When I was a classroom teacher, many of the books that my students and I read had little to do with our interests and more with budget decisions and the district curriculum. Three books in particular have risen above the collective groans of both students and teachers. The levels of engagement that we had with them prove that even required reading can be vivid, engaging and capture the imagination.
Petey by Ben Mikaelsen
The year is 1922. Born with cerebral palsy and unable to communicate how much he understands, two-year old Petey is taken from his mother’s arms and sent to a mental institution where he will spend most of his life. When the institution closes Petey becomes a resident at a nursing home in Bozeman where he meets a teenage boy who saves him from some bullies.
There was not a dry eye in my classroom when we read this book. I was teaching sixth grade language arts at the time. This book prompted indignation from my students about the treatment of the disabled in the past and led to further research and high level conversations about the rights of all.
The Blood Red Horse by K.M. Grant
This was the year that I had to teach the history of the Crusades to seventh graders. In this coming of age tale, two brothers go off to fight for King Richard, leaving Eleanor a girl that they both have feelings for behind. The youngest Will brings his wise and spirited horse Hosanna with him. Battling for the other side is Kamil, a young warrior under the command of Saladin.
My class developed strong feelings for both Will and Kamil. Many chose to go on and read the second book of the series on their own.
Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
The exotic setting and suspense filled pages captivated my students. We also enjoyed the Lessons for Life and Storytelling found at the beginning of each chapter.
Eileen Riccio is a former Middle School teacher, Instructional Designer and Author of the soon to be published YA novel CHOOSING SUNSHINE. Follow Eileen on google plus: www.eileenriccio.com/gplus
Please keep an eye out for Eileen’s upcoming contemporary YA novel “Choosing Sunshine.” I’ve been fortunate to read this powerful, brilliant novel, and I can’t wait for everybody else to discover it.
What’s the best mandatory book you’ve ever read? How do you feel about district-approved lists of books? Please share!