One Day of Books Around the Room

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Each day my classes begin with ten minutes of quiet reading. Each student has a self-selected book, and each day those ten minutes are sacred. Here is the list of what my students are currently reading:

Clive Barker: In the Flesh
Holly Black: Black Heart
The Bible
Gary Braver: Gray Matter
Max Brooks: World War Z
Charles Bukowski: Ham on Rye
Charles Bukowski: Women
Albert Camus: The Plague
Orson Scott Card: Ender’s Shadow
Stephen Chbosky: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Cassandra Clare: Clockwork Angel
Harlen Coben: The Final Detail
Joshua C. Cohen: Leverage
Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List
Ally Condie: Matched
Zoraida Cordova: The Vicious Deep
Brent Crawford: Carter’s Unfocused One-Track Mind
Chris Crutcher: Athletic Shorts
Dave Cullen: Columbine
James Dashner: The Scorch Trials
Matt de la Pena: I Will Save You
Lauren DeStefano: Wither
Cory Doctorow: Little Brother
Paul Doarwell: The Auslander
Sharon Dogar: Waves
William Faulkner: As I Lay Dying
F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby
Alex Flinn: Beastly
Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book
Janet Gurtler: I’m Not Her
Kim Harrington : Clarity
Charlie Higson: The Dead
Ellen Hopkins: Fallout
Ellen Hopkins: Identical
Ellen Hopkins: Impulse
Cynthia Kadonata: A Million Shades of Gray
Hazrat Inayaat Khan: The Sufi Message
Ilmars Knagis: There Was Such a Time
Jo Knowles: See You at Harry’s
Dean Koontz: Seize the Night
Tite Kubo: Bleach
Pittacus Lore: The Rise of Nine
Manel Loureiro: Apocalypse Z
Barbara Leaming: Marilyn Monroe
E. Lockhart: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Rosamund Lupton: Afterwards
George R. R. Martin: A Game of Thrones
David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas
Jaclyn Moriarty: A Corner of White
Ernest Newman: Stories of the Great Operas
James Patterson: Kill Alex Cross
Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry: Peter and the Secret of Rundoon
Susan Beth Pfeffer: Life As We Knew It
Kim Purcell: Trafficed
Ransom Riggs: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2)
Rick Riordan: The Lightning Thief
Rick Riordan: Mark of Athena
Rick Riordan: The Sea of Monsters
Rick Riordan: The Throne of Fire
Veronica Roth: Divergent
Veronica Roth: Insurgent
J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Carol Shields: The Stone Diaries
Alexander Gordon Smith: Lockdown
Nicholas Sparks: The Notebook
Kathryn Stockett: The Help
Todd Strasser: Wish You Were Dead
Tolkien, J. R. R.: The Hobbit
Paul Volponi: Rooftop
Brian F. Walker: Black Boy White School
Theodore Weesner: Winning the City

What do I see when I look at this list? I’m pleased with the quality and diversity of what the students are reading. I see a lot of YA, as well as some classics. I see recent titles and titles from past years. A mixture of fiction and nonfiction is on this list.

Of course, this is a static representation of these young readers. Another snapshot a month from now will look a little different. Is there a way that snapshot should look? What will these students choose next? Do they need to choose more sophisticated material? Are they enjoying what they read, or are they “settling” for something? Will they continue to read when ten minutes of their day is not specifically designated for it? What is my role in each student’s development as a reader?

The students love those ten minutes of reading. That love means something. But is it enough? I’m always trying to find the balance between enjoying the reading we’re doing today and helping these readers grow.

What does it mean for a student to “grow” as a reader? I need to think about this a little more, but it probably means (1.) their bookish inclinations become more authentically integrated into their identities and less of a for-school-only attitude, and (2.) they become more comfortable and more proficient with a wider variety of book types.

If those two goals are worthwhile, then my role is to find the balance between providing the time and space to cultivate positive reading habits and keeping a spotlight on all kinds of books and reading experiences that are possible. I can do that! (You can too.)

What do you see when you look at the list above? Should it look differently? How should it look a month from now? How should it look by the end of the year?

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5 Responses to One Day of Books Around the Room

  1. Joy Kirr says:

    Just curious… Do you read when they read? Or do you have 1-1 conferences with them? I am torn. I have the first day of the week set aside for Genius Hour, which is a time they can read what they want or research what they want (knowing they’ll be presenting on it) during that time. I conduct 1-1 conferences, hoping to steer them in a direction, or just figure out how to help them with their ideas. I then have only 5-10 min. left in our block (80 min) to read. I’d love to read along with them, but find the 1-1 conferences invaluable. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. In fact, I haven’t been absent on the first day of the week, because that time is so precious to me! But I also feel like I should be a role model and read in front of them. I do, however, give my own book talks after I’ve finished a book, so I suppose I’m still role-modeling the behavior of reading… So I’m still curious (now that I’ve rambled) – if you’re not doing short conferences, do you think you could? Or do you wonder if you shouldn’t, because they’re all reading, no matter what the material??
    Fun post to read!


    • Joy — I do read when the students read, but I don’t do 1 to 1 conferencing on the books. They do blog posts about their books, and we talk a lot about books as a class. I know those are not the same as individual conferencing, but that’s my sacrifice to time constraints. (We have 50-minute periods with all kinds of disruptions.)

      My goal is that the kids are reading books that they choose. I can verify that it’s happening because I see them do it with my own two eyes. I agree that it’s important that students see their teachers as authentic reading role models, but that can happen in more than one way. If students can say, “Our teacher reads books, a lot of books,” they are more likely to see reading as a valid way to spend time than if their teachers simply say, “You should read more.”

      Your Genius Hour concept is so powerful that I would be very careful before changing anything about it.

      Thanks for reading.




  2. mardie says:

    Gary, I’m asking many of the same questions. Will they continue to read when the 10 minutes is not built in to their day? I don’t know. Are they challenging themselves or just settling? For some of my students, the fact that they’re reading – period – is pretty significant.


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