Summer Reading: One Answer to this Big Question

By now we all know that we don’t want our students to lose any of the healthy reading habits they have been building over the course of the school year. We’ve all worked too hard to build them, and to give these good habits over to the summer slide seems like a really bad idea.

So we need a plan. We know that if we don’t plan for a positive summer reading experience, that’s the same as planning for many of our students to not read at all… While many of our students will continue to read over the summer because they’ve established their reading habits quite successfully, others are still burgeoning readers and haven’t established these habits in the same way.

For example, I have one student who has resisted reading literally the entire year. She regularly told me that she doesn’t like reading. That reading is boring. That she doesn’t like books.

I kept responding with one word: Yet.

About three weeks ago, she changed her tune. She found a book she loves. She told me it was good. She liked it! (This is another argument for student choice when it comes to reading, but that’s a slightly different post.)

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Her book is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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This respect for books and reading is new for this student. The reading habits are fragile, and her disposition could change over the summer. Nobody wants that… It’s too important to ignore.

It’s just one of the many reasons why our school has decided that summer reading is something we have to expect and encourage.

We want to honor our students and their individuality. They are all over the place when it comes to where they are in their reading journey, so there is no one-size-fits-all plan for summer reading.

Here’s the we-hope-it-works-for-everyone plan we came up with: Students will choose their own titles, their own number, and even the language in which they read. We’ve told them they need to read books in both Spanish and in English (we are in Nicaragua, so this is entirely appropriate). But no one is telling the students what books to read, how many to read, or what ratio their English to Spanish books needs to be.

  1. Students choose their titles based on next-reads lists, talking to each other, book talks they’ve liked, and what sounds fun for summer reading. Some will choose three, some five, some ten… we don’t give them a minimum number, we simply ask how many they think is a reasonable number for the summer. (We do try to get them to agree to at least three, though.)
  2. Students confer with their current ELA teacher, and that ELA teacher “nudges” them to possibly add something to their lists, or help them make decisions, but only if they need it. We try to avoid student frustrations from choosing books that are too hard over the summer, as they won’t have regular conferences with teachers, for example. We try to make sure they’ve chosen “enough” to read over the summer, based on what we know about them as readers. But all of this is based on student choice and preference.
  3. Students fill in a quick google form that will be shared with next year’s ELA teacher. This form will help next year’s ELA teacher with the first reading reflection, the first conference, etc. This is where the summer reading accountability is built in. No one will be “in trouble” for not reading over the summer, but it will be the basis for the first honest reading conference of the school year. Screen Shot 2019-06-01 at 8.54.00 AM
  4. Students email their parents their summer reading choices with an explanation of the summer reading program. At that point they can check out their books from our school library (YES! They really can check out books over the summer! I love this so much!)Screen Shot 2019-06-01 at 8.53.27 AM

Our summer reading plan really is just four easy steps. However, these steps are based on an entire school year of implementing student voice and student choice when it comes to reading. Students have a good idea about how much they could potentially read over the summer because they have just completed semester/year long reflections and recognize their growth and learning when it comes to reading. They have inspired themselves!

This plan will be implemented with this year’s current fifth grade students so they will enter sixth grade knowing that they are respected for who they are and what they like, but there is also an expectation that they will read. It’s a grade six through twelve summer reading plan, and I do think it will work. I’m excited to talk to my new students in the fall already about how their summer reading goes.

What does your school do for summer reading? I’d love to hear other ideas!

Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for twenty years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, and the last four in Amman, Jordan. She’s thrilled to report that she and her family moved across the world to Managua, Nicaragua this year, and are loving their new adventure.

Follow her on twitter @SwinehartJulie

This post was originally published on Three Teachers Talk.

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Five Ideas for Encouraging Summer Reading

When the classroom doors close for the last time until the fall, we teachers reluctantly relinquish our authority and influence over our students, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. We hope that our students will keep reading, will remember the community that was developed in our classrooms, and we hope they will transfer that community and the good habits in an authentic manner. There are no guarantees about summer reading, but we can at least try to set our students up for summer reading success.

My department was lucky enough to get a little more than an hour’s worth of face time with all of the students in our high school during the last week of the school year. The purpose of the time was to launch our summer reading program in an authentic, realistic-for-teenagers kind of way.

We had about an hour with each group (of about 40 students), and we wanted to provide an interactive, student-friendly experience. Instead of asking the students to meet us where we want them to be, we tried to meet them where they are.

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My brave colleague and friend @jtlevitt talked to our students about booksnaps, demonstrating both her willingness be vulnerable, and her willingness to meet students where they are.

She challenged our students to read, think, and then reach out to authors and to each other, using twitter and snapchat. Students responded with chuckles and enthusiasm as they watched her stumble through snapchat, but with interest as they realized they could continue and develop reading communities with this tool.

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We challenged our students to create small groups, using this app, with the deliberate purpose of supporting each other with their reading over the summer. Students connected with each other using their phones, which once again, is what teenagers already do. Our aim was to make a summer reading plan easy and natural.

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Our fearless colleague, Vicky, created a bingo page for students so they could talk and develop next reads list for summer reading.

 

The activity took around fifteen minutes, and it got kids talking to each other about titles, authors, books they love, and most importantly, books they might want to read over the summer. Some of the categories were: book in verse, graphic novel, book about food, and so on. The categories aren’t important. What’s important is that students are talking to each other about books, and are discovering their own curiosity about books they hadn’t already known about.

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Book tastings were another fun activity. Students once again had to get up out of their seats, make some choices, and talk to each other.

My esteemed colleague, Phil, selected several (a couple hundred?) books and set them on the surfaces of the shelves in the library. He instructed students to get up, choose a book, and learn as much as possible in a minute or so. Students then shared the books with each other – about four students per group – and had their phones close by so they could add titles to their next reads lists.

Summer Assignment

The final activity in our session was to revisit the individual reading lists for the summer reading assignment.

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The summer reading plan includes a combination of clear expectations and flexibility.

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Students had previously planned their summer reading, but were given the opportunity to modify their plans based on the new books they had just discovered. Since all of the English teachers were in the room, any modifications could be approved and encouraged.

Summer reading can be delicate and dicey, to be honest. I am encouraged that some students were really excited about new titles they had just discovered, or were looking forward to finally getting to some books that had been on their next reads lists for a while. But I’m also worried about the students who still struggle to make time to read during the school year. I know that with the freedom of summer comes a lot of choice, and sometimes students choose not to read. My hope is that with the encouragement of teachers, friends, and peers, along with a healthy dose of excellent book choices, our students will continue to flourish and grow as readers. My heart is with them, even if they no longer report to my classroom.

Student Choice and Accountability in a Summer Reading Plan

We all know that summer reading is important, but it’s hard to ensure that our students will continue nurturing their reading lives over the summer break.

Our department decided to try something new this year, and give a summer reading assignment to all students in place of what we have traditionally done, which has been a summer assignment for only AP students.

Because we value student voice and student choice, we are allowing the students to design their own summer reading goals and plans. The plan we developed has requirements, but with built in flexibility to allow for personalization.

The requirement is that they must commit to reading over the summer. As a department we decided that our “secret” minimum would be three books for summer reading. We didn’t want to put that number out there to the students though, as we knew some of them would go higher with their personal goals if we didn’t give them suggestions and left them to their own thoughts. Thats where the flexibility comes into play.

On the other hand, a few students had to be gently prodded into adding a third book to their lists, but they didn’t push back too hard. Because they were allowed to choose their titles, it wasn’t too difficult of a sell. They all have next reads lists based on recommendations from each other and from daily book talks. Many students planned summer reading based on their own lists.

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The summer reading plan includes a combination of clear expectations and flexibility.

Students were encouraged after totaling their pages for the school year. I had one student walk into class and proudly announce “Sixteen-thousand-three-hundred-seventy-one!” While not every student had read this amount, these numbers still helped students realize how much reading they would be capable of over the summer.

After the students chose their titles and wrote them down, they conferred with their current English teachers who talked them through their choices and eventually signed off on the plans.

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The accountability piece comes into play in September, as these goal sheets will be passed on to next year’s English teachers and will be the basis for the first reading conference of the school year.

Our students seem keen on their summer reading planning. It’s a gentle requirement, and I believe it will nudge them into some healthy independent reading habits.

What are you doing in your classes and departments and schools to ensure summer reading? There are many ways of doing it, and I’d love to hear more ideas.

Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for nineteen years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, and the last four in Amman, Jordan. She’s thrilled to report that she and her family will be moving across the world to Managua, Nicaragua next year, where a new adventure will begin.

Follow her on twitter @SwinehartJulie

Prepping for Summer Reading: Encouraging a Reading Community

In order to plan our spring break reading and practice independence for our summer reading, we brought 42 freshmen into our Learning Commons for some book talk/book speed dating.

It’s an activity that can be reproduced with any number of students and with minimal planning time. It also is an activity that elicits positive feedback from students and most importantly, gets kids reading.

We brought our students together because we prioritize regular book talks, student talk, and communities of readers.

To ensure that students were ready to engage in the activity, we provided time and structure for planning the mini-conversations about books.

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On this side of their papers, students prepared for their one-minute book talks.

Students were instructed to choose a favorite book from the school year so far, bring the physical copy of the book to class that day, and be prepared to talk about it for about a minute. They were also instructed to write down questions they could ask others in case the person who was doing the “selling” of the book ran out of things to say.

The other side of their half-sheet handouts had a place for note-taking during the actual speed-dating activity.

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Students created next-reads lists during the activity.

Before we brought all of our students together, our wonderful teacher-librarian and I met to plan the activity, and she volunteered to lead it.

The students were lined up at two long tables, paired with the person across from them, so there were two tables with kids lined up on either side of both tables. (She re-created this activity later with one smaller table of sixteen students, and it worked well with that number, too.)

Mrs. Levitt gave the students a couple of minutes of instructions, and the other two teachers and I watched as the magic unfolded.

Each student was given one minute to “sell” their book, and then listened and asked questions during the second minute, when their current partner was trying to “sell” the other book. They were reminded to add to their next reads lists if the books were interesting to them, and then one side of the table stood up and moved to the left in order to find new partners. The activity moved quickly.

The student feedback after the activity was positive and enthusiastic. They liked hearing about books from each other, and felt enthused about setting some spring break reading goals. Mrs. Levitt had them make make a “reading promise” on padlet so that they would have some public accountability when they returned from spring break.

After the public promise on padlet, students set individual goals, responding to the following questions, expanding when necessary.

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Students came back from break saying things like “Miss! I read five books!” and “Miss! You have to read this book! It’s sooo good!”

I don’t think they would have the same enthusiasm if we had continued with our usual book talks and generic reading assignments. The fact that they talked to and listened to one another in a fast-paced, structured setting meant that they could later have more authentic, longer conversations about the books they had found interesting during the class activity. Students discovered new titles and authors, and developed community with one another that revolves around reading books.

They could see that all of their teachers, our teacher-librarian, and their classmates value reading, and are interested in each other’s thoughts and ideas about what makes a great read.

It was a positive experience for all of us, and it helped to set the stage for summer reading. The thing about summer reading is that it doesn’t have the built-in accountability that the school year does. It requires either self-discipline or intrinsic motivation, so the practice and encouragement over the break helped to develop “muscle memory” in that students read books even when they weren’t accountable for it the very next day. They read books that they wouldn’t normally have read, and they were able to continue talking about those new reads when they returned from the break, which also helps to build community and develop readers.

How do you plan to encourage and practice for summer reading? I’d love to hear about it in your comments.

Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for nineteen years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, and the last four in Amman, Jordan. She’s thrilled to report that she and her family will be moving across the agua to Managua, Nicaragua next year, where a new adventure will begin.

Follow her on twitter @SwinehartJulie

Making thinking transparent: Annotating with Nonfiction Notice and Note Signposts

When my students read, they think. There’s no question. But as a teacher, I struggle trying to figure out what they are thinking about, what they wonder, what resonates, what is confusing, and what they reject. Because reading is a mostly solitary activity, it sometimes feels impossible to tap into their brains so that I can “read” my students’s thoughts.

One of the strategies I employ is reflective essays. Other times, instead of in writing, students reflect verbally, either through conferring or through class and small group discussions. But sometimes that’s not enough. I need a window into their brains and hearts, and annotating text in a close reading can help to serve as that window.

My grade eleven students are deep in an informational text unit. They are in book clubs, and in addition, I’m regularly assigning the Kelly Gallagher Article of the Week for them to work on at home. Because these weekly assignments are with a short text, I feel comfortable asking them to demonstrate a close reading in a way that I’m not asking them to do with their longer texts.

I spent quite a bit of time teaching the nonfiction signposts from Reading Nonfiction, and instructed my students to notice and note when they recognized the different signposts.

But when I heard repeated individual students asking clarifying questions about annotations, I realized it was to spend another significant chunk of class time going over an article that students had read and annotated as homework. In the end, I think that investment of class time was worth it.

 

I projected it on the white board, explaining that while I had skimmed the article before assigning it (teacher life is real!), I hadn’t become familiar with it, and my annotations and think-aloud were authentic and unrehearsed.

I feel that with an authentic model think-aloud, the teacher should be mostly or entirely unfamiliar with the text that is being considered. We can’t be perfect in front of our students; how else will they understand that the struggle to learn and understand is messy, and that it is rare that a person understands difficult text during the first read? That it requires multi-draft reading in order to reach sincere understanding, the kind of understanding we have when we can not only discover main idea, but describe the nuance and ambiguity we often find in complex texts?

So I demonstrated by talking my way through the article, using a purple marker to show my initial confusion, and a red marker to demonstrate my second-draft reading.

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This is what the white board looked like after the think-aloud. I wish I would have taken a photo while the text was projected, but so it goes…

I showed my students where I noticed the signposts, why I thought they were important to notice, and generally talked and walked them through my thinking. I made a point to show my confusion, highlighted words I wasn’t sure about, and I told them what I wondered.

I tried to show them that I don’t have all of the answers, but that I am willing to try to connect to text and find a deeper understanding of it.

I believe that teachers not only must model reading for pleasure – novels and narrative nonfiction should be a part of who we are – but we must also show the productive struggle that even mature readers often experience with shorter texts, and then show our students that the energy and effort that go into the process of understanding are worth it. And that most importantly, our students can do it too.

I think the moment of struggle is when when a lot of learning can happen. I don’t always time it perfectly; sometimes my students struggle too long, and sometimes I’m too eager to offer “the answer,” but I try to be aware of it. I think that’s all we teachers can do – pay attention to our students and act responsively.

Annotations start off sounding simple (just show your thinking!), but I think when students have different purposes for annotations in different classes and for different types of texts, they can get a bit confused. The purpose of demonstrating thinking is different from what might be the purpose in other classes, and this time, taking more time for more explicit teaching and modeling seemed to be the right call.

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This is a picture from very early in the year when the anchor chart looked a little different. I realize it needs to be updated for each unit, and I’ll get better about that.

I was also reminded that I should update my “sample annotations” anchor chart with each unit, and be more explicit about how students can discover the purpose of annotations. I think I will ask my students if they don’t mind putting some of their own annotations up on our walls, as student work feels like a more authentic way to model the task. It is a good reminder that anchor charts should be dynamic instead of static. They aren’t meant to be handmade posters.

Annotations aren’t revolutionary, they aren’t high-tech, and they shouldn’t be used for every text. But they do have a place, and when done well, they can serve as a window or snapshot into how a student thinks and connects to text. I’ll keep teaching annotation and using this simple activity in my classroom. It’s one of the best ways I know for students to be transparent about their thinking.

 

On Being Vulnerable in the First Days of School

Tomorrow is my first day of school with students for the upcoming school year. My own children are entering the 5th and 9th grades, and it feels like a big milestone year. One more year with a child in elementary school, and the beginning of high school for the other. It’s a big deal.

As much as I’m thinking about how quickly their childhoods are going by, I’m realizing that parents all over the world are feeling the same way about their own children. That I have two groups of ninth graders starting high school tomorrow, and their parents are feeling that same combination of whimsy and excitement and “how am I old enough to have a child in high school” and “when did my baby grow taller than me” that I am feeling. Or at least something similar.

I’m thinking about how I’m going to connect with these students, how I’m going to convince them that they can trust me with their writing and thinking this year, and most importantly, how they will learn to trust each other in a reading and writing community of their peers. How will I ensure that they find my class relevant? How will I ensure that they become people who like to read, and who look forward to writing? And the ones that already do? How will I challenge them, nurture them, and help them to become more independent?

Last year was my first year of teaching within the workshop model, and my classes were focused on reading. The students had separate writing classes last year, but now we are combining them. I’m looking forward to this change; it will be a new challenge for me, and I’ll get to know students in a way I didn’t last year.

The change also means I’m studying Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them, taking lots of notes, watching the videos that come with the digital resources, and maybe I’m overthinking the first day or two of classes.

Better to overthink than under-plan, I suppose.

One of the things I’ve noticed is the vulnerability Kittle displays with her students. She writes about sharing her process, and not her final product. In her videos, she demonstrates asking students for advice about structure and craft in her own writing, and in doing so, models exactly the vulnerability and openness she wants her students to learn. Her students follow her lead, and they produce beautiful writing.

I’m going to be deliberate about following her lead.

I’m originally from Oregon, and for the fifteen years before I moved to Amman, I lived in the center of the state: in Prineville, a town of fewer than 10,000 people. Today happens to be the day of the total eclipse of the sun, and there are significantly more people than that in the area for this event.

Suffice it to say that I would love to be there to witness the spectacle of the crowds, to observe this once-in-a-lifetime event (I know there have been others, and there will be others, but right above my house?), and to generally feel the energy that comes with something like this. But I’m also glad to miss the crowds, not worry about running out of gas, and to avoid the traffic gridlock that has accompanied the scene.

Why does this matter? It matters because I will share my feelings and experience with my students. I’ll talk to them about the eclipse, which even across the planet they are certain to know about. But I won’t talk to them about the science or math or physics of it. I’ll talk to them about what it means to me. About how I hope my parents, who live in the middle of town, won’t go out and get caught in an hours-long traffic jam. About how I hope all of these visitors will respect the cleanliness and beauty that is in small-town-Central-Oregon. About how I am glad I am here for the first day of school, but in another lifetime, I’d be there in the center of the chaos.

I will be vulnerable.

I’ll share about what I read over the summer, and I’ll specifically book talk the YA novel I deliberately read about a solar eclipse: Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass. It’s a sweet story about three teenagers who are looking for their personal identities and might not even realize it. It’s relatable and relevant to the topic of the solar eclipse, and I’ve looked forward to sharing it with students since I finished reading it.

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I also plan to talk to my students about the reader’s and writer’s notebook, and when I do that, I’ll use the question in chapter four of Write Beside Them which says, “What’s in a writer’s notebook?” and includes the following quote from Sylvia Plath:

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I’ll ask students to respond to the quote on the chart, and to realize that they are full of experiences and ideas worth writing about. Worth reading about. Missed experiences might be just as valuable as the first-hand. That we all have self doubt, but together, we can find the guts to get past it and write.

I’ll ask them to contribute phrases from their own writing and brainstorming on the anchor chart so that we can refer to it and remember that we are all full of good ideas. We just need to be brave enough to try.

What’s different for me in this particular part of the class is that I’ll be writing and revising with them (beside them!), and I’ll write about the eclipse that I’m not witnessing, but that still somehow has an impact on me. I’ll try to link my writing to the idea that “everything in life is writable,” even including things that we don’t actually experience (like my eclipse!), because we are unique, have our own thoughts and feelings, and we matter.

I’ll write publicly, show my quick revisions, and deliberately model vulnerability.

I will try to validate their ideas through my vulnerability.

Hopefully this first class will set the tone for the rest of the year. We’ll do a quick practice of writing, revising, and sharing. We will ask each other for input, critiques, and help. We’ll celebrate each other’s victories and vulnerabilities, and we’ll learn to be better readers, writers, and thinkers.

Wish us luck!

On Being Public Regarding My Reading Life

Summer is the best time.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the fall. Really. The beginning of the school year is so full of potential and possibilities, how could a teacher not love it?

But summer is traditionally my time for reading. And I get to read whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want. That is glorious.

Before I started teaching reader’s workshop, I didn’t worry about what I was reading. I read a ton of brainless detective fiction and thrillers all summer long, and I loved it. And I won’t apologize for it.

But no one was asking me what I was reading, and I didn’t have my students in mind. It wasn’t expected that I would talk to my students about my reading life, and even rarer that a student would ask about it. It’s wild to think about now; I don’t understand that as an English teacher, as a person who loves literature, I wasn’t a book pusher. I was an assignment giver. Erg. 

Things are different now. Better.

I’m a book pusher, and boy does it feel good.

Now that I’m teaching workshop, I can’t help but think about my students as I pick up a book and begin to read. Is it a great first sentence? Could I book talk this one? How about putting it on a themed list?

Which means no more mindless thrillers… nothing too gruesome, nothing that I wouldn’t want to go public about.

A year ago I might have balked at the idea of this – that I was supposed to report back to teenagers regarding my reading life.

But now, I can’t wait to share it!

I’ve read thirteen books so far this summer, and it’s only July. I could have read more, I’m sure, but some summers I’ve read less. I call it a win, especially because I can talk to my students about (nearly) all of the books I have read.

I started with Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton. My husband had read it and recommended it to me, and when I got to my parents’ house in Oregon, my mother recommended it to me. How could I not with these two recommendations?

I know I’ve got some students who will enjoy it based on the fact that they loved Jurassic Park and Sphere, and it’s nice to have that “in” with some historical fiction, which can be a hard sell.

IMG_1405Next I read All the Light We Cannot See. It was a book club selection more than a year ago, and I somehow skipped it. How glad I am that I picked it up and tried it this summer. This time, I recommended it to my husband, and he loved it too. I look forward to sharing this title with students – watching the different stories converge was both fun and tense.

After that, I listened to Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. It was glorious. I was on a five hour solo drive in my convertible, driving through Oregon’s forests and high desert. I know that under these circumstances, any book would be fantastic, but honestly,  this title is a winner. I’m more likely to recommend it to colleagues than teenagers, but I’ll happily talk about it with students. It made me laugh out loud, and it often hit way too close to home. It has one of the best first paragraphs I’ve heard in a while.

IMG_1490My next book was a YA, Openly Straight, recommended to me by my son. I’d wanted to read this one for a few months, and was happy to have a book to discuss with him. It is a great story about a teenager trying to figure out who he is and who he wants the world to see him as. Any teenager, any human, can relate to this struggle. It’s a beautiful book. I can’t wait to recommend it to my students.

IMG_1507Next was The Crossover, part of the Book Love Foundation Summer Book Club. I have to admit that I don’t always love books about sports, nor do I usually pick up books written in verse. This book pushed my thinking, and I look forward to sharing and discussing it with my students next year. Now I understand why a few of my ninth grade boys loved it last year.

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I read The Silver Star by Jeanette Wells next, a book I didn’t even know existed until I found it on the shelves of a used book store. It reminds me of The Death of Santini and The Great Santini, and I think it will make a nice bridge of a book for some of my students who loved The Glass Castle, and might be able to get into some of Pat Conroy’s heavier novels. What I love about these books is that I can talk to my students about the power of writing. These children grew up in wildly difficult circumstances, and through writing, they found success, they found their own paths, and are now respected authors, and most importantly, respected and loved humans.

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Since The Silver Star, I finished In The Woods by Tana French. I had read and book talked The Secret Place last year, and one of my freshman girls put in a ton of effort to get through it. I was proud of her and she was thrilled that she finished it. I look forward to talking to her about the rest of the series, and I think other students who love detective fiction will like this set of books.

IMG_1933After In the Woods I read Tigers in Red Weather, which was a really fun, quick read, and had some great nods towards The Great Gatsby. I also read spy novel Legends by Robert Littlel. One of my favorite summer reads is The Company, so I thought I’d try something new by the same author. I wasn’t disappointed. I also re-read A Prayer for Owen Meany. This is another title from the Book Love Foundation Book Club, and it shouldn’t need much introduction. If you haven’t read it, drop everything and read it. It’s that good. It also has a great first sentence.

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Orphan Train is a book I finished today and can’t wait to book talk. It references Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre, it’s a quick read, and super-compelling. The main character feels alone, alienated, and wants to find a safe place in this world. I think all of us have felt that way in one sense or another, so it will be an easy “sell” to my students.

I’m still reading The Liar’s Club. For some reason it’s a slower read for me, so I keep going back to it between books. Maybe it’s the thread that will tie my summer reading together, I’m not sure. I like it, and it reminds me of The Glass Castle. I think I have some tenth grade girls who love a good memoir, so this will be a great match.

The last book on my list is the one I probably won’t talk to students about. It’s Find Her by Lisa Gardner. I like the author, and I’ve read several of her books over the last few summers. I’ll keep reading her books, no doubt. But reading it also made me realize that I don’t want to read the gruesome, serial killer thriller type of book as much I used to. I like detective D. D. Warren. I like her back story, and I generally really like detective fiction. It’s just that I don’t feel as comfortable talking to students about it as I do the other books I’ve read this summer.

Here’s the hopeful takeaway from this blog post: As I’ve chosen books to read this summer, I’ve felt that I would be a bit more public about my choices than I was in the past.

I think the same is true for students who are in a reader’s workshop class, and that’s the really important part. Maybe it’s too obvious, but when people – students, teachers, whoever – feel that they are going to talk about what they are doing, when they feel that someone else cares, they are likely to do better.

Last year, I watched my students stretch from middle school level books to young adult books to contemporary fiction. It’s not simply because they felt a sense of confidence. They also felt compelled to share with others, and that brings its own internal push.

I’m feeling that internal push to go public with my reading life.

I think the workshop model does that to all of us, and it makes us better readers. It makes us better thinkers. By being better thinkers, we become better readers.

I think going “public” is going to be really important. I’ll be careful, respectful of my students’ privacy, of course, but talk is what it’s going to be all about next year. Talk about books, about what we are reading.

I think we should all go as public as possible, because our next reads lists will become phenomenal.