Thursday, May 27, 2010

a teacher moment...

I love books.  I love reading them, I love talking about them with others.  The best feeling in the world comes from reading a book, coming to the end, and knowing--instantly--someone I'm certain will love it.  Knowing which student the book might interest, drawing them slowly into another story.  Knowing, maybe, which student the book could snare...trapping them into a lifetime of being a reader.

Books are powerful.  Books are dangerous.  Books are easy to lose.

This is my classroom on the first day of the school year.  Those are two of the six bookcases I have, all overflowing with amazing books.  Books that I want my students to devour.  Books my students seem to destroy.

The first few years my personal library books each had a card tucked inside them--a small, white index card with the title and the author written on it.  And a green-inked stamp of a group of elephants.  Their butts, really.  The Elephant Butt Cards, we called them, and we filed them in the Elephant Butt Card Box.  Students wrote their names on the back of the cards, and things were pretty orderly back then.  Until it got crazy.  Elephant Butt Cards raining all over the floor, none of them in the right book.  Names not crossed off the cards.  No pencil in the bin.  It's amazing how complicated a very simple system can be when in the hands of seventh graders. 

Now I have my checked out books in a spreadsheet on my computer, but I still make mistakes.  Books walk out the door, only to be left in the hall or on top of the lockers, or behind the vending machine.  You know, places it can kind of break your heart to imagine a book ending up. 

And this week is that time again, the time I try to track them all down and get them back.  I look at them, my books that were so shiny when they left my hands.  They are battered, torn--their slipcovers missing, perhaps.  But they have been read, and so many of them make their way back to my room eventually, after enjoying or enduring all kinds of adventures in the somewhat disorganized lives of middle schoolers.

I have a copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass that was missing for about six years.  I remember the girl who checked it out.  She lost it at the exact point in the quarter as to make it nearly impossible for her to complete her book report.  Then one day, years later, it randomly showed up in my mailbox.

But it's worth it.  Even though I know I may never see a book again when I lend it out, it's worth it to offer them this chance to experience another author, a different kind of book, a personalized recommendation...all I really want is to find every one of them the perfect book.  Just a little thing.

This year one of my classes signed up for accounts.  I loved seeing their reviews and even just the lists of books that they were reading.  I read them my reviews as a part of my booktalk process, and a few of them got free ARCs from the Early Reviewers program and then read and reviewed the books.  It's great to hear their thoughts about YA fiction, for one.

Anyway, I was looking over my own librarything and saw so many truly amazing MG and YA I read and shared with my students this school year, including some terrific books by my friends Hannah and Suz!

(and thanks to Super Student Krissa, for your awesome contributions to my classroom library--and my own reading list!)

Heist Society, by Ally Carter
The Schwa Was Here, by Neal Shusterman
Schooled by Gordon Korman
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor
Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini
Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
World War Z by Max Brooks (not YA but 8th graders find it a good read)
The Lottery  by Beth Goobie
The God Box by Alex Sanchez
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
The Naughty List by Suzanne Young
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Saint Iggy by K.L.Going
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
House of Night series by P.C. Cast
Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Break by Hannah Moskowitz
Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins
Wake by Lisa McMann
Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Luna by Julie Ann Peters


amy said...

Your students are so lucky to have you! What were the most popular books this year?

elissa said...

Hmm...I would have to say that Everything Beautiful got my glowing nomination and then was passed around to the most students, but they also really liked Be More Chill, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Shiver, and the Wicked Lovely series.

(But I do have to say that BREAK was a big hit and my students "lost" i.e. couldn't bear to give back FOUR COPIES of it this year, so...maybe that one wins.)

Corinne Bowen said...

The Giver sparked my love of reading! I still enjoy picking it up today:)

elissa said...

Corinne, I'm teaching it this year to one group of seventh graders, and when I reread it this year, I couldn't believe what a complex little book it is! I can't imagine why we read it in like fourth grade. My students and I have had the most amazing discussions about The Giver!

Krissa Jean! said...

Hi! Super Student Krissa is here! and I think the part time indian book was the most popular, EVERYONE READ IT!