Many teachers require that students have independent reading material, yet too many students have put reading on the back burner by the time they reach middle school. Sports, social media, and friends have become choice activities for tweens. If you want to help students find good books, it is important that you be familiar with what’s out there. I read 50–100 school library books per year to familiarize myself with new authors or new series. If you do not have time to do this, your school librarian may be the person to ask for assistance.
When a nonreader comes in needing to check out a book, oftentimes I hear, “I hate reading.” I assure the student I will do my best to find a book they will not only get through but may even enjoy. I have a series of questions to ask to help them find a good fit:
- What was the last book you read or a teacher read aloud to you, even if it was back in third grade?
- What activities do you enjoy? Sports? Gaming? Animals? . . .
- What TV shows or movies do you like?
- Do you think you are a good reader or is reading difficult for you?
Based on the student’s answers, I’ll pull a book at a time from the shelves and give little book talks. One sure way to pique a student’s interest is to admit that I’ve found a certain book too gory, too scary, or too sad. Some students take it as a challenge. They want to come back and let me know they were tough enough to take it, even if I wasn’t.
A final and important step is to give the potential reader permission to abandon the book they check out. I tell them that if they don’t like the book after a few chapters, they should feel free to bring it back and let me know why they didn’t like it. I tell them life is too short to read a book that isn’t a good fit when there are so many great fits out there.
Success happens often, and I have actually helped some students discover an author or an entire series they will devour. As I passed a tough boy in the hallway recently, he stopped me. “Mrs. Mosbacher! Wait!” I stood patiently while he dug through his locker. He pulled out Legend by Marie Lu and said, “This is the best book I’ve ever read!” He smiled and gave a little whoop when I told him there is a sequel.