Building a Community of Readers in the High School Classroom

This past week my high school held a professional development summit with two other neighboring high schools. It was a fun way to kick off the school year since teachers had the opportunity to learn from and present to other teachers throughout the day. My friends, Lindsay Grady and Amanda Canterbury and I ran a two part session about the importance of a reading community in the high school classroom.

Lindsay, Amanda, and I are voracious YA readers and love fostering a love of reading in our students. It was my principal who suggested that I put something together for the summit; it was just the nudge I needed to make an inkling of an idea blossom into something more. I had been thinking about creating a PD session that was interactive and revolved around reading, but I wasn’t sure how or where to make that happen. Once my principal mentioned the summit, I knew I wanted Lindsay and Amanda working with me.

Lindsay's Read AloudSince each session ran for 50 minutes, we decided to run it in two parts. The first part would be the why we do what we do and the second part would be the how we do what we do. We focused on read alouds, book talks, a book pass, independent reading projects, and sustained silent reading (SSR). During the first part we explained what each of these are and tips/tricks/books to use. When we moved into the second session the teachers experienced a read aloud, book talks and a book pass. It was relaxed and really fun. Lindsay read aloud the first twelve pages of Stolen by Lucy Christopher, which will definitely hook readers. Amanda book talked Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby and shared why it made her cry. I book talked All the Rage by Courtney Summers and read the first five pages when Romy provides readers with a powerful flashback. We also shared pictures of our classroom libraries, book displays, and different projects students have created in response to reading. The three of us also made sure to express the importance of CHOICE; our students wouldn’t be nearly as excited about reading without choice.Amanda's Book Talk

As the three of us worked on creating this session, I couldn’t help but think about how powerful it would be if the attending teachers could leave with books to add to their classrooms. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and reach out to a few publishers for help. I’ve requested books from publishers, but I have never requested enough books to hand out to a large group before. I didn’t know what to expect and I felt awkward sending the emails. My friends, YA publishers are awesome and generous. Thanks to their overwhelming kindness, the teachers who attended our session left with roughly 10 books each! At one point this summer, I think I had close to 400 books in my basement.

Bags of BooksGrocery bags of books lined the front of the room where we presented. We waited until the end of the second session to surprise the teachers with the books and I really wish I would have taken a picture of their faces. They were SO EXCITED when we told them what was in the bags! A few were excited that the books Amanda and I book talked were included. For the rest of the day teachers approached us to thank us or to say that they were disappointed that they missed our session. It’s priceless knowing that those books are going to reach students across three school districts. I’ve tweeted it a few times already, but I’m going to say it again: Thank you, HarperCollins, Little, Brown & Co, St. Martin’s Griffin, and Candlewick Press!!!

Summit Books

I uploaded the presentation we created onto Slideshare and am including the link here if you’d like access to it. Lindsay, Amanda, and I included a link to Penny Kittle’s Book Love Grant and to ALAN’s website. We also have links to class library book recommendations, graphic novel recommendations (after it was requested by an attending teacher), and read aloud recommendations. If part of the presentation doesn’t work or if images are missing, please let me know.


  1. This is AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing, it sounded like a powerful PD experience. I am a history teacher, and my project this year is to incorporate more literature into my classroom. You have given me LOTS of inspiration!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m transitioning into a middle school reading position, and this is exactly the type of thing I want to do. Great links also! To your graphic novel list, I’d add Brody’s Ghost, by Mark Crilley, Sunny SIde Up, by Jennifer L. and Matt Holm, Lewis & Clark, by Nick Bertozzi, Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson, Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, the graphic novel version of Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time, and Stitches by David Small.

  3. I’m looking for high school teachers/librarians who would like to win t-shirts and paperbacks of my recently published young adult novel, “Paper Girl.” Please visit my blog or comment here to enter the contest. Provide your city, state, and the name of your school.

    One teacher in Tennessee tells me that “Paper Girl” has changed the way she views her students. Please help me spread the word about this story of 15-year-old Nikki, who is suffocating in her parents’ plans for her life – plans which have everything to do with appearances and nothing to do with who she is. As the new girl at Tulakes High, Nikki doesn’t fit in with “the populars,” and she stumbles upon the music of a dead rock star (Kurt Cobain). Cobain and his forbidden music become Nikki’s solace from the overbearing control of her mother, and Nikki will stop at nothing to pursue it. Shocking twists will have you cheering for Nikki on every page.


  1. […] and uncertainty, but it always leads to reading. This year, after facilitating this session about creating a community of readers in the high school classroom, five other teachers in my building facilitated book passes this […]

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