In January of 2017, I made a commitment to actually keep up with my reading using Goodreads. The app makes it so easy to create a virtual bookshelf, update reading progress, rate books, and write reviews. I made a conservative goal to read 25 books this year and surpassed the goal with 43 books read. As I look back over the list of titles that I read in 2017, I can see the contribution of so many influences on my renewed outlook on reading.
Along with my personal reading goal, I also had a reading goal for my classes. I wanted to rekindle the love of reading that so many of my students lost by incorporating independent reading time into class each day. I started the implementation of approximately 12 minutes (12 minutes a day = one hour a week) of sacred reading time of choice books in my classroom each day. It is no coincidence that two of my reads for 2017 were The Book Whisperer and Disrupting Thinking. My goal was to provide more choice outside of whole class texts and some time to read them. Students were energized to have time to read a book of their choosing in class each day. With very few exceptions, students from the most reluctant to the most voracious readers found success when given choice and time to read in class.
I also saw more variety come from my choices including verse novels (Sold and Brown Girl Dreaming), graphic novels (the March series), and young adult literature (Another Brooklyn, The Hate U Give, All American Boys, Dear Martin, Wonder). I also read a play that I missed in my studies (Fences), a book length essay (Tell Me How it Ends), and poetry collections (Citizen, Counting Descent). When teachers read widely we are modeling risk-taking with our reading and are more able to make great recommendations to students. I love finishing a book and knowing exactly which student, colleague, or friend that I want to recommend the work.
This variety in my reading is largely attributed to receiving excellent recommendations from fellow readers and being a part of several book clubs. The “Who Picked this Book?” book club consisting of wonderful women who are so dear to me pushes me to read things I otherwise may not pick up. Particularly enjoyable this year was The Rosie Project.
The book recommendations from the AP Book Chat Twitter chats (#apbkchat) have been so good that I can barely contain my excitement until the end of the book chat for the co-creators to announce the next selection (next up is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward on February 11th at 9EST). My most diverse reads in both form and content came from these recommendations.
Out of the 43 books I read this year, one (I repeat, one) was written by a dead white guy. While certainly Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was worth a spot on my reading list during this Year of our Ford, the study of mostly “dead white guys” has prevailed in English classes everywhere, including my own. However, the shift in my own reading to include more diverse voices and living writers is also happening in my classroom.
2018 reading list
The main thing that keeping up with my reading makes me realize is how much more I need to read. When you take a few weeks to catch up on some classics that you missed (or three days to binge watch The Crown), then all of a sudden there are dozens more great books just published that you need to read. It is a never-ending, absolutely wonderful cycle.
So far, my 2018 reading stack includes Salvage the Bones and Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. My “classic that somehow I have never read” will be A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I want to incorporate more young adult literature, graphic novels, and nonfiction. Basically, I want to read it all. What is your book goal for 2018? What do you think I should put on my must-be-read-in-2018 list?
Read more from The Learning Curve: