Like many other families, we just headed off on a summer vacation. I asked my eight year old to choose 3 books, to which he replied… “Only 3?! Last year I took 20.” So we ratcheted up the number significantly, and he was on his way.
My six year old was a little more reluctant, but he dutifully packed up his books. He chose 3 books that he has read many times before, and to my surprise, I found him reading one silently before bed the first night. This is a big step for him, as he usually wants an adult to read to him.
He also grabbed a set of Harry Potter reference books, which are well outside of his ability to read right now. However, since there is interest, we don’t want to discourage him. He was so excited to find someone to read these books with him. As soon as we arrived, he asked an older child who lives next door, “Do you like Harry Potter?” The reply? “I never really got into reading that much.” Alex promptly put the books away and moved on to other things. Sigh. How do we make sure every child finds the joy in reading?
Pernille Ripp shared some ideas in her recent post: But the Kids Aren’t Reading- 20 Ideas for Creating Passionate Reading Environments. Pernille believes (and I do too!) that passionate reading starts with us. One of her 20 ideas deals with teacher recommendations:
“Teacher recommendations. I start many classes with the 1 minute book recommendation sharing why I loved a book or why I bought a book. Then I place it on a ledge and walk away.” (Ripp, 2015)
One minute. Spotlight a new book, make it available for students, and walk away. Easy enough, right? Here’s the catch. You have to be reading the books that your students would like in order to make the recommendations. Know your readers. Know your books. Make the match. I have two suggestions for you, books that are part of my summer reading list. We’ll get to those in a second.
Another suggestion from Pernille?
“Embrace mature books. These are the books that some of our most reluctant readers will finally pick up. The ones with the swear words, or the ones with the little bit more mature story lines. Be selective, set your standards, but don’t shield all readers from mature books. These can be “that” book for some of our kids who otherwise will never read.” (Ripp, 2015)
Thank you Pernille for including this in your top 20. Our older students will read books that contain content that we may shy away from. However, these books tackle important issues and are widely available to kids in book stores and libraries. I admire Pernille’s openness in including mature books in her classroom and honoring student choice.
Below are two “mature books” that you may like to add to your summer reading list.
Girls Like Us is a book about two high school graduates, Quincy and Biddy. However, Quincy and Biddy are not your typical grads. In Quincy’s words, they are “differently abled.” Author Gail Giles shared that, “I taught special ed students like Biddy and Quincy for twenty years, and I’ve been wanting to tell their stories- stories of courage, sometimes pain, and certainly triumph- for a long time.” (Giles, 2014) The girls are not friends (not even close)! Yet they are thrust together and have to rely on each other to navigate life outside of school for the first time. They find kindness in some, but are also faced with the harsh realities of those who want to do them harm. Quincy and Biddy will take you on an emotional roller coaster, and you will root for them the entire way. Readers will learn important lessons about how we sometimes unintentionally stereotype others and treat them differently based on judgements we have made. The powerful message in Girls Like Us has been recognized, as it made the Long List for the 2014 National Book Awards in the category of Young People’s Literature. For more on where Quincy and Biddy’s stories come from, check out Gail’s website.
If I Stay is not a new book, but I missed it somewhere along the way! Gayle Forman shares the story of Mia, a young lady whose entire life changes in an instant. The whole book takes place in 24 hours and 7 minutes, and you will read it just as quickly. Mia has to make the most important decision of her life…literally. But she will get you thinking… Is it really under our control to decide if we stay or if we go? Forman creates well-developed, dynamic characters who draw you in immediately. One of my favorite characters is Gramps. He has Words of the Wiser (Notice and Note Signpost) written all over him, especially on pg. 181.
This version of the book included an interview with Gayle Forman. She leaves us with this advice. “Write. Write. And write some more. And read. You absorb everything you read, whether you are aware of it or not.” (Forman, 2009) I’m keeping Gayle’s words in mind, for myself as a reader, my kids as readers, and our teachers and students as readers.
Know your readers. Know your books. Make the match. Help every kid find the book that makes the difference. Reading is contagious, but it as just as easily extinguished. Alex was trying to get someone he looked up to to read Harry Potter with him. Had the older boy I mentioned earlier considered himself a reader, he could have helped keep Alex’s spark lit just a little longer.
What books will you recommend to your readers this summer? I’d love to read about them in the comments. The Book is in Your Court…
For more examples of what others are reading, be sure to head over to the link-up at Teach Mentor Texts, hosted by Jen Vincent.