Choice Means Everything to Readers

By Laura Robb on January 14, 2013
  • Grades: 6–8

I have found that letting middle school students passionately pursue their interests with independent reading is the best way to hook them on print or e-books.  Last year a seventh grade girl said she would read only if I could find books about vampires. She had exhausted the few books in her school’s library, so I raided our area public library and my personal collection and found five books about vampires that she could read at school during independent reading time. Shocked and pleased that I had heard her request and took the time to locate books she might enjoy, this student immersed herself in the world of vampires during class and at home. Enthusiasm radiated from her book talks, and eventually, she branched out to reading realistic fiction and short stories that her peers recommended. Sometimes we feel obliged to have students read materials that parents, districts, and the Common Core feel are acceptable choices. However, I find that letting students use topics they love to turn them onto reading is a great way to go. It sure worked for me; I read Wonder Woman comics and True Confessions magazines in eighth grade and can and love to read as an adult! We are teaching 21st century kids who crave edgy topics and have interests and passions they care about and usually pursue outside of school if districts don’t sanction and honor student choices.


Let me know how you feel about developing students’ personal reading lives through choice and honoring their intense interests—as long as the materials are acceptable in a middle school classroom.


This is so true. Sometimes I will require a specific genre but usually I leave it open. My rule is that it must be at their reading level. So many want to read simple books because they don't like reading. And then of course you throw in Common Core, the nightmare, which requires (In Georgia State curriculum) kids to read The Hobbit in 2 weeks!

I completely agree with you. My daughter hated to read all through school. I had to force her to read so she could get the practice. She has the same love for vampire books and I did the same thing. I found her books she could read. Just yesterday I had to run to walmart to get her the newest book in a series. She almost has it read already. I know this is a phase for her and one day she will read many things. This is just the start of beginning to love books.

I think this is such an excellent post. I love finding books in different genres that relate to what the student loves. I especially love when I can tie in student interests to what we are learning in class! It really helps keep their interest! It's reassuring to know that letting students primarily read within their interest is not a bad thing!

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