How do you choose your leisure reading? Do you browse the aisles of your local bookstore or library? Perhaps a good friend or colleague keeps you supplied with a list of titles, or maybe you belong to a book club. I read Twilight when it became popular among the grade 7 and 8 girls I taught. Several years earlier, my mother asked me to read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because her Christian school library committee was determining whether to house J. K. Rowling’s series in their collection. Last year, in order to engage in conversation with my neighbor’s son who loves the Warriors series, I read Into the Wild by Erin Hunter. As I venture further into the world of children’s and young adult books, I’ve encountered dystopian fiction, graphic novels, and even app-enhanced books.
What about you? Have you read Hunger Games? Do you regularly read teen fiction? What about dystopian fiction? Are you lured by the media frenzy surrounding these popular works, or do you dismiss the hype and choose not to read them? We can enter into real and meaningful conversation with our students about their books only after we purposefully read “their” books.
As teachers and administrators, we are presented with the opportunity to be readers’ advisors to the students we teach. In the world of librarianship, readers’ advisory involves guiding a reader to new books based on what they enjoy reading. A readers’ advisor acts like a tour guide, someone who knows more about a place and topic than do his/her followers. Some guides know all the facts and bore the tourists to tears, while others display a love for the history they describe and make a connection with the people on their tour.
One memorable tour guide I met led me on a lively tour through the Louvre. I’ve forgotten most of what I learned about art that day, but I do remember her ironic commentary on how the French saved the Italians from destroying their own art work; in her memorable words, the Italians don’t deserve to ever get it back! We teachers know our students well, and the onus is upon us to know their literary landscape as well—both the well-written books as well as crass populist works like Captain Underpants.