Education Opinion

Expert Advice

By Donalyn Miller — December 18, 2007 2 min read

It is almost time for the holiday break and my class is antsy. Getting out only four days before Christmas, my students are in a frenzied state of holiday excitement which cannot be contained by a squadron of teachers- especially this tired one! They could not settle in to read today- a first!

Determined to engage in some sort of literacy event, I steered my chatty sixth graders into a conversation about the book exchange that will take place as part of our Winter Holiday party this Friday. Each child has been asked to bring in a gently-used book that they would like to trade with a classmate. The hardest part it seems is deciding which book to bring in for the swap. One girl told me that she wanted to share Heidi with the girls that had not read it, but she did not want to give up her beloved copy! Another student asked, “If I bring in three books, will I get three books from the swap?” (No.) I have some students that do not have many books at home, so I encouraged them to look through the stack of books that I have winnowed out of the class library (due to lack of space) and select one to share.

The book swap discussion led us to talk about the books we have enjoyed lately that we could recommend. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I think students should run the reading show, and when recommending what books to read, CNN agrees, check out their recent article, “Kids are the Experts in Reviewing Children’s Books”. Everyone began shouting out titles (I told you they were rowdy!). One student circulated a piece of notebook paper to record the list, and we continued to talk. Three pages of suggestions and several in-depth discussions later (including a debate about whether or not boys are less open-minded about the books they choose than girls), we were fired up about reading again.

You might have predicted that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Golden Compass would make this year’s hot read list, but investigate some of these new, old, and classic books- here is a baker’s dozen of the top picks from Room 1217.

Peak by Roland Smith

The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney (This one is out of print, but used copies are available.)

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Uglies (the whole series) by Scott Westerfeld

Midnighters (the whole series) by Scott Westerfeld (Hey Scott, can we get a fourth book here? You left Jessica, and all of us, hanging...)

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

The Last Dog on Earth by Daniel Ehrenhaft

The Lightning Thief (the whole series) by Rick Riordan

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpugo

Tangerine by Edward Bloor

I am reminded again and again that my students want to talk about the books they are reading, share their love of books, and make recommendations to other readers. Their comments, spontaneously and freely given, do more to promote reading in my classroom than any book report could ever do.

**If you would like to swap out your own books, there are many websites which provide book swap services such as Book Mooch and PaperBackSwap.

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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