During the first semester, Jess Smetana’s freshmen classes select an outside reading book of their choice that connects to the curriculum’s overarching theme: coming-of-age. In response to the book, students craft an analytical response that explores the protagonist’s growth on the journey from childhood innocence to adult maturity and wisdom, as well as thematic connections. The students also reflect on what they liked, or conversely disliked, about the book. Additionally, they select a creative venture to further investigate elements of the book.
To help match books to student interest, we distributed a Reading Interest Inventory via Google Forms to students.
Using the results, I pulled books from a variety of genres for students to sample: realistic fiction, dystopian, historical, paranormal, sci-fi, sports, romance, mystery, adventure, and nonfiction.
Students then engaged in a “speed dating” activity, which allowed them to see if they had any “chemistry” with a book. They recorded their thoughts about the “mini-date” using a feedback form. Ultimately, they all selected a book to “take out,” and were given the last 10 minutes of the period to get to know their book better. Students were also reminded that I could help “set them up” with a new book if things didn’t work out.