Literacy Lines

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Choosing Books

by Becky DeSmith | 1 | 1 Comment

The book I am reading now is Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts.  I found it by clicking on one of those Facebook posts entitled, “Best Books of 2015,” or something similar.  Researching it, I found the reviews to be over the top positive, so, even though it was 1,300 pages long, I decided to give it a shot. So glad I did; it is wonderfully written, its characters are endearing and I am learning so much about India.

How do you choose books?  I am taken back to a mini lesson I did every year with my students on choosing books.  For nearly 30 years, my reading program was one where kids self-selected from the 1,200 books I had in my classroom. With these books I taught all of the skills and strategies that were required by the standards and it was differentiation at its best – every student was reading at his/her grade level.  Ah, for the good-old days………..

I asked my students how they chose books.  “If I gave you $20.00 to go to the nearest bookstore, how would you choose which book(s) to purchase?” It was the same question I always asked of every book group to which I belonged.  And, do you know what? The answers were not much different between adults and kids.  Hence, my mini lesson was built.

Choosing Books

  • Familiarity with the author
  • Friend’s recommendation
  • Book-of-the-month newsletter
  • Book jacket blurb
  • New author for the reader
  • First page read well
  • Favorite genre
  • Similarity to another loved book
  • Cover/Title
  • Topic relates to the reader’s life
  • Enjoyed the movie upon which the book is based
  • Book reviews
  • Part of a series
  • Returning to a previously-abandoned book
  • Lightweight; fits in my back pocket, purse, backpack easily
  • Availability of the book on tape

In our educational climate of high stakes testing and prepping for assessments, “covering” the curriculum, time on task, achieving benchmarks, DIBELS testing, meeting proficiencies, diagnoses screenings – I hope we can bring back mini lessons like these.  It’s what matters.

Becky DeSmith

Becky DeSmith Becky joined Keys to Literacy in 2007 and has been a literacy educator for over 35 years. She has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, and been involved in many school and district-wide initiatives that address core literacy issues. She has been recognized as a Teacher of the Year by the International Reading Association.

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1 Comment

  1. Dorothea

    Great post, Becky. The book, Shantaram, that you mentioned, is a favorite of mine. It saved my life on several long plane flights and boring hotel stays. Please look for its long-awaited sequel which has just been published! I appreciated your insights on choosing books. Thank you!

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