I’ve been remiss about writing and reviewing my summer reads. Mostly because it feels so good to have to read for pleasure rather than for planning and teaching that I’ve just sort of wrapped myself up in the words and wallowed in the joy of prose again.
I have to say, this first year of teaching nearly stole my love of reading again. It’s something I am struggling with. After all, I became a language arts teacher to share my love of reading, how do I do that when I don’t love what I’m teaching?
Last year I taught 3 grade levels, which meant reading 12 books well enough to teach them (ie; over and over again). I think it would have been okay, but I didn’t get to choose any of the books that I taught and, I’ll be honest here – some of them are books that I don’t think anyone ever needs to read again, not when there are so many current books that tackle similar themes and are relevant, relatable, etc.
It’s not like “the classics” aka The White Male Canon will ever go away. These books will all be available for people to read whenever they want to read them. I just don’t think foisting them on teenagers who are already looking for reasons to disengage is helpful.
But… No one asked me. One of the many joys of being a first year teacher, when people want your opinion, they give it to you.
Here are my Everything, Everything style spoiler reviews of the books I taught last year.
Animal Farm: Animals are duped by fascism. Meet the new boss, worse than the old boss.
Night: Humans are duped by fascism. Jewish people are rounded up, tortured and worked to death for being Jewish. Meet the new boss, much worse than the old boss.
House on Mango Street: Life as a Latina in America is hard. Finding your creative outlet can help.
Romeo and Juliet: It’s not a romance. Everyone dies in the end.
The Crucible: America falls victim to fear, witch hunts ensue. Also, teenage girls are irrational and shouldn’t be listened to, but men who cheat on their wives and lie about it are heroes.
Living up the Street: Life as a Latino in America is hard. Causing trouble with your pals can help.
Silent Spring: Capitalism is the enemy of the environment.
Choice novel from a selection of multi-cultural novels: “Read about other cultures, here’s a window into someone else’s experience.”
To Kill a Mockingbird: Veritable list of “isms.” Also, white males will save us all if we’re patient enough to wait for the good ones while not being killed by the others.
Into the Wild: Privileged white male renounces his privilege to die alone in the Alaskan wilderness.
The Great Gatsby: Lower class white male lies, cheats and steals his way into the American Dream, still doesn’t get the girl.
Choice book from a HUGE selection of memoirs. “Here’s a window into someone else’s life. It could also be a mirror. Your choice.”
While I was teaching these, I didn’t have a ton of time for my own reading.
During the last quarter, I did finally read a memoir for my own enjoyment: Educated by Tara Westover. It was fascinating and I offered it to one of my students when the memoir unit started. Sadly, he did not read it.
The rest of the year, I was reading, and re-reading, the books listed above, pulling out lessons and close reading sections for my students, looking for companion/texture texts to pair with these books to help my students connect the stories, themes and big ideas to their own lives and to our current world situation.
I also read some professional development books, mostly about teaching reading, literacy and keeping students engaged. Books like, Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, which confirmed everything I was feeling and When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do by Kylene Beers and I Read It, but I don’t Get It; Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent Readers by Chris Tovani. I went to conferences and took professional development classes. Basically, I read for the purposes of work, and only that.
I plan to do some review of the professional books I read soon, but first, I needed to take a little time this summer to read for the sake of reading, for fun, for myself.
Here’s a short list of the books I’ve read so far this summer. Real reviews to come, hopefully.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchison
The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Next in the queue: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
I’ll try to take time, now that I have it, to go back and write reviews for all of these and my professional development books. This summer is 1 part recovery, 2 parts planning for next year and 2 parts trying to establish new habits and routines to carry me forward. (Like my new gym membership and daily workout!)
Wish me luck. I’m definitely going to need it!