What should I read next?

Students in all grade levels are always asking, “What should I read next?’  It’s an important question because you want your students to continue to find books that they can read independently  – inside and outside of school. In Readicide author Kelly Gallagher talks about McQuillan’s study of reluctant readers (2001). It that showed a statistically significant gain in reading and writing fluency and writing complexity with students who had had a negative attitude towards reading at the beginning of the year, but at the semester’s end had improved significantly after having finished several books on their own.   How did this happen?  The students were given time to read books of their choosing in school without having to complete a book report, track points, or fill in a worksheet.

Csikszentmihalyi (1990) talked about reading flow – where students can get lost in the pages of a book and achieve true pleasure in the act of reading for reading’s sake without the promise of extrinsic rewards or grades.  If we want our students to achieve this state of reading flow, then we have to help them find books that are interesting and inviting to them. We must provide the time and space for them to read in school before we can hope that they will read outside of school. Often, we find our busy schedules do not allow much time to consider the question, “What shall I read next?’  We find that even during a library special, we hurry from the room lined with inviting books just waiting for a recommendation (“Pick me! You’ll find adventure here!) to use the prep period to record reading, math, and writing data on the schoolwide system or respond to a parent’s phone call or e-mail. There is always so much to do, and yet….

Perhaps you can try to answer the question about what book to read next with another question. Ask your student to think about why he liked the last book he finished.  Was it a mystery or fantasy or a book about animals?  Did he like the way the author told the story?  Was he drawn to the subject matter or the illustrations throughout the book? Tempt students with a beautiful poetry book like National insects sneed collardGeographic’s  Book of Nature Poetry. For YA readers – was it a dystopian novel or a Steampunk novel such as Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers or Cold Magic by Kate Elliott.  Is your teenager looking for books about teen anxieties and the discomfort of free choice/will?  Perhaps Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson or The Perks of Being a  Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky or Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith will be a good fit. For some of our readers, it may be a picture book like Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Pond or Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever by Sneed B. Collard III.Over and Under the POnd

Text sets are always a powerful way to engage students in discussion, using vehicles such as book clubs, literature circles, book talks, and book reviews. Since these books can offer classroom opportunities for individual, small group, and extended learning, multiple copies (at least two or three) make reading a book even more inviting.  it is a good idea to write a short blurb on a sticky note and place inside on the end pages. “This book is for you if you enjoy reading,,,,”  Students can preview books and post an invitation to read a particular book on a bulletin board. In this way, students naturally create a response partner(s).  And encourage rereads!  Students of all ages and stages benefit from a second read of a beloved book.

Finally, we need to really, truly believe that allowing students to read independently in school will not only lead to more reading outside of school; it will serve as test preparation, too. Independent reads build vocabulary and content knowledge as well as the stamina and endurance to read lengthy passages on PSSA tests and the Keystone exam. The most powerful strategy we have to build lifelong readers is to provide the time for reading daily within our classroom walls. Here are some things we can all do:

  • Visit your school and local library and browse.
  • Talk with librarians to find out what is new, exciting, and available to your students. Follow book recommendations on twitter.
  • Read reviews on  Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the NY Times Book Review.
  • Talk with your colleagues.
  • Update your classroom library and organize it in ways most useful to your students (perhaps they can help with its organization).
  • Highlight books each week and display them on a shelf so that students can have a full view rather just looking at the book spines.
  • Then talk with your students about good books – all kinds of good books just waiting for someone to pick them up and remain in what Nancie Atwell refers to as “the reading zone” – a place where readers are submerged in a text until they must “come up for air.’


I am participating in #SOL17. Thanks to the two writingteachers blog team for creating this wonderful community of writers!

14 thoughts on “What should I read next?

  1. What a thoughtful and information-filled post! Lots of great suggestions here, Lynne. My 8-year-old grandson is always looking for something to read next. You can bet I will use your recommendations to help him choose. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very informative post jam-packed with great suggestions! I truly subscribe to your point of view on independent reading. I’ve found if I don’t feed my readers they will starve. We are working on them gaining confidence with book selection but for now they relie on me to suggest what’s next. My readers are young and work very hard so this is part of the process.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank your for this important post. Students pick up on the unspoken priorities. You stated in several different ways that if you want them to read, provide reading time. So true. It needs to be a priority! My boys are all readers (thankfully), but right now they ar required to do “book reports” each month. After the last one, everyone was sent a nasty, unsupportive email about making sure your students are reading. I took exception because my student had read his book and finished it two weeks prior to the assignment being due. We still got the nasty email about making sure they are reading at home! You’ve made me wonder if they are given time in class, at least on occasion, to read and more importantly, “get into the zone”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love coming to your blog and being immersed in rich discussion about reading and writing. I always come away with a new idea or a reminder. Today’s take away? I want to set up text set baskets “If you liked ____________ you might like these. . . ” Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Last year I gave myself a New Year’s Resolution focused on reading: 52 books a year. I know, I know–it’s a number. And, at first, it was about quantity for me. Even though I was already a pretty avid reader, I simply wanted to push myself to read more–within genres I didn’t normally read. There was so much I discovered about myself as a reader through this challenge–and it was an incredibly powerful learning experience.

    Just as we encourage our students to read/write outside school, we teachers need to do the same. We learn so much by doing so!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Amen to all of what you said! I love having students explore all those sites plus our school’s online catalog to see what we have available on site. I wish more of this conversation happened at an administrative level because far too many times I’ve heard students are “just” reading. (Note: from previous administration, NOT my current one!) I may have to do a post about that…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lynne,
    I always have a huge TBR pile (or two or three) and now I share pictures of those with students and teachers. The next book needs to be “on deck” and ready. I can trade it for something else, but it’s not okay to not have a possible plan for the next reading experience.

    Thanks for all the resources!


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