High school teachers, how many students in your class have read a book before? Actually read a whole book?
It might seem like a question with an obvious answer. Most people would assume that the average high school student has finished multiple books in his/her lifetime. However, many of the students in our classrooms have indeed never finished a book.
Some of them truly struggle with fluency and comprehension making reading a book a challenge. Some of them have the ability to read. STAR test scores come back telling us they are reading close to or at grade level, but because they do not spend time reading novels and/or works of length, many of them lack the habits of reading and/or stamina necessary to finish an entire book. Then we hand them To Kill a Mockingbird or Frankenstein and wonder why they struggle or turn to Sparknotes.
I use free choice of books in my classroom with regularity for this reason (something I think should be a part of school-wide interventions and initiatives. I have a hunch that time to engage with high interest books raises reading scores more than computer programs which promise the same … probably cheaper too).
If you are a secondary teacher looking to “hook” your students, these are some books I turn to regularly for my most reluctant readers. Look through the choices and the books to which students can bridge to help hook your students into reading, but note, when you are choosing the perfect book for your student, make sure to know him/her. Read student journals. Ask questions. Know their interests. This will help make that perfect book choice even more effective and memorable.
Quick Summary: Melinda is about to start high school, but at a summer party, she called
the cops, busting up the party and making her a pariah at school. Now nobody, not even
her friends, will talk to her and Melinda must come to terms with the secret of that evening and its lasting effects on her life. Melinda’s secret about that evening will keep readers wondering and turning pages to the end
Who It Will Hook: Reluctant readers, struggling readers and younger high school
students will also be able to easily get through this one
2. The Fab Five by Mitch Albom
Quick Summary: Okay, as a teacher in Michigan, my students have a heightened
interest in this book as it chronicles the triumphs of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, the five freshman starters for the University of Michigan basketball team in the 1990s. It is also written by famed Detroit Free Press writer, Mitch Albom.
Who It Will Hook: Your sports fans (naturally). Also, Albom’s writing style is one that will appeal to non-sports fans as well. It has a strong narrative voice and is very accessible to readers of various levels.
Once you’ve hooked them, have them try: anything else by Albom (for really struggling readers, he also has a series of books called Live Albom which are collections of his columns. The reader would have to be a big sports fan since the columns are mostly 1980s-early 1990s, but they are quick reads that could build some confidence for a reader), The Last Shot by Darcy Frey
3. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
Quick Summary: The amazing true story of a child who suffers abuse at the hands of his mother and his struggle to survive.
Who It Will Hook: I have never found a student who wasn’t pulled into this story. It’s a quick read and accessible for readers of many different levels.
Once you’ve hooked them, have them try: the other books by Pelzer, The Glass Castle by Janette Walls
4. The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
Quick Summary: Winter has everything a girl could ever dream of. After her father, a successful drug dealer, goes to jail though, her world comes crashing down around her and Winter must learn about how strong she truly is.
Who It Will Hook: Girls who love drama. Warning: this book does have some scenes that are rather explicit. If you teach in a more conservative area, you might want to be careful about recommending this book. The students in the district where I teach are for the most part not ultra conservative, but I do always warn students before I recommend this one. I did a book talk on this book for a group of students last year and read the first page out loud. There was a waiting list for the book afterwards.
Once you’ve hooked them, have them try: Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree, Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, Quicksand by Nella Larsen
Do you have a book that always “hooks” readers? Is there a book you read as a high school student that changed you from a reluctant to a passionate reader? Comment below and I will try to include it in a future book hook entry!