October 9-16 is Teen Read Week. Here’s an idea from Tish Carpinelli to help your 10th-12th graders find a book they can love.
A Reason to Remix
“My students are really enjoying the books they selected the other day. A few of them are already finished with them!” As media specialists, we certainly love to hear those words from our colleagues after classes come down for book selection. Often, however, traditional booktalks or just allowing classes to freely roam the stacks for books does not result in the majority of students finding a book with which they can really connect.
In “Speed Dating with Books” (LMC, October 2012), I described an activity that has been very successful with my students. After the first few years of these speed dating sessions, I wanted to change things up a bit. I did not want to repeat the same activity for sophomores, juniors, or seniors that I had used with them as freshmen. Also, when the assignment requires nonfiction books, my original setup would not work well. It is impossible to have enough topic variety on one table to satisfy every interest. For these reasons, I devised a “Speed Dating Remix” activity that can be used with either fiction or nonfiction books. The setup for each is slightly different, but the actual “dating” remains the same. And the objective continues to be for the students to leave with a book with which they feel they can have a “committed relationship.”
A few days before the class visit, send a short “Fix Me Up” form to the classroom teacher. This is to ensure that any student who has a particular book (or subject) in mind can communicate it to you, and you can find a book to match that request so it is ready and waiting for them when their class arrives. I always enjoy giving out the Fix Me Up slips to students before the general selection begins. It’s great to see that they get just what they wanted and can be excited to begin the activity.
Select books from various genres and arrange them attractively on tables, grouped by genre with signs on each table. If your fiction section is already divided into genre sections (genrefied), simply use the arrangement you have. If not, you’ll need to pre-select the books and use tables with displays. Our library has some separate genre areas, and I add a few tables for the rest. I set up displays/sections for Mystery, Adventure, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Teen Issues, War/Holocaust, Romance, and Sports. Having a comfortable seating area that is close to the tables allows you to see all the students during the “dates,” to make sure that each is engaged and doesn’t need help selecting a book.
It takes more work to pull books for a nonfiction selection activity, but the rewards are worth it. I usually begin with the biographies and then continue through the nonfiction shelves, pulling those books that fit the teacher’s criteria (story-type nonfiction, minimum book length, etc.). This is time consuming, but I am able to pull good books that would otherwise be lost in the stacks—We all have some great titles that we know our students would really love if only they discovered them!—I arrange the books on tables which are set up in a large circle in the main area of the media center. If you want to be creative, add tablecloths and a few romantic touches to the tables. Make sure that each table has a sign with the name of the category of nonfiction books. I combine the biographies with other books and use the following categories: Sports, Military/Holocaust/Survival, History, Writers/ Actors/Actresses/Musicians, and Medical/ Psychological/Social Issues. I always keep a cart with enough extra titles to refresh the tables between classes. Finally, I set up enough chairs for the largest class in one big circle around the tables. That way it is easy to see all of the students quickly to make sure that they are engaged in their reading.
Let the Love Begin!
When the class arrives, ask them to stand outside the circle (away from the dates!) and briefly explain how selecting a book and choosing someone to date are similar (this usually gets a chuckle and some snickers, until I explain what I mean). Most often, physical appearance is the first thing we notice in either a person or a book (its cover). Next, we often want to find a book or a person with whom we have something in common. And finally, we want a book or person who is interesting to us. After the introduction, go around the circle of tables, pointing out each group of books. Sometimes, I mark books with a bright sticky note to remind me to do a very quick booktalk about that title. I usually keep those to a minimum, though, as time for dates is limited (but we know that sometimes we just can’t help ourselves when it comes to booktalking). Finish showing the categories, and tell the students that they will have two minutes to go to the table of their choice and select a book for their first date. Because their selections are limited, they can usually accomplish this task without a problem. I even allow them a “safety” choice to take back to their seat, just in case the first one doesn’t work out, pointing out that this is an advantage they don’t get when dating people.
After the first two-minute date, students must return to their seats and read for one four-minute date. This time can be adjusted depending on the age/attention spans of your students. They should remain quiet and read for the entire four minutes. After that first date, when the timer goes off, announce that if they wish to exchange their book for another, they have two minutes to do so. I find that usually about half the class “dumps” their date for a new one after the first session. Repeat the date/ exchange sessions for as many “dates” as you can during the class period, leaving enough time for book checkout at the end. It is gratifying to see that as we go through the dates, fewer and fewer students exchange books, and usually after the first two or three dates, no one even gets up to make a change. Many of my students are reluctant readers, so that makes it even more special to see everyone in a class actually engaged in reading and happy with their selections. The circle arrangement makes it easy to identify if any students are frustrated and need extra help in selecting books, and because the other students are engrossed in their books, it gives me the freedom to give attention to those who need it.
I have found that modifying my original speed dating procedure has resulted in an entirely new, engaging activity that suits both fiction and nonfiction books. The best reward is teachers who report that students are actually enjoying and finishing the books they have selected. And we know that the best way to make our students become lovers of books and reading is to actually get books into their hands that they will read and enjoy. You gotta love that!
Some Recommended Nonfiction
Open: An Autobiography (Agassi)
Hope Solo: A Memoir of Hope (Solo)
Lebron’s Dream Team: How Five Friends Made History (James and Bissinger)
Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream (Bissinger)
I Beat the Odds (Oher)
Believe: The Victorious Story of Eric LeGrand (LeGrand)
Miracle in the Making: The Adam Taliaferro Story (Brown)
Imperfect: An Improbable Life (Abbott)
The Boys of Winter (Coffey)
Red Scarf Girl (Jiang)
Under a Red Sky (Molnar)
Houdini: Master of Illusion (Cox)
AI Capone: A Biography (Iorizzo)
The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler (Giblin)
The World at Her Fingertips: Story of Helen KeIIer (Dash)
I Have Lived a Thousand Years (Bitton)
The Cage (Sender)
The Story of My Life: An Afghan GirI on the Other Side of the Sky (Ahmedi)
The Perfect Storm (Junger)
In the Heart of the Sea (Philbrick)
The Way of the Scout (Brown)
I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story (Bragg)
Flags of Our Fathers (Bradley)
Ghosts of War (Smith)
Black Hawk Down (Bowden)
Basher Five-Two (O’Grady)
I Am a SEAL Team Six Warrior (Wasdin)
My Lobotomy (Dull)
Born on a BIue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant (Tammet)
Med-Head: My Knock-Down, Drag-Out, Drugged-Up BattIe with My Brain (Patterson)
PIease Stop Laughing at Me (Blanco)
The Pregnancy Project (Rodriguez)
Three LittIe Words (Rhodes-Courter)
Wayne: An Abused Child’s Story (Theodore)
The GIass CastIe (Walls)
One ChiId (Hayden)
They Cage the AnimaIs at Night (Burch)
Scratch Beginnings (Shepard)
We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact HeIped Us Succeed (Davis)
Discovering Wes Moore (Moore)
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Angelou)
All By My Selves: Walter, Peanut, Achmed, and Me (Dunham)
I Didn’t Ask to Be Born (But I’m Glad I Was) (Cosby)
Kurt Cobain: “Oh Well, Whatever, Never Mind” (Burlingame)
A Pirate Looks at Fifty (Buffett)
Spin: The Story of MichaeI Jackson (O’Keefe)
Tish Carpinelli, MLS, is a media specialist at Lower Cape May Regional High School. She earned her master’s degree in school and public librarianship at Rowan University and has written several articles for Library Media Connection. When she is not managing the Media Center, 3D printing, or reading, she tends to her herd of seventeen alpacas.