This week, I am celebrating all of the wonderful reading and blogging the students in my Adolescent Literature class have ahead of them. They really got started reading and writing in earnest this week. Mackenzie finished Speak, Becca read Kids of Kabul, Kali read The Caged Warrior. Tim has been reading for awhile (he got started last semester on the reading list!), but most recently, he finished Bronx Masquerade. If you have a moment, please visit their blogs and leave a comment!
Creating a required reading list for a course is always hard because there are so many more books I want to include, but for right now, I am satisfied with the diversity and variety of this list.
- Randa Abdel-Fattah, Does My Head Look Big in This?
- Nikki Grimes, Bronx Masquerade
- Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
- Sherman Alexie, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
- Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak
- Marilyn Nelson. A Wreath for Emmett Till
- Angela Johnson. The First Part Last.
- John Green, The Fault In Our Stars
- Penny Kittle. Book Love.
- Deborah Ellis, Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely through a Never-Ending War.
- Steve Sheinkin, Bomb
- Malinda Lo, Ash
- John Green and David Levithan, Will Grayson Will Grayson
- Cynthia Lord, Rules.
- Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust
- Shaun Tan, The Arrival
- Meg Medina, Yaqui DelGado Wants to Kick Your Ass
- Gary Schmidt, The Wednesday Wars
This is a lot of reading for one semester, but it’s still nowhere close to what I expect students to experience as readers. Reading for 4-5 hours a week, they should be able to finish all of these books and more, and it’s the more that I’m most excited about.
Students are working to create individual reading goals and challenges for themselves. Becca, for instance, is aiming to read 30-40 books this semester, push herself outside her reading comfort zone with 10 nonfiction books, grow professionally with 2 professional development books, and become a book pusher by inspiring others to read her favorite books!
My role, at first, is to be the book matchmaker. I asked students to fill out an Interest Inventory on the first day of class, and I’ve prepared Personalized Reading Recommendation Lists for each student based on their interests, favorite books, favorite genres, and curiosities. If I had a classroom library, I would have greeted each student on the second day of class with a stack of books specially chosen for them. But as a college professor, I don’t have a classroom library, so I brought a few books from my office to loan out and otherwise sent them off to the library.
I feel confident that I can find “just right” books for each student in my course, but I am more mindful this semester of a key issue Donalyn Miller addresses in her wonderful book, Reading in the Wild:
Susie and I see many students who struggle choosing books to read because they lack background knowledge about books and authors and don’t know how to find out about books they might like to read. In the short term, we can support our students by providing book recommendations; increasing their access to interesting, engaging books; and promoting books during reading conferences and book commercials. But our students cannot depend on us to be their personal book shoppers forever. They must build confidence and competence in choosing their own books to read. Students who cannot successfully choose texts that meet their personal and academic reading goals fail to develop a vital skill that all wild readers possess.
I want to do more from the very beginning to help students build “confidence and competence in choosing their own books to read.”
So this week, just two days before the very exciting announcements of the Newbery, Printz, Caldecott, and other important children’s and young adult lit prizes, I’m also celebrating the work that the ALA and YALSA do to collect, curate, and highlight the best young adult literature.
I hope my students will check out some of these resources as they search for good books for themselves and their future students:
2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults (check out the lists for 2011 and 2012)
Teen Choice Top Ten (teens choose!)
Photo CC-BY vanhookc