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For this year’s Summer Book Study, we are going to do something a little different.
Three reasons for this: One, I feel so far behind on young adult books. I have three kids all heading into that age group, and I want to know what books they’re reading and what to recommend to them.
Two, I think all teachers of middle and high school—not just language arts teachers—can benefit from reading YA books. These books give us a fantastic way to connect and build relationships with our students. If you teach much younger students, I hope you will also find reason to join us, whether it be to connect with a young adult in your life outside of school or just get familiar with what your current students will be reading in just a few more years.
And three? It’s summer! I love being able to read over the summer without having to take notes or highlight passages. If you’ve spent any time at all on this site, you know I can geek out on theory and methodology like nobody’s business, but I just wanted to try something different this summer.
About the Selections
To choose the books, I got a ton of help this past week from readers over on my Facebook page: You suggested titles (see the full list here) and voted for your favorites. Then I took that list and whittled it down to five.
It was SO HARD to pick just five.
But I think I have a good list here: diverse in more ways than one, representative of lots of different genres and perspectives, and pretty meaty in general. I’m excited to dig in.
- You may not like all of these choices; pick and choose as you like. I hope something on the list appeals to you and you can join us.
- I have not personally read all of these books yet; therefore, there may be some land mines I’m not aware of. At this point, I am not ready to recommend these as books to use in your classroom. We are going to read and talk about them together, as adults, and we’ll talk about how, when, and to which students we might offer the books.
- With the above in mind, some of these books may not be appropriate for your students. Some contain language and situations that might even bother you. It’s always a good idea to pre-screen books when possible (or share this duty with other teachers) before making titles available to students. Amazon reviews and Common Sense Media are two good places to learn more about the books from people who have read them.
How the Book Club Will Work
First of all, you don’t need to do anything to “join.” This is open to anyone; no sign-up, nothing.
Each of the five books is getting its own separate page. Click the “join the discussion” buttons to see these.
To keep things simple, I am going to set five discussion dates; one for each book (the dates are on the buttons below each book). On those dates, I will post my own reflection video on that book’s page. In the comments section, you will be invited share your own thoughts as well. The book pages will stay open for as long as this site exists, so if you don’t finish the book by the “deadline,” no problem; the discussion will be waiting for you whenever you’re ready.
What you should do now:
(1) Get copies of whatever books you’re interested in reading. Click on each book below and you’ll go straight to its Amazon page.
(2) Mark your calendar for the discussion dates and try to have the books read by those dates.
The Hate U Give
From the moment I started talking about doing a YA book study, this title was mentioned over and over again. So it came as no surprise when it got the second-highest number of votes. In addition to the high demand for this book, I also chose it because it looks like it will be a challenging, honest look at the racially-charged events of the past few years and how those impact our communities and our students. My hope is that everyone will read this one, especially those who have found themselves feeling conflicted about the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
It should be a good conversation.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
This is the only book in the collection that I have actually read before, and even though I loved it, I wanted to pick five books I’d never read. But you changed my mind: This title got more votes than anything else on the list. And since it focuses on a population that doesn’t get a lot of attention in literature, and because the protagonist is male, and because it contains one of my all-time favorite quotes from a book ever, I have decided to include it. I’m excited to read it again and to hear what you think.
Update, July 2018: Since we did this book study, author Sherman Alexie has been accused by a number of women of sexual misconduct. Please visit our page about the book for more information, and some recommendations for other books to read instead.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
This book adds brings variety to our list on two levels: First, it is a graphic novel. Anytime I have conversations about graphic novels in the classroom, this book comes up, so I have wanted to read it for a while now. Second, the protagonist is a young Iranian girl who describes her childhood during “years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq.” I’m expecting to learn a whole lot from this book.
Counting by 7s
Holly Goldberg Sloan
With so many of our students struggling to cope with personal challenges and losses, I thought a book that shares how one girl finds joy after grief would be a worthwhile read. As far as I can tell, this one is the least likely to contain objectionable or mature content, and I wanted to make sure I included at least one title that was suitable for upper elementary and middle school students.
Counting by 7s is the story of a highly gifted girl whose adoptive parents are killed in a car accident. These lines from the book’s description definitely grabbed me: “The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.”
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
This one came as a complete surprise to me. When I saw it pop up on the list of suggestions, I kind of shrugged and thought it might make an interesting option, but I doubted it would get many votes. Well, it did. It got a lot of them. And although this is not labeled as a young adult book, I got to thinking about how it could be the kind of book that a kid would read and think, Whoa, I never knew books existed about stuff like this! It could seriously turn a non-reader into a reader. Plus, we have no nonfiction here, so this adds another level of variety to our summer offerings.
I can’t wait to get started. I am going to order my books right now. If you have any questions, ask them below. If not, I’ll see you on June 14 for our first discussion. Happy reading!!
See the full list of YA titles recommended by readers, and suggest your own.