This spring, I challenged my class of general-level seniors to read 100 books. No gimmicky projects, no book reports, no presentations— just read and fill out a quick review card so they could recommend great books to future 12th grade English kids. Then, move on to the next book. No length requirements, no restrictions, no specific genres. I wanted them to leave my class as readers, and they stepped up to the challenge. In spite of hectic schedules and some intense senioritis, they read over 120 books. A lot of the reading was done in class (I allotted 15 minutes each day, but sometimes it was really hard to pull them away from their books), and I wanted to make sure I modeled what it was like to be a good reader. Even though it was tempting to work on other things during that time, I forced myself to sit at my desk and read something for pleasure, every single day. Consequently, I read a TON more than I ever have during the school year. Here’s the list of books I read during the spring semester:
- Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
- A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
- The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides
- Bossypants, by Tina Fey
- The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green
- An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green
- Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler
- The DUFF, by Kody Keplinger
- I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
It’s no coincidence that most of them are YA books. I’ve always loved YA lit, and I think it’s important to stay on top of what’s trending in that genre. For instance, I happened to grab The Fault in Our Stars one day at B&N because I thought it looked good (and it turned out to be amazing), and that opened me up to all of John Green’s books. I started recommending them to my kiddos, and they got so into them that TFOIS and Looking for Alaska were always checked out by someone, all semester. Creating a culture of readers takes enthusiasm, commitment, and passion (and, let’s be honest, money— I probably spent a couple hundred dollars on books just this semester alone.) It also requires that you know your kids. If any one of them came up to me and said, “I don’t know what to read,” I could easily pick something that I thought they would love. 9 times out of 10, I was right on. I recommended Speak to one of my timid girls who struggles with self-esteem, The Book Thief to one of my high-level readers who gets bored easily and zips through anything I give him, Maximum Ride to several of my boys who tackled Hunger Games and didn’t know where to go next.
I love reading, but even more than that, I love helping students find their niche as readers. I can’t wait to go through all their review cards and write a post about the Top Ten Books According to High School Seniors.