This school year marks my fifth year of being an English, Journalism, and now Creative Writing high school teacher. In the past years, I learned that one of the most effective--and important--ways to connect with my students is through book recommendations. More importantly, book recommendations that click with them because they find themselves and stories that they want to see in these books. My classroom is really diverse, most of my students are high school seniors who can't remember the last time they read, let alone finished a book. It's my favorite thing to recommend books to my students because it opens up a conversation about their background, their likes, dislikes, and oh-so-many issues that they have with reading or people who assign books seem to have with them.
Some of my favorite discussions and moments I've had with students in the past include:
- The student who breezed into my classroom enraged because there were not nearly enough queer YA books about characters that don't identify as gay boys in our library.
- The student who excitedly talked to me about how much she loved that one of the supporting characters in a book I recommended was a hijabi Muslim girl. She had never seen characters like her in books and devoured that series.
- The boy who slightly blushingly asked me if I had any YA romance and the happy astonishment in his face when I said yes and asked him whether he wanted straight or queer romance. He hadn't known that people wrote queer YA romance.
- The group of three athlete boys who decided to make reading between them a competition because the book I recommended (and had enough copies of for all of them) grabbed them so much that they couldn't put it down.
- The girl who checked out books from me all through the school year and kept one of the books all through summer only to come back the next school year, apologizing that she had kept it so long, telling me that she had lent it to a friend, so she figured she'd pick up a new copy for me. Also, could she come by every once in a while to visit and talk books now that she had graduated?
There are more moments like these, but the above are some of my favorites.
I always make time for students reading in and out of my classroom. I also always try to keep my classroom library as up to date and diverse as possible, because while our school library is amazing and probably one of the most diverse in the state, nothing beats being able to pull a book from the shelf and talk to a student about it right away--never mind using examples from a lot of them in my English and Creative Writing classes.
So, here's my classroom wish list for the 2017/18 school year. Some are debuts, some have been out for a while, and some are only available for pre-order right now.
- Angie Thomas - THE HATE U GIVE
- Cindy Pon - WANT
- Axie Oh - REBEL SEOUL
- Zoraida Cordova - LABYRINTH LOST
- Daniel Jose Older - SHADOWSHAPER
- Riley Redgate - NOTEWORTHY
- S. K. Ali - SAINTS AND MISFITS
- Aisha Saeed - WRITTEN IN THE STARS
- Liliam Rivera - THE EDUCATION OF MARGOT SANCHEZ
- Benjamin Alire Saenz - THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE
- Erica Cameron - ISLAND OF EXILES
- Nicola Yoon - THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR
- Sandhya Menon - WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI
- Becky Albertalli - THE UPSIDE OF UNREQUITED
- Adam Silvera - HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME
- Jen Wilde - QUEENS OF GEEK
- Tristina Wright - 27 HOURS
- Katherine Locke - THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON
- Leigh Bardougo - SIX OF CROWS
- Kathleen Glasgow - GIRL IN PIECES
- Mia Siegert - JERKBAIT
- Renee Adieh - FLAME IN THE MIST
- Rin Chupeco - THE BONE WITCH
- Francesca Zappia - ELIZA AND HER MONSTERS
- Kathryn Ormsbee - TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY
Anyway, I'm sure this list will grow. Let me know if you have any other recommendations--I am especially looking for YA by and about Pacific Islanders, Latinix, and disabled folk.