Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Best Book List EVER!

     At the end of each school year, a handful of students -- prompted by their parents, most likely -- will ask me for a summer reading list.  The good news?  They intend to read over the summer!  The bad news?  They've made it through the entire school year without acquiring a crucial academic skill:  How to Choose a Book You Will Enjoy!

     Don't get me wrong.  Certain types of book lists -- The Nerdy Book Club's Top Ten lists, for example -- can provide great starting points in a kid's hunt for a satisfying read.  Last year, a rough-and-tumble sixth-grade boy was surprised to find his reading niche in The Nerdy Book Club's Top Ten Crying Books.  Go figure.


     In general, though, I find it more effective to teach my students various strategies for finding books suited to their unique skill set and interests.  Here's a video for introducing them to the process:  How to Choose a Great Book!


     And that's just for starters!  Eventually, you'll want to impart valuable nuggets such as these:  "Multiple copies of a library book mean it's really popular!  So many kids requested it that the librarian ordered extra copies." * and "Always look inside the book.  It's okay if you still want to read books with pictures and large typeface."  The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Jeff Kinney's stroke of genius, fly off the shelves in middle school libraries, straight into the hands of readers who just aren't ready for small text.   (Noticing there was a fortune to be made with the "big text, little pictures" format, other authors began to emulate it:  the Middle School , Dork Diaries, and Big Nate series -- to name just a few.)

     It's equally important for students to maintain a "Want to Read" book list throughout the year.  Make sure everyone sets up that page right away in his composition book.  Before, during, and after viewing a book trailer or holding a "Book Buzz" session, remind the class to write down titles of any books they find appealing.  Prior to Library Day, have the kids look over their "Want to Read" lists and make note of any book(s) they want to snag.  

     As the year progresses, teachers lucky enough to have Destiny Quest in their school library can show students how to keep a digital "Want to Read" list.  BiblioNasium, a similar online app, offers that same capability free of charge for home-schooled students as well as kids in private schools.

BiblioNasium "Shelves"

    After nine months of viewing book trailers, browsing library shelves, and discussing books with peers, each student's "Want to Read" list then becomes their best summer reading list ever, one they custom-designed for themselves.

* Basic Teaching Precept #2:  No matter how obvious something seems to you,
                                               at least one student won't "get it" without direct
                                               instruction.