Last week, I asked the preservice teachers in my Children’s Literature course to write to me about their wonders, curiosities, and burning questions about Children’s Literature. We’re a little over halfway through the semester, and I wanted to know what else they really, really wanted to know, so that I could shape the last few weeks to focus on their needs.
Sometimes I don’t get much in response from students when I ask them what they still want to learn. I’ve liked the class so far. Whatever you want to teach sounds fine to me.
But not this group. This group has thoughts and ideas and lots and lots of wonderings about children and reading and books and teaching. Many students wrote a full page of questions and curiosities!
Some of them are easy to answer. Can you recommend some fantasy series for me? Yes! Here’s a stack just for you!What are some good early readers? Let me introduce you to Elephant and Piggie and Mr. Putter and Tabby and also Michele Knott, who has some wonderful early reader book lists and recommendations in her #Road2Reading series. Do I need to be concerned with reading levels if my students are reading a lot of books? No!
But some of them are really hard to answer. We’d need far more than the remaining seven weeks of the semester to tackle how do I develop a reading curriculum? or how do I teach kids who can’t actually read the text because of a disability? Please enroll in the new course I’ll be teaching in the fall, Theory and Practice of Teaching Reading.
And some of them are deceptively easy but actually kind of hard. Here’s one I’ve found unexpectedly challenging: how do I keep finding good books to read for myself and my students?
For me, finding good books is one of those bookish habits that’s now so natural and automatic that I can’t remember ever not knowing how to do it. For me, the problem is always just the opposite: I have far too many ways of finding good books. I tend to spend more time reading about books than I do reading the actual books themselves. I could speak for days about how to find good books to read and share dozens of websites and blogs and Twitter accounts they should be following. But I realize that wouldn’t be helpful to my students. In an effort not to overwhelm or confuse them, I think I’m going to share these tips:
Let one book lead you to another. Look for books by the same author, books that customers who bought this book also bought at Amazon, books that have won the same award, books that show up on the same book lists, books that are readalikes.
Find an epicenter reader whose recommendations you trust. Epicenter readers are one of my favorite ideas from Donalyn Miller. They’re the voracious readers who read, read, read–and share what they read.
Find one site you consistently follow and use for recommendations. A new discovery for me is the Read Aloud Revival podcast, which interviews authors, reading experts, and readers themselves to make recommendations. I will also recommend the Nerdy Book Club and Unleashing Readers to my students.
Follow annual “best of” book lists. There are so many good ones. I love the lists put together by the Amazon editors and Kirkus Reviews. The Children’s Book Council collects and links to many of the “best of” lists.
What strategies and sites keep you in good books? Whose recommendations do you always trust? What advice do you have for my preservice teachers who want to keep growing their reading lives?