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Discovering Young Adult Literature

June 5, 2012

Teacher Musings:
Thanks to a great friend (who also happens to be a high-school librarian extraordinaire) I really got into Young Adult Lit this school year.  She got me started on some authors (such as John Green and Laurie Halse Anderson) and then I read the book Reading Ladders by Teri Lesesne.  Between these two resources I resolved to read a ton more Young Adult Lit this school year in my constant quest to match each of my students with the right book at the right time for them (especially my reluctant readers).   This meant that I spend the school year reading lots of books on bus rides home, and attending a workshop that was basically a 7 hour book talk of the latest Young Adult Lit. I used the titles that were recommended from that workshop, and suggestions from my teacher and librarian friends to write a Donors Choose request for almost $1,000 worth of young adult books to infuse my classroom library.

The result has been amazing (both before and after the Donors Choose request was fulfilled).  I have more kids reading books on their own than ever before, and most students in my class this year have read at least 3 books on their own.  I want to get that number to 8 or 10 (and several students have met that goal) but I’m happy that I managed to match some students to the first book their ever really enjoyed (such as Perfect Chemistry, the biggest hit this year by far).

When I started learning more and reading more Young Adult Lit I was on a quest for the “perfect” books.  I wanted to find a few titles (maybe five) that I could recommend to any struggling reader.  While I did find some titles that many students latched onto (such as Impulse or By the Time YouRead This I’ll be Dead) I quickly realized two things that seemed like complete “d’oh!” thoughts:

  • My students change from year to year – and so their reading needs and interests will to.
  • Young Adult Lit is constantly evolving with trends and phases of it’s own.  What is “hot” now probably won’t be as “hot” a few years from now.

A great example of the second point is The Hunger Games.  This was a book I shared with kids last year that was a mediocre hit.  Then, when the movie was coming out, kids couldn’t get enough of it!  But then, after seeing the movie, some kids wanted to read the book, but quickly got bored because they knew what was going to happen (because of the movie).  There is a good chance that my six copies of Hunger Games (which I couldn’t keep on the shelf this fall) will languish off to the side next year.

Similarly, I am realizing that not all my struggling readers can be steered the same way.  I used to use the Blueford High series as my go-to series for struggling readers, because many of them wanted books they could “relate” to.  However, one of my struggling readers recently picked up The Adoration of Jenna Fox (because her friend was also reading it) and she can’t put it down.  This is not a kid I would have steered towards dystopian books like this, but now it is what she is into, even if she wasn’t able to articulate it earlier.

This whole experience has been just another of the many times I have learned the same lesson: there is no Holy Grail in teaching.  There are no single group of books that I can stock and steer kids to.  Instead of looking for those titles, I need to keep up with Young Adult Lit trends and figure out some  ways to record what I read so that I can put that title in the right kid’s hand at the right time.  I need to always get to know my kids as readers, and keep up with them as they change their tastes and reading needs through the year (now that they are actually reading!)  And, as a bonus, I “need” to keep reading lots of really awesome books!  Not a bad homework assignment for a bookworm like me!

Follow along with me as I share what I’m reading on my “What I’m Reading” page!

Yummy Stuff:
I used to think good independent reading was like a “side dish” in my class and the whole class books were the “entree.”  My views on this are shifting, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think side dishes are important!  In fact, side dishes are one of my favorite ways to dress up a meal!  Often with stirfrys or skillet dishes over rice, I like to dress up our regular brown rice by making Coconut Rice.  It is super easy, can also be done in a rice cooker, and it adds a sweet note to any meal!

Coconut Rice

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup of brown rice
14 oz of coconut milk (you can use light if you want)
About 1/2 cup of water (you will add enough water to the coconut milk to make 2 cups of liquid)

1. Bring the water and coconut milk (two cups of liquid total) to a boil. 
2. Pour in rice, cover and turn to a simmer.  Cook for 35-45 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through!

You can also use this is a rice cooker – just use coconut milk and enough water to reach the measuring mark for two cups of rice in your rice cooker!

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