Saturday, April 27, 2013

What are We Reading Today?

I recently read a blog posting by Gary Anderson, "What Students Read When They Can Read Anything" and I eagerly read through the list to find new titles. That's what readers do -- look for that next book, and the one after that.

I knew I wanted to have my students list their current books, and a perfect opportunity arose when my friend and fellow Oklahoma Writing Project Teacher Consultant, Jason Stephenson, visited our class last week. I wanted Jason to have a souvenir of our visit, and I wanted my students to feel likethey were contributing to his visit.

So, we started a "Today I'm Reading" list first hour, and students contributed to it all day. I know we didn't catch everyone, but this is a very typical representation of what happens in my classroom.

My students have complete free choice with their books. They can choose to read above or below grade level (whatever that means). They can reread favorites, they can read books they've been assigned in other classes. They can read fiction or nonfiction. Memoir, science-fiction, romance, young adult literature. The only catch is, they must read books. Magazines will not build the stamina needed in college, or on all those tests kids are subjected to. Books...with lots of opportunity to build comprehension, make adjustments, activate prior learning. Books.

Then we turn on the music, we get comfortable, and we read.

When I talk to skeptics about my class one question always comes up. Sadly, it reflects a lack of respect for students and their abilities as readers: "Well, if you let them read whatever they want, won't they read trash?" Meaning "Won't they avoid any challenge? Won't they pretend to read like they've pretended for their entire school career? How can we trust high school students to read well if we let them choose?"

Well -- here's what my students were reading on Thursday, April 25. 2013:

1st Hour
The Inferno
American Psycho
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Lovely Bones
The Dark Between
The Glass Castle
Fellowship of the Rings
Looking for Alaska
Playing for Pizza
Crazy Love
Life as We Knew it
Water for Elephants
Clockwork Angel
The Storyteller
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Beneath the Lion’s Gaze
Thirteen Reasons Why
Keeping Faith
The Crazy Horse Electric Game
Pet Sematary
2nd Hour
A Monster Calls
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Shattering Glass
The Great Gatsby
Beautiful Chaos
Beauty Queens
Maximum Ride
Eat Pray Love
Seeing Redd
Top Dog
Freaks Like Us
I am the Messenger
Soul Screamers Vol. 2
World War Z
My Sister’s Keeper

4th Hour
The Guardian
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
The Other Wes Moore
The Rescue
The Fault in Our Stars
A Wizard of Earthsea
Beautiful Creatures
The Fellowship of the Ring
Fallen Angels
I Am Seal Team Six Warrior
The House of Tomorrow
The 19th Wife
The Rules of Survival
Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have
Silver Linings Playbook
I Hunt Killers
The Pledge

5th Hour
I am the Messenger
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Fault in Our Stars
American Sniper
True Grit
Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead
15 Months In SOG
The Confession
Want to Go Private?
Right Behind You
Rangers Apprentice Book 6 : Siege of Macindaw
Unwholly, I Hunt Killers
The Maze Runner
Something Borrowed
Norwegian Wood
The Storyteller
The Golden Spiral
Romiette and Julio
Hate List
The Sirens of Titan
The Slayer Chronicles
Soul Surfer
Shattered Mirror
Something Like Normal
Chain Reaction 
Blood on my Hands
World War Z
The Secret History
The Future of Us
How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World
The Great Gatsby
A Walk in the Woods
Speaker for the Dead
Clockwork Princess
The Book Thief
The Seven Storey Mountain
Beautiful Ruins
Stranger in a Strange Land
Destined “House of Night Series”
The Five People You Meet in Heaven

I challenge even the biggest skeptic to find trash here...great YAL, popular fiction, nonfiction, classics...probably much better books than the majority of adults are currently reading. Because I know who is reading what, I could tell you stories about each book...about how book recommendations travel through a class, about how we are currently obsessed with Barry Lyga and Neil Shusterman at the moment. About my student in sixty hour who has several of us reading Murakami.

I'm proud of my students. Each book, each page, is a victory. From my intellectually-disabled student who is almost finished with the Hunger Games series, to the boy who's reading The Inferno -- for pleasure, every student is reading and growing and thinking. Every student has learned the power of the right book at the right time. 

I am in awe.


  1. I am so glad that you collected these titles when I came to visit. It is a testament to the power of choice. When given titles and authors from a passionate teacher, students will read some good stuff. Not just good stuff--great stuff!

  2. I had my students turn in their 'books to read next' list so I could add a title, and lots of them added books that you shared during your visit. So, backatcha! Books shared passionately by real readers makes the difference.

    So glad we could spend the day together.