Monday was the last day with my senior Contemporary Lit class. While I'm still trying to unpack what an amazing experience it was to teach this group (and how much I'm going to miss our 6th period class), I thought I would highlight their TOP BOOK PICKS for the year.
If you haven't been following along with us, this was a very unique class. I will reflect more on our time together in a future post (or twelve), probably on the eve of their graduation ceremony this weekend. Until then, here are some things you need to know about them to understand just how important it is that they are recommending books!
1) At the start of the class, only 3 of them were in it by choice.
2) Many of the students were in the class in order to recover a literature credit before graduation.
3) Most of class did NOT identify as readers initially. In fact, some of them were quite proud of the fact that it had been years since they actually read a book.
Welcome to my 6th period!
But they came in with open minds, and we talked, and we read, and there was access to books, and there was CHOICE.
And they READ! And they RECOMMENDED books to friends in other classes.
And their teacher may have teared up on more than one occasion. And so, we present their picks for the "Best Books" for High School Readers. In no particular order...
1) The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. This book made the rounds in the classroom; boys, girls, EVERYONE. (No joke, I think I have photos of about 40% of the class reading this book at some point). Students judged other students for “judging the book by its cover.” We had impromptu class discussions about it. One young man used this book as his final reflection project: “What character would you want to give a TED Talk?”
2) Scythe by Neal Shusterman. In all the years I’ve taught (20!), I’ve never had a student finish a book out of spite. One young man, who ”likes Sci-Fi and Fantasy” finished a book (which shall not be named) that I recommended to him SOLELY so he could tell me how “cliche” it was. Again, welcome to my 6th period. I recommended 3 other titles which he abandoned after a few chapters. And then my brain actually started to function and I handed him Scythe! WHY DIDN’T I START WITH IT?! He blew through this book and the second one in a week. He called it “my all-time favorite” in his final reflection. On the last day of class I got to show him the cover and sneak peek of book #3!
3) I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. One student did a 14 slide PowerPoint presentation about why this book is “amazing!”
4) The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. Between the print and audio version of this book, I’d say that 25% of the class read this one. And encouraged others outside our class to read it as well. This one also sparked some great projects and one student wants Xiomara to give a TED Talk.
5) ALL the books by April Henry! No one got my students reading this semester more than April Henry. Her books made the rounds in and out of our class, and cost me quite a bit of my Scholastic bonus points so I could keep her books on our shelves! Worth. It. Artwork, impromptu class discussions, and more became a part of our class. See previous post here.
6) ALL the books by Jenny Han! Oh the joy when I walked in to class one day and several students were discussing the Netflix adaptation of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” I simply said, “you know it’s a book, right? Actually, it’s a trilogy.” And so, all three books were promptly finished!
7) ALL the books by Sarah Dessen! See #6 for how they found Sarah Dessen. After devouring Jenny Han, I may have dropped hints about the amazingness that is Sarah Dessen. I’d say they’ve made it through 3 of her books and are planning on reading the rest OVER THE SUMMER!
8) Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. (And Ghost). Talk about impromptu discussion and debate. Long Way Down definitely did that! This was one that they also recommended to friends outside the classroom. (I added Ghost by Reynolds to the list as I started the year with 10 copies of it in my classroom library and I currently have NONE).
9) Moxie by Jen Mathieu. This was a much needed book for several students in class at a time when they were suffering through a “World View” class that was anything but worldly in the viewpoints being discussed. #moxiegirlsfightback
10) Does the teacher get a vote? I say yes. So, my dear 6th period, this is the book that each of you will receive from me. With PAGES of my favorite quotes marked (with bookmarks, because I'm not a heathen who dog-ears pages). For Every One by Jason Reynolds.
“Dreams don’t have timelines,
and aren’t always in
This letter is for us all,
to remind us
that we are many.
That we are right
That purpose is real.
That making it is possible.”
What are the most popular books at your high school?
Do you have a favorite book on this list?