A Year of Reading

Utilize literature books for youth as a means to engage new readers and celebrate reading accomplishments.

By Dawn Dodson

Young girl surrounded by books

Utilizing youth or adolescent literature books in the classroom can take many forms and functions. It is the stepping stone for which pupils not only learn to choose independent reading materials and study more complex pieces of literature, but it is also a stepping stone to getting to know your readers’ personalities and learning needs. During those first weeks of school when both teacher and students are getting to know each other, using adolescent literature is an effective ice breaker; a focused conversation starter which immediately ignites meaningful discussion and reflection. Likewise, utilizing youth literature can also be an effective and enjoyable way to recognize individual and whole class reading accomplishments during the school year.


My Favorite Character

The first few days of school are difficult for many of my sixth graders. In our district, sixth graders are a part of the middle school, which means a new building, teachers, and adjusting to schedules. As an icebreaker and valuable piece of information for myself, I often assign a survey/letter activity. The survey is fairly traditional, asking pupils about reading and writing habits, likes, and dislikes. The last question of the survey asks, “Who is your favorite literary character? He/she can be from ANY book read throughout your time as a reader and can be a main or minor character. Please explain your choice.” The responses to this question become the starting point for another activity, which is a compare and contrast graphic organizer and essay assignment. Learners compare and contrast their chosen characters to themselves and write a short essay summarizing the main points of the graphic organizer. Using the information from the essays, the class is divided into groups of three. Each student poses as their character, and the other group members must interview the character following the prompt of “A Day in the Life of ______”. This is a valuable activity in learning about readers’ experiences and genre preferences as well as a lesson in teaching expectations and procedures for group work over the course of the school year.

And the Winner is…

As the school year progresses, readers keep a log of books read. At the conclusion of each quarter, the new books that pupils have read are added to a list posted in the classroom. Titles are not repeated, but tally marks are added for each additional student who read that particular title. In the spring, the class nominates their favorite books in each genre. In small groups, book reviews are created. Each book review must not only provide readers’ experiences, but must also include a persuasive tone that would persuade voters to choose that particular book to win their genre award. All book reviews are presented to sixth grade language arts classes, where they vote for their favorite book for each genre. After votes are collected and counted, all of my classes participate in a red carpet awards ceremony. As the genre winners are announced, the writers of the reviews accept the award; a certificate naming genre, book title, and author.  The focus of this activity is to celebrate the books read during the school year, and to provide an additional literature-based writing experience at the end of the school year.

Whether administering a class survey or recognizing reading achievements, youth literature provides opportunities for young readers to express their personalities as well as providing moments of reflection, discussion, and celebration.

Common Core Connections

RL 6.3: Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

RL 6.10: By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, drama, and poems in the grades 6-8 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the  range.

W6.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

W6.10: Write routinely over extended time frames and shorter time frames for a range of discipline specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

More Lesson Ideas:

Philanthropy in a Christmas Carol

Through studying various literary elements, pupils are able to identify philanthropic characteristics in the story “A Christmas Carol”. Reading journals are kept in order to incorporate reflective writing.

American Families: Portraits of African-American Families

This is a study of families in the United States, and specifically, a study of African-American families. Pupils will explore literature, history, and oral traditions in order to gain an appreciation for all American families.

Novel Approach: Dealing with “Making Choices” for At-Risk Readers

This is a literature unit where readers learn how various characters from various books made choices regarding their life situations. This unit includes whole class reading novels and activities, as well as small group and individual assignments. This is a thorough and well-planned literature study that provides many opportunities for student engagement.