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From John Green to Jane Austen: Student Choice and Motivating Non-Readers

Anyone who knows me knows I talk a lot about moving readers and writers by offering choice in the classroom. Without a doubt, the more I study the research on reading acquisition, the more I confer with my students and try to write about it, the more I immerse myself so I can immerse my students in engaging YA and award-winning literature, the louder my voice gets.

I am a full fledged advocate of readers and writers workshop at the secondary level.

And I’m not backing down.

This semester I have a student teacher who hears it from me every second of every day. Almost.

My ultimate goal is to tattoo Zach’s brilliant young mind with everything I’ve learned about teaching the past ten years. Everything that sent me to and cemented my pedagogy in workshop. And I think choice seals the ink that may change his teaching career forever.

But this pedagogy is not easy. Just like in a traditional classroom, students put up their fists and sometimes fight dirty. Sometimes they want to be told what to read and what to write and how to think. Sometimes too often.

And that is when this job gets hard.

Lately, it has been hard, and Zach has seen my frustrations. But he is smart, and he sees through student b.s with laser-like charm, problem-solving as I vent and complain.

I should be more controlled I tell myself every morning. Careful-what-you-say-Ame. But I can’t help it — my job is my sleeve. If I didn’t care so much about my students, their lives, their futures, I’d call it a day and tell Zach to take charge and have fun.

But I want him to learn. I want him to last in this profession that eats ’em up and spits ’em out. So I’ll share.

I’ll share what I’ve learned and how I’ve learned it. I’ll encourage. I’ll prod. I’ll challenge.

He’s a keeper I can already tell.

How do I know? Well, I asked if he’d write a post for this blog about reading YA literature for the first time. What does Zach do?

Oh, he writes, but he starts his own blog and tells me today: “I’ve got this friend who’s student teaching over in Northwest ISD, and she’s started blogging, so maybe we’ll start this new-teacher blog thing….”

You can still see my smile.

Here’s Zach’s post about his first adventure into YA literature. You’ll read it, and then you’ll want to hire him.

Yeah, I know.

A Hyphen Discreet

When I was in high school some four to eight years ago, I wasn’t much of a reader. Though I did read most of the books my teachers assigned me, I can’t say I ever enjoyed very many of them; nor can I say I ever truly understood them, at least not how they were meant to be understood. I imagine many of my peers felt the same way.

Even now, in my final semester at university, many of my friends tell me that they haven’t finished reading a book since middle school; but, when I ask the few who have what their favorite books are,the answers are unanimously the same: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, the books of John Green, and so on.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that many young adults in college enjoy reading young adult literature. But I’m also sure many perennialists out…

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