Tag Archives: YA literature

How do you read enough to match students with books? #3TTWorkshop

Questions Answered (1)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.

Book Stack

My Current To Read Next Stack

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


An Important Invitation


“WHAT THE [insert expletive]?!”

I do not move.

“NO WAY!  I can’t believe it!  How the [insert expletive #2]?!  Miss Bogdany, come here!”

I’ve been invited.

As I slowly walk toward Christian, both legs extended and perched atop his desk; he need not move. His eyes are bulging.  Is his look one of momentary panic?  Complete disbelief?  A moment of sadness? Regardless, the look on his face is all the body language needed to understand; this young man has just experienced the beauty of literature.  (Although I bet he would beg to differ that ‘beauty’ may not be the appropriate word choice.)


This year has been remarkably challenging in ways that I have had yet to experience.

All gritty yet beautiful.

After three and a half months of trying to persuade…breathing (deeply!) through rejected book recommendations…buckling up for the daily roller coaster ride of never really knowing what opinion will be formed about reading that particular day; this invitation could not have come packaged anymore suiting.

While there have been constant shifts, differentiated activities, mentor texts, book talks (on countless genres), writing topics, unsuccessful attempts at captivating student interest…(we all know how long the list gets); one thing has remained constant.  I committed, at the very beginning of the year, that no matter how many changes are made to our learning community, the Reading Writing Workshop goes nowhere!  Student choice has remained constant…and thank goodness it has because the expletives, the lounging student…this is exactly how today’s position on reading needs to be explored; gritty yet beautiful.


As ChrisIMG_20141215_175627tian holds tight to Tears of a Tiger by Sharon M. Draper (a popular read among students and the first book in the Hazelwood High trilogy), he points to this passage and invisibly underlines each word as he flies through the paragraph that starts “There’s nobody home – 

He then pauses.   His finger moves to the last line, lingers there as he looks up at me, and continues…”I’m sorry for all I’ve done – so sorry, …so very, very sor-

“Ms. Bogdany, did you SEE that?!  He kills himself!  He doesn’t even finish his sentence!”

I am most definitely taken aback.  First by Christian’s intense grasp on the craft of the writer and secondly by the wild intensity of a young man taking his own life.  My eyes bulge too.

Then Christian continues.  Again, his finger leading the way…


“Suicide!  This is the police report.  He killed himself.”

We both pause.  The weight of the word.  We both feel it.

“Ms. Bogdany, I just can’t believe it.  I knew it on the page before, but here it’s confirmed.  I had no idea this would happen.”


Christian has chosen many-a-piece that deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and this piece is no different.  Here you have the main character who deals with survivor’s guilt after accidentally killing his best friend in a car accident.  You can only imagine how difficult life, for Andy Jackson, must be.  While attempting to ask for help throughout the piece, Andy feels as though he is alone.  Very alone.

This piece chronicle’s Andy’s journey and the fatality in which it brings.  Please note that students may want (and actually need) to talk about their feelings regarding this heavy issue.  Christian did, albeit the way in which he initially hinted.  Through the expletives I realized that Christian couldn’t be silent about the tragedy he just witnessed.  He needed to voice (in whatever way that surfaced) his knee-jerk reaction to the shock of Andy’s decision.

This piece has connected Christian and I.  It has given us the opportunity to chronicle his study on PTSD…and the real consequences that are associated with it.  He was able to walk me  through the craft of Sharon M. Draper.  This book will remain important for Christian for very specific reasons as it may very well be the piece that is forever etched in his mind.  This piece will also remain incredibly important for me, but for very different reasons.  Regardless of the reason, we are both grateful to Ms. Draper for her dedication to addressing real issues that touch the lives of our youth.

Reel Reading for Real Readers: Going Bovine

ReelReading2There’s something about the cover that bothers me. Maybe I just don’t get it.

But as I pulled this book from the box of new ones, a student reached for it eagerly.

“Please read that book and tell me what all the fuss is about,” I said.

And off she went.

Here’s a cool trailer for Libba Bray’s Going Bovine.

Have you read it? What’s the deal with the cover?

Whew! It’s (Still) Monday! What Are You Reading?

Heather and I talk a lot about our work, and we talk a lot about what to write on this blog. We set goals. We schedule posts. Sometimes we do okay, and sometimes we simply (or not so simply) let the demands of school and home and family get in the way of what we really want to do here. In an attempt to DO BETTER, we are going to join the It”s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme.

If you look at the Book Journey blog, you can see the original idea, but really, it’s all about sharing books and outlining a weekly plan for reading. Our stacks of To-Be-Read Piles rival any of yours, but this is a little different. We’re actually going to commit to what we are reaching to read during any given week. By doing so, we can show our students that readers have a plan. Readers know what they will read next. It’s not just a willy-nilly wandering through the stacks of a library. (My students think this is the same as having a plan.)

Our friends over at Teach Mentor Texts host their own version of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? with their focus on #kidlit — book reviews and suggestions for children’s literature from pictures books to all things YA. We’re going to tag along here for a while.  So. . .

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

I love dystopian novels:  Fahrenheit 451, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, and this is a genre that lots of teens enjoy reading. Of all YA books, I’ll choose dystopian over any other. Three of my favorites, all of which are the first in a series (added bonus with kids and reading) and have been around awhile:

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Matched by Allie Condie

Divergent by Veronica Roth

This past week I read the ARC of Revolution 19 by Gregg Rosenblum. Interesting. Not quite 13667361as engaging as some others. The concept is I-Robot–ish. Robots have taken over society in an attempt to save humans from themselves. The character development was pretty good:  three siblings and a couple of friends. I guess the thing that weakened the appeal was the dialogue. I thought it was boring–real as in what kids actually say to their parents and one another but boring. Overall, I give it three of those five gold stars.

This week I am reading another ARC:  The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist. I am not positive it’s dystopian, but I have a pretty good idea based on these last few sentences from chapter one:

15721645“We heard Irene and stopped whispering. She came in, turned out the light, and bet over each of our cots in turn. First Isobel, then Caroline, then Eleanor, then me, leaning close to my face and whispering. ‘Go to sleep, Veronika.’

Then she pushed the spot behind my ear, with a click, like always, and I did.”

What’s next? I plan on tackling the pile of dystopian books I haven’t read yet. Some students are helping me sort and categorize the book shelves in my classroom. For now, we have labels taped around the whiteboard rails around the room and stacks of books beneath them. The dystopian stack is the tallest right after Teen Angst. I’d rather not tackle that stack for a while, but that’s just me rebelling against the teen angst I deal with every single day.

I’d love to know your favorite dystopian reads. Please leave your book suggestions in the comments.

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?


See this? These are the books I brought home to read this summer. The crate is full of YA literature, mostly early releases I picked up in the exhibit hall at ALAN in May. I probably left there with 100 books. I think I’ve read one. I also have a tall stack of ORCA Soundings, short edgy books for reluctant and slow readers, in that crate somewhere. I’ve read two so far, and yep, they are edgy. I think my hostile readers will love them.

I know if I want to get my students to read, I have to be a reader. But this is not how I want to spend my summer. I want to read me books:  mystery, adventure, romance…you know, reader candy, books that I devour quite simply for the sweetness of the story.

I do not think there is enough time in my summer days to do both.

In the bag on the right are my book resources for curriculum writing. There’s a whole shelf in my classroom empty because I may need these trusty friends. I am spearheading re-writing 9th grade curriculum to more effectively meet student needs as EOC/STAAR tests threaten to destroy us. (Okay, that’s over-statement, but still…our scores this spring were dismal.)  A favorite? I’ve become a disciple of Jeff Anderson and praise his book 10 Things Every Writer Should Know every chance I get. I’ll be using some of his ideas to coach teachers into conducting writer’s workshop with more fidelity. An ELA goal across my district.

See that book in the bag on the left–Instructional Coaching? That’s the title of my new job–Instructional Coach, and I’m reading it because I need to!  I am excited for the opportunity, and change always makes me eager to learn. I will be teaching two sections of English I on my home campus, and then I will be coaching English I teachers on my campus and the other three high schools in the district in the afternoons. I love that I get to keep working with students, and I love that I get to work with teachers. It’s a perfect marriage, and I think I’ll love it.

So much to read, so little time to read it. So occasionally I’ll claim to be a part of #bookaday, and I just signed up today for #summerthrowdown, although I won’t be too much help to Team Teacher. However, I will be reading. Every day I will be reading.

And I will read those YA books because I can read all the pedagogy books in the world, but if I can’t get my students to read…all the strategies in my toolbox won’t help a thing.

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