Why I Read The Books I Recommend To Students
Alternatively titled, “Why I Read The Books My Students Recommend To Me.”
Of the nineteen books that I have read since the start of summer, twelve of them have been in the category of children’s literature or young adult fiction. Additionally, four more have been professional texts that have helped me improve my practice as an educator. Which means that just under 16% of the books that I have read in the past six months have been fiction written for an adult audience.
Sometimes I get asked why I read so many books written for young people. My short answer is that I am a fourth grade teacher and I want to keep up with the books my students are reading.
But the long answer is much more than that. I read these books so that I can make recommendations to my students. I read these books so that I know what young people are reading and can make connections between these stories, my students’ lives, and the material we are studying in class. I read these books so that when I pick a book off a shelf and hand it to a student, saying, “This is a really good book; I think you’d enjoy it” my students will know that they can trust my opinion. I read these books so that when a young person comes up to me and says, “You know, Mr. Valencic, I remember reading a book a few years ago about these two boys who go swimming together and one of them drowns. I don’t remember the name and I don’t know the author, but it was a really good book and I would love to read it again!” I can walk over to my shelf, pull On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer, hand it to the student, and see the biggest smile you’ll ever see on anyone’s face.
I read the books that I recommend to my students so that I can recommend them! Additionally, I read the books my students suggest to me! Sometimes it may take several months, or even a year or longer, to get to it, but I will read these books. I love that I have a classroom of readers that each year becomes a part of a larger community of readers throughout our school district. I love visiting the middle school and having a former student approach me for the sole purpose of sharing what they are reading. I love bumping into students and parents at the store and having them show me a book they just got. I love when several students in my class all end up reading the same book at the same time and excitedly share this with me.
That is why I read the books I recommend to students and why I read the books they recommend to me.
Also, children’s literature is, despite what some New York Times columnists think, quality literature that is worth reading for the lessons they teach of love, friendship, compassion, courage, perseverance, adventure, mystery, learning, teaching, integrity, respect, responsibility, and a host of other character traits that will make our young people great.