Books that hook "I hate reading" students
This year has been exceptional in the matching kids to book department. It's not unusual that I have success with a lot of kids, but this year I've had far more success than usual, thanks to some phenomenal authors and books. Out of all my classes, every single student (for real, EVERY. SINGLE. STUDENT.) has found at least one book that has opened the door to reading for them.
The list below are the books that have had the most success with the hardest to reach readers. I narrowed it down to the top three that are getting my students reading right now. If you don't have them, you NEED these books:
The book is small and big all at the same time. My students who read this book couldn't stop thinking about it when it was over. I ran into Anthony in the library one day, a month after he had finished it. He was asking our media specialist if they had another copy; he needed to read it again. Talk about a book hangover. Thank you, Gary Schmidt.
When I heard Jason Reynolds speak at NCTE in November, he talked about the problem our society has with allowing people (and kids in particular) to express big emotions - fear, anger, sadness. We often try to get people to stop feeling these, or to contain their feelings. This is something my students know well. They totally relate to Will and his desire for revenge. They totally relate to the pain of loss. And this book, lets them talk about feelings and choices and living in a society that is filled with fear. Keep writing, Jason Reynolds. Please.
My students also savor the message of hope embedded in Dear Martin. White students, slammed with the injustice of racial profiling in Chapter 1, have said they finally get it and see the need for change. Girls have explored stereotypes and fears through SJ, and like SJ, think it's wrong. And, student after student has seen that if Justyce McAllister can be strong in the face of his situation, they can be too. On his final exam in December, Daniel said that Dear Martin was the best book he'd ever read because it showed him "that even through all the hate and racial profiling, you can do anything you put your mind to." All the love to Nic Stone, for real.
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Don't ever let anyone tell you that there are just some kids who don't like reading. No. There are just some kids that haven't found the right book for this particular time in their life. I am so grateful that publishers are finally seeing some of the holes in YA lit and are publishing more books that represent real kids. The depth of diverse books is still way too thin - I can't yet create book stacks that speak to all kids' experiences. But I am hopeful that if publishers see what real kids want and love, we'll see a bigger variety and all our kids will feel included.
Add to my list, readers! What other books are your resistant, reluctant readers devouring that I need in my classroom library?
Happy Sunday, Everyone!