How Wide is Your Reading Network

Shelley Fenton

At the beginning of each new calendar year, I reflect on the year gone by and look ahead to the new year. This year while looking ahead I decided to choose a specific reading goal for myself. I set out to read more books that I could recommend to students in grades 3-6. Wanting to make this goal visible I created a display on my bulletin board outside my office, Mrs. Fenton’s reading goal for January to June. My goal was to read 25 children’s chapter books. The next question was what titles do I pick. Choosing engaging and current titles was where I wanted to begin.

As a former primary teacher for many years, I was familiar with many authors and series that would interest K-2 students from picture books, poetry to beginning chapter books. But thinking about books that would engage older readers I wasn’t sure where to begin. So I started by asking a very knowledgeable young woman in a bookstore that I frequent and got a large stack to choose from. I selected three to purchase; The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Ghost, by Jason Reynolds.  Excited about the new purchases I headed towards the cafe to grab my tea and start reading. As I was about to leave a young girl approached me with a wide grin on her face and a hardcover book in her hand. She explained that she had overheard me speaking to the salesclerk and had ta book to recommend. It was Chester and Gus, by Cammie McGovern. She said, “It was a MUST read!” She explained that the moment she started on the first page she could not put it down until she was done. So of course with that strong recommendation, I had to give it a try. Chester and Gus were added to my stack.

After completing my new stack, and recommending them to teachers and students I asked myself, Hmmm… where do I go next for new titles? I often use Goodreads to record my own reading, add recommendations from friends and colleagues and share my reading life so I started there. I realized I had many on my list picture books, professional books and even “beach reads.” Not many were in the category of chapter books that might appeal to students in grades third through sixth. Then I had an idea, our literacy coaches group was reading, Passionate Readers, by Pernille Ripp and I knew she had started a wonderful Facebook group. Searching the posts I quickly found a post that Pernille asked, “What does your stack look like for the holiday break?” What a treasure, there were SO many current interesting books posted I began adding them to my Goodreads app and headed to the bookstore. One that kept coming up over and over again was The 57 Bus,  by Dashka Slater. This definitely was one that I wanted to find. This book opened a new window for me. It dealt with the topic of gender identity in a way that was very enlightening to me. I believe I would never have added this book to my stack without the suggestion from the teachers in the Facebook group. Now it is the first place I check when looking for a new title.

With working in five school buildings I realized I needed to find a way to share these with as many classrooms as possible. Book talks at professional development opportunities and when visiting classrooms is nothing new but how could I hook more readers? I decided to hook them through technology. Using Flipgrid was my answer. After completing each book I created a short video on Flipgrid and then shared the link with teachers. When students and teachers were looking for a new book they could listen to a two-minute video and perhaps find their next choice.

When I was a classroom teacher I found my next favorite book to share with students by talking to my school and community librarians now between my connections on twitter @fentonsann, Voxer, Goodreads and Facebook groups my reading network has grown tremendously! So when you are looking for your next great title don’t forget to check your social media and technology connections!

2 thoughts on “How Wide is Your Reading Network”

  1. Shelley, I love this post. What a great idea for using Flipgrid! I read middle grade books and look for recommendations on Nerdy Book Club and throughout all my blogging contacts. Do you know about Monday What are you Reading? Every week, Jen Vincent posts a round up and teacher bloggers post links to their MWAYR posts. Those posts are full of recommendations.
    Sometimes it gets overwhelming and I can’t possibly buy all the good books out there. But finding the just right book for a student requires knowing about a lot of books.

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