Teaching Students to Evaluate Their Reading Lives

For readers who value a strong plot

As the pandemic rolls on and stress levels remain high among students and parents, schools are beginning the academic year with much uncertainty. Whether classes are online, in person, or a hybrid, they are sure to be overwhelming for students who are still adjusting to the unusual circumstances. Reading books outside of those assigned for school can help teens relieve stress and put life’s complications in perspective. According to English professors Kate Douglas and Kylie Cardell, “Now, more than ever we need tools to read and respond to human experiences of crisis and pain” (Douglas and Cardell). We can help guide even the most reluctant readers toward literature that excites them.

For readers who enjoy an unusual structure

Often students think they don’t like to read or are convinced that there aren’t books out there that address their interests. To challenge these beliefs, it’s important to have students evaluate what they’re looking for in a reading experience. As school librarians, readers’ advisory is a crucial part of our job. Helping readers find the perfect book is a fulfilling task. The problem is that teenagers rarely know what they love if they haven’t read much or are unable to express their interests.

For readers who are looking for a setting by the sea

I’ve created a Reading Evaluation graphic organizer that will help middle and high school students figure out which books they’d like to explore. I plan to post it to my library webpage and to display it on the circulation desk. By taking the time to analyze their preferences, students will be engaging in critical thinking skills and self-reflection, both important abilities for them as they navigate their academic and personal lives.

Here are some guiding questions for helping students determine their reading inclinations:

  1. What was the last book you loved? 
  2. Are you in the mood to read fiction or nonfiction?
  3. What is most important to you when you’re reading a book?
    1. Plot: strong, exciting, action-packed plot
    2. Character Development: characters drawn with specific details, a lot of analysis of thoughts and actions, and deep backstories
    3. Setting/Sense of Place: a world or environment that is described well and in which you can easily envision yourself; a specific locale (campus, beach, city)
    4. Writing Style: sentences that are constructed in a poetic manner with sophisticated language as opposed to mediocre writing using cliched phrases
    5. Structure: a distinct writing pattern, such as a linear path that follows each character’s actions realistically; or a risky style that includes various forms of writing such as letter writing, documents, photos, or unusual points of view

For readers who love a mysterious fantasy

Work Cited

Douglas, Kate, and Kylie Cardell. 2020. “Reading during Coronavirus: Books Can Be Triggering, but Difficult Texts Teach Us Resilience, Too.” The Conversation (July 21). theconversation.com/reading-during-coronavirus-books-can-be-triggering-but-difficult-texts-teach-us-resilience-too-141114.

For readers who want to learn about another culture

Author: Karin Greenberg

Karin Greenberg is the librarian at Manhasset High School in Manhasset, New York. She is a former English teacher and writes book reviews for School Library Journal. In addition to reading, she enjoys animals, walking, hiking, and spending time with her family. Follow her book account on Instagram @bookswithkg.

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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