I recently watched my son struggle to get through Pride and Prejudice these past few weeks. He couldn’t connect. He complained every day. And I get it. Not every genre or every title is going to please the masses. But I couldn’t help but wonder if teachers kept the same sorts of books and curriculum year after year because they truly loved the stories and lessons– or was it more of a lack of funding to buy new material– or was it a lack of imagination to find what might deliver the same results but with something that could connect the students to reading in a better way?
I have taught many different ages. I have taught preschool. I have taught middle school. And now, I teach elementary age students. One thing I never stop doing, is looking for new literature to spark interest and conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I keep “oldies but goodies” in my closet and teach them with just as much vigor as the bright and shiny new books, but I try to make sure I stay true to showing my students different genres that push boundaries of topics of conversation and still stay relatable. It’s hard to please everyone. Some books transcend time- they are loved no matter who reads them and their themes are universal and poignant. I have yet to find a student who didn’t get their heart in their throat when reading On My Honor, or Bridge to Terabithia. But I also saw them moved when reading A Long Walk to Water, or I Am Malala.
Maybe it doesn’t matter what book it is, if the teacher can bring emotion and purpose to the reading, it will engage the students strictly by modeling great reading habits. Whether teaching old books, or new, students need to feel they can relate. They need to feel purpose, and they need to learn empathy so that they can put themselves in the place of the many characters they come into contact with. What books do you find connect with our students today? What sparks conversation, debate, joy, and true emotion? I try to get all of those things from my first graders with simple picture books. I love a great picture book!
Post and comment your favorite books you think should be taught in school. Are they books from your school year memories? Books you teach? Books you wished were taught? Is there a book that changed your life, or at the very least, your perspective about the world we live in? That’s all I’m looking for. I want kids reading so that their hearts are full of all the possibilities of the world, and so that they know- with a book- they are never alone.