment in the life history of the reader. The transaction will involve not only the past experience but also the present state and present interests or preoccupations of the reader.” It’s like the letters on the page come to life, and the meaning of the words dance into the reader’s mind and heart. She has an experience with the text that remains long after she closes the book.
I want all of my students to experience this kind of reading.
So the first week of school I opened packages. Thanks to Donors Choose I had package after package arrive at my classroom. Each packaged filled with brand new novels for my brand new students. Most of them novels in verse — a powerful gateway back into reading with next to no stress. Few words on the page, and engaging story, vivid word choice, and a storyline brimming with emotion.
If you’d like to build your Poetry shelf, or just add novels in verse to your classroom library, here’s a sampling of the books sweet donors gifted our classroom with this fall:
Like Water on Stone
The girl in the Mirror: A Novel
Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling
The Red Pencil
The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard
To Be Perfectly Honest: A Novel Based on an Untrue Story
What My Mother Doesn’t Know
The Simple Gift
The Secret of Me: A Novel in Verse
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies
Every You, Every Me
Brown Girl Dreaming
I Heart You, You Haunt Me
Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall
Love, Ghosts, and Facial Hair
All the Broken Pieces
Geography of a Girl
Who Killed Mr. Chippendale?
(Note: Shana’s the expert on building a classroom library by getting donations. Read about how she does it here. She’s got more ideas than just Donor’s Choose for books.)
Share your ideas on helping students have personal and meaningful experiences while reading…
©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015