Are Teen Girls Seeing Themselves Reflected in What They Read?

Back in March, Kelly at Stacked wrote a blog post about why it’s important to talk about girls reading. I read this and it unsettled me. Instantly I began wondering if I’m doing enough for the girls in my classroom. If I’m focusing too much on the boys and their reading. If I’m reading enough books that will resonate with all of my girls. I’m thankful that I read Kelly’s post because while I know that I truly am thinking about ALL of my students while I read and when I make reading choices, I realized that maybe I need to be a little more focused.

Something that Kelly pointed out that I hadn’t really thought about before is the large amount of attention we pay to our boy readers. Educators are rightfully concerned about their reading abilities and their (general) lack of interest in reading. I have an entire blog page devoted to Books Guys Dig. I’ve written posts about books that hook my boy readers. When I choose a read aloud, I choose something gender neutral. Is this wrong? No. But her post made me realize that we don’t appear to be focusing this much attention on the girls in our classroom.

I sent Kelly an email after reading her post thanking her for bringing this to my attention. It ended up turning into a lengthy stream of emails as we discussed our thoughts on the issue. Eventually I decided that I should poll the girls in my classroom to find out what they think about reading, themselves in terms of reading, gender, etc. Kelly and I constructed a survey with six questions for my girls to answer.

A couple notes about the survey and what my girls said. First, I have mostly seniors, so that’s where the majority of these responses are coming from. Second, the required reading material in our curriculum offers little to no choice and sticks primarily with the classics.

I’m going to have each question in bold and a sampling of their responses will follow each question. I’m not including all of their responses to all of the questions because this post would never be finished.

1. What book(s) have you seen yourself in? Why?

  • “I am currently reading Insurgent and can see myself in the main character Tris because as she goes into her new faction, she separates from her family and all she knows. She is excited and terrified by this, as I am about going to college.”
  • Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant–Tris reminds me of myself because I feel like I’m different from a lot of people and wouldn’t be categorized into one section.”
  • “Hunger Games because Katniss likes to be independent and do things herself and that’s how I am.”
  • Something Like Fate–same situation & Pivot Point–has an indecisive feel to it and that’s how I am.”
  • “I see myself in books where the girl is troubled and questioning the things around her.”
  • “I’ve never really seen myself in a book because when I read it’s to get away from where I am or what’s going on.”
  • The Impossible Knife of Memory–similar home life w/dad.”
  • Forever–she is in love and really cares but in the end it’s realistic. She doesn’t end up with him and her life moves on. & To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before–caring about someone so much yet they have no clue.”
  • “I could relate to Breathing Underwater because I have known people in that situation.”
  • “I really connected to Perks of Being a Wallflower because it was about the awkwardness of high school. I also related a lot to Pattyn in Burned because I like how she feels her life is valuable and she can do more than people think. Also Alaska because she’s bad*ss! (Looking for Alaska)”
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s a coming of age story and the main character finds himself. I have really come into myself this year.”
  • Beautiful Disaster–a girl trying to come out of her shell, falls for the bad boy.”
  • Beautiful by Amy Reed–not to this extreme but I have changed myself because I wanted to fit in.”
  • If I Lie by Corrine Jackson. I only really saw myself similar to the character because she was in a relationship with a marine that was going through boot camp like my boyfriend was doing at the same time I was reading it.”
  • “All of Miranda Kenneally’s books relate to me because her girl characters seem to act/like the things I do.”
  • Rival. It’s about teenage girls and their drama. There’s always drama in girls’ lives.”
  • “I read Bittersweet and I saw myself in her because she was trying to figure out her life.”
  • “I like upbeat, positive novels as well as romance novels. One of my favorites was The Fault in Our Stars. Even in a sad situation, I thought it was a happy story line.”
  • “I’ve seen myself in Reality Boy because I have a sibling that I absolutely can’t stand.”
  • “There have been quite a few Sarah Dessen books that I have strongly related to and see myself in the girls’ shoes and even them in mine.”
  • “Uninvited, a couple characters in Ellen Hopkins’ books, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the Uglies, The Book Thief. I feel connected due to the outcasted and imaginative feel.”

2. In which book(s) haven’t you seen yourself? What was missing?

  • Hush, Hush because I thought the main character Nora acted stupid at times and seemed oblivious to the danger she put herself in. She was too much of a damsel in distress.”
  • “I really see myself in most books I read, other than the ones I read at school. They never pull me in enough.”
  • “Books I haven’t seen myself in are books that are all love story or books that have lots of dramatic, cliquey girls. I try not to get involved with that stuff so I don’t relate to them at all.”
  • “I tend not to see myself in books where the girl is having the perfect life with lots of friends and does whatever she wants.”
  • Mortal Instruments–Clary seemed to need Jace to survive. I would prefer her to be able to be alone.”
  • Thin Space–it was cool but wasn’t something I would see myself doing or even being real.”
  • Across the Universe, that book is just not a book you can relate to. I’ve never been in a situation like that and the character doesn’t show teenage thoughts.”
  • “I didn’t connect to Bella from Twilight because I wouldn’t sacrifice so much for one guy, love the books though. Also I don’t relate to sports books in general cause I hate sports.”
  • Beautiful by Amy Reed. It was a good book but I lost the sense of self with the main character. She really didn’t know who she was.”
  • Love & Leftovers by Sarah Tregay–She was kind of two-faced when it came to her guys.”
  • “The books we read in school. I really don’t think anybody can relate to them, making them boring for us to read (or leading us not to read them at all).”
  • I read While He Was Away and could not relate at all to the girl or her situation. The character was missing any interesting feelings. It was boring for me.”
  • “I can’t relate to books that are sci-fi or fantasy because I don’t like the unrealistic factor in it.”
  • “In any books that aren’t from a girl’s point of view I haven’t really seen myself.”
  • “I don’t like dark plot lines. I tried reading The Hunger Games but couldn’t get into it. I don’t like action novels.”
  • “In Sweethearts, I didn’t see myself because the main character changed herself for the people around her.”

3. What do you like to see in girl characters? Please explain and provide examples if possible.

  • “Strength (mental & physical), different sexuality (the battle of it), strong willed, loving, can take care of themselves, loyal, stubborn”
  • “I like to see well-rounded girl characters: Tris in Divergent, Hazel in TFiOS, Alaska in Looking for Alaska.”
  • “In girl characters I like to see them falling in love because I enjoy reading about that. Or about girls breaking out of their shell because it’s kinda like me.”
  • “I like girl characters who are independent and strong. I like when the girls are intelligent and always thinking of the possibilities ahead.”
  • “I like to see a sense of independence and outgoing girls. I want to see girls that have gone above male stereotypes and made something of themselves.”
  • “Girls who are tough and can handle being by themselves. I Am Number Four–all the females can handle being alone. Actually they are really the ones who take control.”
  • “I like to see girl characters that can hold their ground and be equal to men.”
  • “I like them to be independent and hard working. They make things happen for themselves without much help. It’s motivating to read about that.”
  • “I like when girls are less popular or attractive yet still accomplish what they put their minds to.”
  • “More down to earth love stories.”
  • “I like unsure girls with new experiences. The Embrace series & The Catastrophic History of You and Me
  • “I really like love stories, so I like to see a girl character that can change a boy’s life for the better or vice versa.”
  • “I like characters that are sporty but romantic or live life on the line like Whitley in A Midsummer’s Nightmare. I can relate to these characters or relate them to people I know.”
  • “I like to see girl characters that are independent and strong. Girls that are more interested in sports or nature rather than the normal girly things.”
  • “Girls who are carefree or romantic and not too emotional.”
  • “I like to see girly girls but can be tough when they need to be.”
  • “I like seeing strong independent girls. Sometimes it’s okay to be ‘rescued’ but sometimes it’s nice to have a character that takes charge and can fend for herself. Times have changed so it’s nice to see how women are becoming more confident in themselves.”
  • “Girls that are in love or were in love and they solve their personal or internal issues on their own.”
  • “I like to see sassy, independent and smart female characters. I like the girls in the Vampire Diaries.”

4. What kind(s) of girls would you love to see in the books you’re reading that you haven’t seen before? Please be as specific as possible.

  • “I would like to see girls do martial arts or swordplay. I think those are things I haven’t see girls do in books.”
  • “Most books I’ve read have that strong female lead, right next to the male lead. Honestly, I want to read more books about a soft sensitive boy that’s searching for love instead of the female.”
  • “Girls that have no need for someone to constantly rescue them and maybe are constantly rescuing someone else.”
  • “I want to see girls who are techy and are journalists. I’ve never read a book about them. Same with girls who go away to college, including the process of getting into college.”
  • “Girls that aren’t dramatic and don’t worry so much about guys because books like that get on my nerves.”
  • “I would love to read a book where the girl is really into music. I feel like there aren’t enough stories where the girl likes to make music, listen to music, etc.”
  • “I would like to see a girl who takes it upon herself to protect others, like Katniss, but without a love interest/triangle thing. Preferably in a dystopian government setting.”
  • “I would love to see girl characters that are maybe more outspoken & fiery instead of the typical quiet but intelligent character I constantly see.”
  • “I want to see girls not always having a male base in their life.”
  • “Ones that don’t take people’s crap yet is still a loving and kind person deep down. The type that truly doesn’t care but deep down has a lot of love to give and get.”
  • “I wanna see girls that aren’t ‘strong’ like every girl character is nowadays. Not every girl is strong. I wanna see girls that have weaknesses or need a man. Real girls.”
  • “I would like to see female athletes in books because there are more female sports players now-a-days. I think this might allow us to relate to them and possibly be hooked on that book.”
  • “I love sporty outgoing girls (like me). I like the girls with conflicts with relationships because I enjoy seeing how people solve their problems.”
  • “Girls that are more down to earth or maybe more athletic.”
  • “I would love to see a girl that is more adventurous than normal. It would be cool to see a female character that has more power over a male as well.”
  • “Funny girls that tell it the way it is to other characters.”
  • “A shy girl who learns how to break out of her shell.”
  • “I feel like sometimes girls are always portrayed as not a ‘nice’ character or something is wrong with them. So I think just having a ‘normal’ girl character in a book would be nice.”
  • “I would like to see maybe Gypsie girls or Native American books with women in them, or possibly mermaids.”
  • “More sporty girls. Like not cheerleading, but like basketball or track and field.”

5. Have you seen yourself in any books that are required reading for school? If so, which book(s)? For which class did you read the book?

**Overwhelmingly I received various types of the answer “No” to this question.”**

  • “I don’t know. I think I could have seen myself in the girl that died in Fahrenheit 451. I read that for Lit & Comp I Honors.”
  • “Maybe The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, and To Kill a Mockingbird. I read them for English class.”
  • “In The Stranger I felt a connection with him because I share some of the same views on life.”
  • “There have been books I’ve seen myself in, in small ways, but I can’t remember what they were.”
  • “I guess that I could kind of relate to the book Siddhartha that we read for LC3 because it focuses on the idea of him basically finding himself which I could relate to.”
  • “I think I see myself in The Great Gatsby, in both Daisy and Gatsby.”
  • “I liked Siddhartha (lit junior year). I felt he really followed his dreams and learned from his mistakes.”
  • “No, usually the books we read at school don’t relate to high schoolers.”
  • “No, they’re all older books and are not really targeted towards girls.”
  • “Not really. I normally don’t like the books we are required to read.”
  • “Nope, we mostly read books that focus on boys.”

6. Have you read any assigned books that are written by a female author or that features a female that sticks out to you? Please explain and provide examples.

**Overwhelmingly I received various types of the answer “No” to this question.**

  • The Scarlet Letter and To  Kill a Mockingbird. Both have a strong female lead who’s life has been shakened and they stick through and survive.”
  • “I don’t think I have. Most assigned books are written by guys, I think.”
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee with Scout. She was young but adventurous and strong in her beliefs.”
  • “Lady Macbeth really sticks out in my mind. She was a power hungry woman doing anything and everything to get what she wanted.”
  • “I’m not sure I’ve read any with a female author…”
  • “Many of the novels I have been assigned feature a male rather than a female, and the author is more commonly a male.”
  • “Not really. I don’t like almost any school assigned books. I’m probably one of the only girls that hates Romeo & Juliet.”
  • “Honestly, I cannot think of a good assigned reading book written by a girl or about a girl. The only book I can think of with a large girl character is Romeo & Juliet. And Juliet was a manipulable character.”

March is Reading Month

Just a warning–this post might be lengthy and might be all over the place. I have a lot of ideas and lots of excitement about this month.

If you aren’t aware of this, I started my 7th year of teaching this year in a new district. My new district has a certified media specialist whereas my last district lost ours and decided not to replace her. Working in a district again with a media specialist has been really nice because she and I work together to encourage reading.

I’ve been encouraging my students to read since the beginning of the school year like I usually do. This year my students, my seniors in particular, have responded really well to my efforts. A friend of mine who teaches math in my building approached me about helping her promote literacy in her math class. She’s reading Subjects Matter by Harvey Daniels and wants to incorporate his ideas. I love her enthusiasm, but I also understand how tough it is to get students and teachers alike to see literacy as important outside of an English classroom. This is incredibly disappointing, but it’s also something that I’m trying to conquer because literacy is important in every aspect of school and life. I gave her some ideas to get started and also asked one of my friends, Brian Wyzlic, for ideas as well since he’s promoting literacy in his math classroom.

After talking with my friend about this, I spoke with our media specialist, Rachael, about it. I wanted to know if she had any ideas as well. This sparked a conversation about March is Reading Month because she’s been thinking about how to get the school involved. Perfect timing, right? Rachael and I started brainstorming and came up with a list of ideas. She spent the day talking with a few other teachers in our building to see what they thought. More ideas were added to the list. I can’t really explain how excited I am about this month.

My reading life door this year.

My reading life door this year.

Switching gears for a minute. Earlier in the week I spoke with my principal about my Literacy Lockers idea. I wanted to get my feet wet this year before approaching him about the idea and I wanted to give my students a chance to get used to me and get used to doing so much reading. My principal loves the idea and he loves my reading life door (the picture that inspired me to do this). He asked me how we can get more teachers creating reading life doors and posting what they’re reading outside their classrooms. My wheels started turning and I wasn’t even thinking about March is Reading Month. After a department meeting I approached one of my department members who also teaches social studies. He told me that he was already talking to his class about creating a reading life door and loves the idea! He asked me to send him some tips so he can make his similar in format to mine while putting his own spin on it. I then approached two more department members and their responses were positive. Unfortunately, my students aren’t as excited about creating Literacy Lockers, but I haven’t given up on them. Quite a few of them are participating, but I’d love to have more take part. I think once they see their classmates doing this, and if more teachers have their classes do this, they’ll feel more comfortable about it.

Anyway, the reading life door conversations fit in nicely with my conversation with Rachael about March is Reading Month ideas. She included that idea along with the Literacy Lockers idea in her email to the school inviting everyone to participate. We also invited teachers and students to submit their favorite lines from books so we can create twirly things (a very technical term) to hang from the ceiling of the library with the book cover on one side and the quote on the other. We asked the math department to graph the amount of books read and/or the pages read during the month of March that can be scrolled outside the media center. After reading the Nerdy Book Club post about picture books and illustration mentors, I sent the link to Rachael with the idea that the art teachers could do something similar. Or maybe the art teachers could have students recreate book covers. Rachael sent her invitation email at the end of the day on Friday and she received responses right away. Our teacher who runs the news cast wants to run a “Caught You Reading” feature. I’m going to ask our administrators to create reading life doors. We would love to see the secretaries post what they’re reading on their desks or create a reading life space on the outside of their desks.

This coming week may be ACT/MME week (state testing week), but I couldn’t be more excited about it. I can’t wait to find out what other teachers say in reply to Rachael’s email. I can’t wait to talk to teachers and others about their ideas and help make those ideas happen. I can’t wait to hear what my students think about this.

We’r still coming up with ideas and would love your opinions! I hope everyone is gearing up to read and celebrate March is Reading Month! As these ideas come to fruition, I’ll be posting about this again to update everyone.

Bulletin Board Book Recommendations

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a difficult time switching my bulletin boards throughout the school year. It often becomes one more thing on my never ending to-do list, but I act if inspiration strikes. Yesterday I was inspired.

I only have two mid-sized bulletin boards in my classroom so I try to utilize those spaces as much as possible. On one of my bulletin boards I started the year with a Wonder-inspired Choose Kind board where my students pinned moments of kindness. Since I’m done reading Wonder out loud I knew it was time for a change. The other day I surveyed my students on their favorite books read last semester and the books they’d like to read this semester. There were quite a few common threads between my classes and it’s been on my mind since I have a limited amount of those particular books (think Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars). Anyway, I suddenly thought of an idea to hopefully remedy that situation yesterday during class. I decided to create a bulletin board recommending books.

Of course that’s not exactly a unique idea by any means, but I’m hoping it will be effective. A number of my students love Ellen Hopkins’ books and many have fallen in love with John Green this year. I also have more Divergent fans than I’ve had before. And as usual, I have many realistic fiction fans. So I broke my bulletin board up into four sections: books for Divergent fans, books for Ellen Hopkins fans, resilience lit, and books for John Green fans. I limited each recommendation space to six books. I have leftover paint chips that I used for my Choose Kind board, so I left those on the bulletin board ledge for my students to pin additional recommendations on the board. Already one of my seniors added two book recommendations to the Ellen Hopkins section.

Book Rec Bulletin Board

When I decided on the books to recommend I looked up lists online, asked a few of my students for their opinions, and also used my own book knowledge. My Divergent fans section includes recommendations for Blood Red Road by Moira Young, Enclave by Ann Aguirre, Legend by Marie Lu, Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Variant by Robison Wells, and Feed by M.T. Anderson (this isn’t part of a series, but it’s a good recommendations). My Ellen Hopkins recommendations include Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy, Clean by Amy Reed, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman, Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams, and Recovery Road by Blake Nelson. When choosing these books I considered writing style (two of these are verse novels) and primarily similar content. My resilience literature recommendations include Don’t Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles. This was a tough section for me to narrow down because I wanted to include novels written by A.S. King, Trish Doller, David Levithan, and so many more authors. For my John Green fans I recommended Winger by Andrew Smith, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. I was a little uncertain about these recommendations because all of these books are so different. But one of my John Green fans said I should include some of these titles because of the unexpected endings that she’s found in Green’s novels. I also considered similar characters and writing style. Regardless, I hope these recommendations will expand my students’ horizons.

I’d like to switch up this board a couple more times before the end of the school year. One of my classes of seniors has a large group of fantasy fans. I also have a number of students who want to read everything sports. And then there are my romance and mystery fans. And like I said before, I really hope my students will take part and add their own recommendations.

If you’ve created a bulletin board or book display like this one, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section. Was it successful? Did it promote discussion? Were reading ladders created?

My Favorite Picture Books Read in 2013

I know my blog is primarily about young adult lit (and teaching), but as a teacher I read a number of picture books this year. I’ve discovered that I love picture books and that I can use them in my classroom. The best part of reading them this year was sharing them with my sophomores last school year so they could read them to a classroom of third grade students.

I am in no way a picture book guru; I’m very much a novice. I hope to read more picture books in 2014. I might even set a goal for myself :) Anyway, I decided to narrow down the books I read to my top 5.

1. Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Goodreads): I’m really surprised more of my friends on Goodreads haven’t read this picture book yet; it’s absolutely beautiful. The images Collier created to compliment the story are stunning. The text combined with those images pulled at my heart, but the note at the end of the book sent me over the edge. I cried.

2. The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Thomas Docherty (Goodreads): This picture book has so many elements that I love. It rhymes, it has vibrant illustrations, and the story is sweet and full of heart. This showed up on my radar a few times so I was excited to see it when I was at Barnes & Noble not too long ago. I read it in the store and smiled the entire time. Not only do I want to share this with students, but I will absolutely need a copy for my future children. It’s adorable and makes for a great read aloud.

3. The Day of the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Goodreads): I love the concept for this picture book and can see it being used in a variety of ways as a mentor text. This would be a great book to read aloud to students and have them create their own letters written by crayons (or another object). The letters and illustrations really make this book stand out.

4. Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Goodreads): What a fun way to teach punctuation to beginning writers! I love the humor, the power of the illustrations, and how they affect the meaning.

5. The Chicken Problem by Jennifer Oxley, illustrated by Billy Aronson (Goodreads): Apparently I like humorous picture books because most of the books on this list are cute and funny. The Chicken Problem is yet another adorably humorous story. It even incorporates math! There are lots of great details in this picture book like math problems to make up the page numbers (page two says 1+1=2) and the fact that the background is graph paper. I read this to one of my classes last school year and they really enjoyed it.

Honorable Mentions: Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein, and Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations for Divergent/The Hunger Games Fans

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This year more than any other year, my students have been voraciously reading dystopian stories. It only took a couple of readers and my fangirling over Allegiant to turn Divergent by Veronica Roth into a huge hit in my classroom and throughout the high school. I have a very long list of students waiting for all three books, so I’ve been busy recommending other titles that might help them get through the waiting period for Divergent. I also have quite a few students asking for books that are like The Hunger Games trilogy.

Since today’s Top Ten Tuesday post is all about recommendations, I decided to compile a list of books I’ve been recommending to my students who are looking for book like Divergent and The Hunger Games.

For the students who want an awesome heroine…

Enclave by Ann Aguirre (Goodreads) & Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Goodreads)–Both heroines are tough and all-around awesome. I’ve gone so far as to say that Saba from Blood Red Road makes Katniss look like a wimp.

For the students who crave adventure & suspense…

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads), Legend by Marie Lu (Goodreads), Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (Goodreads)–I haven’t recommended Legend as often this year as I normally would because I’m going to read it out loud when my seniors are reading 1984. Quite a few of my seniors have been racing through the Unwind series.

For the students who want to experience a futuristic world gone wrong…

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert (Goodreads), Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Goodreads), The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads)–Showing the trailers for The Fifth Wave made this an instant hit.

For the students who want some romance…

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Goodreads), Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Goodreads)–Some of my students have a tough time with the writing style in Shatter Me, but most of them can’t get enough of this series.

First Marking Period Favorites

We’re nearing the end of our first marking period (how did that happen?!), so I decided to make a list of the books my students have been reading the most. I have four sections of seniors (with class sizes around 34) and one class of sophomores (35 students).

My seniors in particular have been voracious readers. It’s been exciting watching them recommend and share books during class. Some of my sophomores have even come into class looking for particular books because they heard seniors talking about them. I hope all of this continues throughout the school year!

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga: This is one of the most popular books among my seniors right now. Our media specialist ordered three copies to try and keep up with the demand. She also ordered some copies of Game (the sequel) since it’s being read so much.

Divergent by Veronica Roth: This title started off pretty popular but once I came in with my copy of Allegiant and told them my reaction to it, my waiting list for Divergent grew even more.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak: I never expected this to be so popular but after one of my seniors walked into class saying that it changed his life, interest was immediately sparked.

Lessons From a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles: A couple of my senior girls picked this one up, but after I recommended it during Banned Books Week, even more students wanted to read it. Jumping Off Swings has been equally popular.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: I love how popular this book has become this year. One of my seniors just recommended it to another student in class and pointed out the Kirkus review blurb (“Stephen King ought to start looking over his shoulder.”) on the Girl of Nightmares cover.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: Nothing about the popularity of this title surprises me. :)

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick: My sophomores are loving this book right now.

In Honor by Jessi Kirby: I added this title to my road trip book display a few weeks ago and watched it become a big hit. I’m glad I have three copies of it because my senior girls LOVE it.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr: I’ve noticed that a few of the books that aren’t my favorites (Shut Out by Kody Keplinger, Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen) are often my girls’ favorites. Sweethearts was good, but I didn’t love it. My senior girls adore it. I think it’s been read by five or six girls already. Once they finish it, they usually pick up Story of a Girl or How to Save a Life.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott: I book talked this during Banned Books Week and all five of my copies were borrowed by my sophomores.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller: A couple of my senior boys read this at the beginning of the year (One was put off by the cover and felt awkward about it so we discussed it as a class) and enjoyed it. A couple of my senior and sophomore girls have read it now as well.

Eon by Alison Goodman: Eon has been read by a group of senior boys in one of my classes. In this class I have a large group of fantasy lovers and they’ve been passing books to each other as they finish them and move on in each series. So far they’ve been reading the Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld series, The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima series, and this one.

Ellen Hopkins and John Green: Pretty much all of the books by both authors have been huge hits this marking period.

Dead to You by Lisa McMann: My mystery fans have been all over this book. I have three copies and haven’t seen any of them for a while.

More Popular Titles:

  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • You by Charles Benoit
  • The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen
  • Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
  • Things I Can’t Forget by Miranda Kenneally

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Contemps I’d Love to Teach

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I’ve been really fortunate in the past few years to teach some great young adult novels. I’m teaching in a new district this year, and as far as I know, we don’t teach any young adult novels. Hopefully I can change that in the future :)  This list is going to be based on what I have taught and what I’d like to teach.

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)–This is a great book to pair with Of Mice and Men which my former district started doing a couple years ago.

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (Goodreads)–This is a fabulous book. Marcelo has Aspergers and sees the world in a completely different light than the average person. We paired this us up with To Kill a Mockingbird since both are coming of age novels.

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads)–This isn’t exactly realistic fiction since there’s an element of the supernatural, but it’s a fantastic book that I’d love to teach in a unit dealing with empathy.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time  Indian by Sherman Alexie (Goodreads)–This is a great book to teach when discussing racism, coming of age, and more. We also taught this with To Kill a Mockingbird.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Goodreads)–If you haven’t read Wonder yet, I really hope you do soon. This may be middle grade, but many of my sophomores read this last year and loved it. I’m reading it to my seniors and one class of sophomores this year at the start of the year to help build our classroom community. I have a bulletin board in my room with the words “Choose Kind” to add to our read aloud experience. I want my students to think about those two words inside and outside my room, so I have paint chips at the bottom of the board for them to write moments of kindness on and post on the bulletin board.  Wonder could be used in a bullying unit, in a community unit, etc.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Goodreads)–Again, this isn’t exactly realistic fiction, but it’s such an excellent, beautiful book. I’d love to teach this as an introduction to allegory before introducing my students to Lord of the Flies.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–There are multiple possibilities for the placement of Speak in schools. I’ve taught it to freshmen who were repeating a trimester of English 9, which went over very well. I’d also teach it with The Scarlett Letter or use it as a read aloud during that unit.

I would love to create a Young Adult Literature elective in my new district. Here are a few titles I would consider teaching since I love them, they have a strong message, strong characters, etc.

Winger by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)–There are so many reasons that I want to use this in a YA Lit class. So many.

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (Goodreads)–Astrid is a wonderful character. I love that this book speaks to the importance of not labeling people.

The Spectacular  Now by Tim Tharp (Goodreads)–I have mixed feelings overall about this book, but it’s an excellent example of a character with addiction. I think it would promote a wide variety of discussions in a YA Lit class.

Stock Your Shelves: Class Library Must-Have Titles

The start of a new school year is just around the corner, although for many of you it’s already started.  Whenever this time of year approaches I’m always making a list of books I need to buy for my classroom library.  I figured I’m not the only one, so I decided to make a list of books that I want to buy and that I recommend for a classroom library.  If you’d like additional title recommendations feel free to leave a comment.

Summer/Fall Releases:

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle (Goodreads)–This releases on August 20th August 27th (edited on 8/20, sorry for the mistake!), so I’ll have a review up shortly. Basically, this is all-around wonderful.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Goodreads)–This releases on Sept. 24th. I’ll have a review up on the Nerdy Book Club blog before the release and that same review will post here on the release date.  Trish Doller writes magic, people.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon (Goodreads)–Think The Fault in Our Stars from a funny guy’s point of view, yet totally standing apart from John Green’s hit. I know that might be confusing. This releases on Sept. 3rd.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider (Goodreads)–It’s an awful lot like Looking for Alaska, but not as sad (or at least I didn’t think so). Still, it has a different kind of voice and will appeal to teens.  This releases on August 27th.

Books with Guy Appeal:

Winger by Andrew Smith (Goodreads)–I want to buy multiple copies of this.

Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Goodreads)–A lot of my boys really like this book and the companion books. It’s a really funny, quick read.

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)–I’ve been raving about this book since before it was released in 2011.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker (Goodreads)–I still haven’t read this, but I have multiple copies because my boys in class LOVE it.

Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman (Goodreads)–This is a fantastic and realistic book about a boy in juvie.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga (Goodreads)–This is mysterious, funny, and features the son of a serial killer trying to help the police find a serial killer. Yep, it’s a hit with all of my students.

Verse Novels:

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder (Goodreads)–I recommend buying all of her books. This and Chasing Brooklyn are two of the most popular books in my room.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones (Goodreads)–This title has been around for a while. Every year it becomes a new favorite for many of my students.

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams (Goodreads)–This is a great title to recommend to your Ellen Hopkins fans.

Ellen Hopkins–ALL of her books are huge hits with my students.

Oldies by Goodies:

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads)–This released in 2007 and became popular again when its sequel Unwholly released last fall. The final book in the trilogy, UnSouled, releases on November 7th.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Goodreads)–Every time this releases with a new cover I buy it. It should be in every library.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (Goodreads)–This originally published in 1974 and I hook some pretty reluctant readers with it.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (Goodreads)–This was my first Sara Zarr book and my favorite until I read How to Save a Life. Sara Zarr writes wonderfully realistic stories.

Forever by Judy Blume (Goodreads)–For many of my girls, this is the book that turns them into readers.

Sci-Fi/Dystopian:

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman (Goodreads)–Time travel, ghosts, and so much more. This is science fiction at its best.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Goodreads)–I recommend this every year, multiple times a year. It’s amazing.

Legend by Marie Lu (Goodreads)–I love that this has two points of view and appeals to guys and girls. I’m planning on reading it to my seniors while we read 1984.

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (Goodreads)–Gamers will love this.

“Quiet” YA:

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner (Goodreads)–This wonderful book may not have received a lot of hype from its publishers, but so many of its readers love it. Plus it pairs perfectly with Of Mice and Men.

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Goodreads)–The main character is pregnant, but it’s more than a book about a pregnant teenager.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (Goodreads)–This book will resonate with so many teenage girls. It’s fantastic.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Goodreads)–All it took was one of my girls to read this and rave about it for it to become an instant hit in my classroom.

So. Much. Hype!:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Goodreads): I’ll admit it, I didn’t want to like this. But I really did and my students adore it. My students who didn’t like Looking for Alaska at all loved this.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Goodreads): I’ve replaced this book multiple times because it’s gone “missing” so often.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Goodreads)–One of my boys in class read this and loved it; one of my girls who reads “edgy” books read this and loved it. It’s an all-around winner.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads)–I haven’t finished reading this yet, but it went around my room a couple times before the school year ended. The boys who read it said it’s awesome.

YA Lit Trimester Project Examples

I’ve written about my YA Lit class plenty of times and discussed it on Twitter even more.  For a while I’ve been meaning to share some of my students’ trimester project examples, in particular their PowerPoints.  I’m finally sharing them!

I’m sharing a few examples of the posters they’ve created for various projects, and I’m also including a link to a post I wrote a couple years ago featuring some of their posters.  When I first started teaching this class I required some kind of a visual, which included the option to create a poster.  This past year (or maybe before this past year?) I tweaked the requirement and required that if a student is using a poster as his/her visual, there must be at least one poster per book (size is up them). The work has been much more thorough since changing that requirement.  The PowerPoints and/or Prezis are completely up to them in terms of how long they are.

One of my students, Jordin, read three of Lisa Schroeder’s books and created a poster for each book.  As you can see, she’s very crafty :)

Another student, Jessica, wanted to read mysteries so she read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Cryer’s Cross, and Bad Girls Don’t Die. I love her posters because they added details from the book and/or made them complementary to the book covers.

I also give my students the option to create book trailers for the books they read.  Here’s a post I wrote a couple years ago which features a few book trailers created by my students.

This is the post I wrote a couple years ago when I first started teaching the class.  These are project posters from my first two sections of YA Lit.  I’ve since told students that I’m over Nicholas Sparks and to choose different books and a different author ;)

And here are some PowerPoints that my students have made for their trimester projects…

These PowerPoints were originally made using Google Drive so unfortunately some of their effects, fonts, etc. didn’t transfer. The Maggie Stiefvater presentation lost the most; it even lost an entire picture on one of the last slides.  Also, the PowerPoint featuring all of the drawings of characters has pictures that are reversed; my student realized that but couldn’t get the pictures to scan normally.

Picture Book 10 for 10

PB 10 for 10

This is the fourth annual Picture Book 10 for 10 celebration, but it’s the first year I’m participating.  I didn’t really develop an appreciation for picture books until the past year or two, so my list of books to choose from is probably a little smaller than most.  Regardless, I’m definitely enjoying picture books now and enjoying sharing them with my high school students even more.

My list is primarily a list of picture books that I think are cute and/or enjoyed reading to my students because of their reactions.  I’d love to know which picture books you love using with your students, especially if you use them at the secondary level.

P.S.: I apologize for the size of the second set of book covers.  No matter what I do, I can’t get them smaller than that. At least they’re cute covers :)

Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (Goodreads)–I read this during my Masters children’s lit class and loved it.  I’m a cat person and love how adorable this kitten is.

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco (Goodreads)–I read this during my Masters reading clinic project at the end of our program. It fit perfectly with the nature of the work we were doing (working towards our Reading Specialist endorsement).  The story is so powerful and touching and it made me cry. I had to get it together before my case study student arrived. Sigh. I love this book.

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds (Goodreads)–This book is so much fun and so cute!  I LOVE the art and how it’s old school creepy in a very elementary school way.

The Chicken Problem by Jennifer Oxley (Goodreads)–The biggest reason I like this book so much is because of how my students reacted when I read it to them.  There’s a part in the book when Peg is singing a song or something, and even though I usually don’t actually sing anything in front of my students, I did for this group and they loved it.

Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw (Goodreads)–Again, it’s a cat thing.  Plus it’s brilliantly told in haiku which I loved reading to my students when we worked on haiku in class.

Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Goodreads)–This is so creative and makes me want to read more of her books. My kids thought it was adorable and they loved the illustrations.  It’s simply a delight to read.

The Chicken ProblemWon TonExclamation Mark

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin (Goodreads)–Brian Wyzlic made this book.  At an author signing he saw it on display and read it out loud to our group.  It was the best picture book read aloud I’ve heard in a VERY long time.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs retold by Mo Willems (Goodreads)–This is another one that I love because of my students’ reactions when I read it to them. And I love all of the titles he has listed that he didn’t use.  It’s too darn cute.

Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown (Goodreads)–My students read this one and You Will Be My Friend! to a class of third graders this past school year and everyone loved it.  It was so much fun watching the third graders react to this.  Peter Brown is one of my favorite picture book authors/illustrators.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (Goodreads)–I didn’t like this one nearly as much until I read it to my students. They had so much fun with it and it was contagious.

 

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