#FridayReads I Want All My Students to Experience This Kind of Reading

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.

novels in verse 1So 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.

I book talked Chasing Brooklyn. It found a home in eager hands, as did To Be Perfectly Honest, The Crossover, Like Water on Stone,  My Book of Life by Angel, and many more.

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

The Crossover

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


Tagged: , , , , , ,

10 thoughts on “#FridayReads I Want All My Students to Experience This Kind of Reading

  1. […] For a list of other novels and verse, see this post. […]


  2. […] reading independently.  This focus on personal connections stems from our recent reading of  Louise Rosenblatt’s work, our effort to make our instruction authentic, and our noticing of the ease with which our […]


  3. Meredith October 30, 2015 at 9:07 am Reply

    Where do you find donors for your classroom library! I would love to get these in my room!


    • Amy October 30, 2015 at 3:56 pm Reply

      Meredith, finding donors for books becomes a full-time job. Ha! I’ve had lots of success with DonorsChoose.org, and I do a lot of shopping at thrift stores and Half Price Books. Once you know authors that student’s like, shopping for certain books gets easier. I’ve also had success with my district’s educational foundation grants. You might also check out Penny Kittle’s Book Love Foundation. She gives away classroom libraries each year, Shana also wrote about this very topic awhile back. I put the link for that post at the every end of this one in the little note just before the very end. Good luck! Your students will thank you for building an engaging classroom library.


  4. […] two months ago, I wrote about the novels-in-verse I got for my classroom. Many of my students who had never read a book have read two, three, and four […]


  5. […] Reading more poetry with my students has been a goal of mine these past few years, and it’s been a goal I feel has been readily achieved with ideas like creating Heart Books or reading novels in verse. […]


  6. […] poetry anthologies and collections (check Amy’s selection out if you seek inspiration for building your poetry shelf!), searching for poetry that matches their selected theme.  I’ll ask students to copy the […]


  7. crhebert September 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm Reply

    I would love for you to share your recommendations of Nonfiction books for high school. We are struggling to find something to include in our summer reading list that appeases our students…currently we have Steve Just bs: The man who thought different, How sugar changed the world, The Devil in the White City, and Lost in Shangri-La. I have loved your other reading suggestions; no doubt you have some updated nonfiction selections.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy September 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm Reply

      Sure. I will write up a list soon. Thanks for the suggestion. And for reading TTT.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. shanakarnes September 9, 2015 at 5:02 am Reply

    First of all, I’m in love with your use of the word patron as a verb. Augh. #wordnerd

    The in-verse genre is so popular with my students, because it provides so many positive experiences to help counteract the downward spiral of negative automaticity, which is explained pretty well here: http://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/matthew-effect-in-reading/

    These types of books are beautifully written, so accessible in their language, and very quick reads, despite not being too short or thin. Students feel success, joy, and a connection to these texts. I’m so glad you were able to get a big grant that brings more of these kinds of titles into your students’ hands!

    Liked by 1 person

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: