September 25, 2019

Top 10 Books to Read With Your Students This Year

Todd Nesloney
Books in a circle

Books are a powerful tool. They can allow us the opportunity to escape, to find ourselves on the page, or to learn about others. I truly believe that there isn’t anyone who doesn’t like to read; instead, I believe that it’s just someone who hasn’t found the book that moves their heart. As a teacher, principal, and now director, I’ve seen the power of books not only in my own life, but also in the lives of the students and adults I’ve worked with. There are many wonderful books out there to introduce to your students this year, but where do you even begin? Right here, of course! Here are 10 books I would highly recommend to read with your students, no matter the subject you teach!

  1. Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. If you’re a fan of the book Wonder by RJ Polacio, then you’ll love the two cactus books by Dusti Bowling! Dusti’s first cactus book Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus came out in 2017 and was a hit. A fun and beautiful story of a girl with no arms, a boy with severe tourettes, friendship, self-discovery and owning who you really are. Continue the journey from the first book with even more heart and passion in the sequel, Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus, which is even better! This is a great read-aloud book and spurs so many fantastic conversations.
  2. A Boy Like You by Frank Murphy. I don’t say this lightly when I say that this is probably my favorite picture book ever. I am a firm believer that picture books are for ALL ages and could even be more beneficial in secondary and adult classes. Frank’s story is one you’ll want every child to be a part of. Whether it’s showing us that a boy holds his head high, asks hard questions, leaves a room better than he finds it, listens to the story of others, embraces his emotions, or so much more, there are countless lessons for our kids (and our boys) throughout the book. Plus, the illustrations are fantastic!
  3. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. Angie’s first book, The Hate U Give, was a New York Times Bestseller and a book that is one of my all-time favorites. I was very leary in picking up her newest because I wasn’t sure if it would be as good as her debut. It took me a few chapters to really get into the story, but once I did, I was hooked. A great story about race, judgement, family, the choices we make, and pursuing your dreams. I even loved the subtle nods to her first book of characters placed throughout the new book,. On the Com Up is definitely a read for upper secondary students because of the topics and language, but I would highly recommend it.
  4. The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman. I picked up this book by the cover alone and fell in love with it. In one sitting, I finished reading the story of two young sisters who decide to run away from an abusive home, end up living on the street, and subsequently try to make it on their own. This story broke my heart and wrecked me. I could feel the emotions of the characters so deeply, their struggles, and their loss. The characters you meet will each stick with you for one reason or another, but this is a book I will not soon forget.
  5. When Grandma Gives You A Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Deenihan. Sometimes a book has a story that is unexpected but perfect for helping teach your students a lesson. I loved this story of a little girl who is quite upset when her grandma gets her a lemon tree as a birthday gift. But, as she soon learns, when you have patience, sometimes the gifts you get are instead gifts that allow you to give back to others even more.
  6. Most People by Michael Leannah. This is another book that I’ll be gifting quite often. In the world we live in today, we hear about all the terrible people or things that are going on. This story reminds us that most people are kind, forgiving, work together, and so much more. What a timely message!
  7. Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. So many cultures, traditions, and backgrounds are often misrepresented, misunderstood, or underrepresented in books. This story took me by surprise with how much I loved it. It’s a story about a little girl’s love for her mother’s khimar (or hijab), how it makes her feel, what it makes her remember, and the courage and strength it gives her even when her mom isn’t present. Our differences are what should be celebrated and what can bring us all together. This book is a must-have for every classroom.
  8. Douglas, You Need Glasses by Ged Adamson. This book is such a sweet story about a dog who finds out he needs glasses. Even though he doesn’t want them and feels insecure in them, he eventually comes to realize how they help him and don’t define him. What I love most about this picture book are the final two pages. I won’t spoil it for you, so you’ll just have to pick up a copy to read with your students!
  9. Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus. Karen’s previous book, One of Us is Lying, is addictive mystery and suspense at its best. Her newest book, Two Can Keep a Secret, is a fantastic, unexpected thrill ride that will keep you guessing the entire time with an ending that will have you wanting to talk to someone else immediately! This would be a great book for secondary students.
  10. Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly. Oh, how I loved this book! A fun, humorous, but heart-string-pulling book about a young girl who is the only deaf student at her school. While sitting in science class one day, she learns about a whale named Blue 55, who she immediately draws a connection to because of his unique voice. She convinces her grandmother to take her on a crazy adventure to share a song with the whale so he doesn’t feel so alone. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying throughout this book. And the best part? Blue 55 is based after a whale in real life, so your student can even research more afterwards!

I could honestly sit and list books all day long, but these are just a few of my favorites I’ve read recently and encourage you to share with your students! What are some of your own favorites to read with your students?