The verb is the key. How do we read enough in order to help students find books they want to read? We read. We have to read — a lot. And we have to know our students.
The reading part is fairly simple. Well, as simple as carving out the time for it, which I know can be a challenge. Maybe it’s a matter of belief. I have to believe my time reading books I may not normally choose for myself will be worth it. I have to believe that YA literature has substance. I have to believe that my students will read, and most likely read more, when I can recommend books because I have read them.
We find time for the things we value. Simple as that. If we value our readers, we must do the things that help them want to read, and reading books that appeal to adolescent readers is a major part of it.
Personally, I like books in print because I like to save favorite sentences and passages that I might be able to use for craft lessons as I read. But audiobooks are a time saver I trust. I usually have at least two books I’m reading at any one time, hardcopy and in Audible. (I started The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater yesterday; I’m halfway through listening to There There by Tommy Orange.) And honestly, there are some books I just can’t finish, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t read enough to know if I might have a student who wants to give it a try. I can read enough to know if a book might engage one of my readers.
I have to know my readers. The best way I know to get to know them is by talking to students one on one.
Again, the time issue.
Short personal writing can be a real time saver, especially at the beginning of the year or a new semester. Lisa’s Author Bio idea is one of my favorites, ever. I also like to use Meg Kearney’s Creed poem and have students compose their own. Writing like this gives students permission to show themselves, and it gives me an invitation to see into their lives. This is what I need to help match students with books.
A follow up question to the How do you read enough . . .? is often: How can I find books my students will want to read? or What are some great books for seniors? for 7th graders? for sports enthusiasts? for dog lovers? for a student born in Pakistan? for a group of kids into becoming Insta famous?
I don’t know.
Your school librarian will, most likely.
(Really, I may have some ideas for a few of those questions….but that’s not the point.)
Create a partnership with your school librarian. Hopefully, you still have one. This person loves books and advocates for books and readers. This book expert is a friend to self-selected independent reading, and this professional has access to book lists with descriptors and synopses. (And sometimes funds to add books to the school library.)
Of course, you can find all kinds of book lists online: Pernille Ripp posts great lists on her blog. The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE (ALAN) shares picks. Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) has Best of the Best lists. Edith Campbell recently posted a list of 2019 middle grade and YA books, featuring and written or illustrated by Indigenous people and people of color. And, of course, this list I crafted before Christmas — all recommendations from the contributors on this blog.
To make self-selected independent reading work, which is a vital part of an authentic literacy focused pedagogy, we have to do the work. We have to read, and I wish I could remember where I heard it first: Reading YA literature is a powerful form of professional development. Isn’t it?
Amy Rasmussen reads a ton of books on the porch, in the yard, by a pool, on her bed in North Texas. She will be spending a lot of her summer with teachers facilitating PD around readers-writers workshop in secondary English classes. Her favorite. She’s also going to be doing a lot of writing. And a little poetry study at the Poetry Foundation Summer Teachers Institute in Chicago. Follow her @amyrass
Tagged: Classroom Library, relationships, teachers as readers, YA literature
Yes, yes, yes! It makes my heart happy when I’m able to recommend a book to students, they read it, and THEY LIKE IT! Wow! Luckily, YA lit is easy to read and fast. 🙂
“We find time for the things we value. Simple as that.” It really is that simple. If reading a lot and being familiar with books that will make a difference for young readers is something we value, we make time for it.
Still, there are only 24 hours in a day, so we might need to make some choices about what we don’t do in order to make time for reading. For me, it means I hardly ever watch television. I also don’t do a lot of recreational social media. Those don’t feel like sacrifices because I don’t value television, cat videos, or crushing virtual candy.
Some of my reading also comes in small chunks. As soon as I finish this comment, I have three pages left in a Harry Potter chapter. I will read that and then do some chores. Later today I need to go to the post office and grocery store. During the drive I will listen to an audio book. There will probably be lines at the post office and grocery store. Yes! That means I’ll get to read a few pages on my Kindle app. I don’t mind having several books going at the same time in different formats, and those small chunks add up.
Thanks for the shout-out to school librarians. When the school librarian stays current and enthusiastic about books, mighty things can happen for kids when she or he partners with teachers who do the same.
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Exactly! I constantly have former students coming by for book suggestions or to update me on what they’re reading. I find, too, that the more I talk about my own reading life, the more engaged and interested my kids are in finding their own books. During the 2018 year, I kept a running list of what I read on my classroom walls and we had virtual bookshelves outside my door where I posted books that my kids read. This past year, I still kept track of my books but not in that public way, and I didn’t post student books anywhere. Reading interest dropped WAY down, even though everything else was the same (still gave 10-15 min independent reading, still conferencing with kids). When I posted my reading, I had kids who tried to outread me (only two have, so far) and kids who asked about things I was reading. When I posted their books, they were anxious to get to the end of a “shelf” and start another. They were proud to post their books. This year independent reading time was more often a struggle to keep folks actually reading. Needless to say, I’ll be going back to what worked before when school starts back in the fall!
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