The Top Ten Books “On Hold” Books in My Classroom Library by Katie Sluiter
This past school year, I was moved from teaching eleventh and twelfth grade English–a gig I’d had for over a decade–to teaching eighth grade ELA. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, to say the least. I wasn’t prepared for EVERYTHING TO BE A BIG DEAL to this age group. Everything except my lessons, that is. And reading. They claimed to not be interested in reading at all.
After doing workshops and conferences with both Penny Kittle and Donalyn Miller in the summer, this was also the school year that I decided to implement a Reader’s Workshop in my classroom. The results were nothing short of amazing.
Coincidently, all those students who claimed to not care about reading, found books they loved and could recommend to each other throughout the school year. In fact, several books were constantly “on hold”–never to be just “available” ever. Below you will find the Top Ten Books that were almost always “On Hold” in my classroom.
- Winger by Andrew Smith.
Ryan Dean is a 14-year old junior who is in love with his best friend, 17-year old junior Annie. The book is hilarious and I suspect the first draw to it is that there is some bad language. Eighth graders think they are getting away with something when they read it, but they end up changed at the end. One student–a self-proclaimed “non-reader”– came to me and said, “Mrs. Sluiter? This book ruined my life. So my mom bought me a copy and I just started reading it again. I don’t know if I can ever read another book.”
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.
I have two copies of this book and I only saw it when checking it in and the putting a post-it on it to hand to the next person on the “On Hold” list. Guys and girls have loved the relationship between two awkward high school students. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in some spots, and heart-breaking in others. Students tend to relate to one or both main characters.
- Carrie by Stephen King
I had no idea when I book talked Carrie to my that it would be in such hot demand. Again this one is loved by both girls and boys. I think a lot of my students can relate to the bullying, but are also swept up by the creepy story and the crazy characters. The multi-genre approach to the story-telling is also appealing to junior high kids with short attention spans.
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
This has been on MY To Read list all school year, but I could never get my hands on it because the girls in my class keep anything that has to do with death and dying off my shelves. In this one, Clay gets a package from a classmate (and his crush) Hannah after she commits suicide. The package contains cassette tapes where Hannah narrates the thirteen reasons why she killed herself.
- Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
This is one that not only got passed around all school year, but it also disappeared from my class library by the end of the year probably taken home by some young reader who just couldn’t let go. Maybe it will show back up in the fall, but probably not. The entire book is made up of letters that Laurel writes to dead celebrities. She is supposed to just write one, for an English assignment, but she fills her notebook with them because it helps her deal with her sister, May’s, death as well as the abuse she herself experienced.
- The Enemy Series by Charlie Higson
I had a whole group of guys who were reluctant readers pass this series around one marking period. They would check in with each other if they were waiting on one of the books and give each other grief if someone wasn’t reading fast enough. The first in the series is The Enemy which takes place in London after a flesh-eating disease wipes everyone out. Teenagers barricade themselves in a building until a stranger shows up and tells them they can be safe in Buckingham Palace, but they have to get there first.
- The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner
Not surprising at all, The Maze Runner is still very popular. Just this past year the prequel, The Kill Order came out, prompting many to either revisit the series or read it for the first time.
- The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
After they finish The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabbot, a lot of my girls were looking for a new series. I directed them to The Selection by Kiera Cass, and just like that, they disappeared from my shelves. There are 35 girls and only one crown. This series is a step up into a more thoughtful, complex princess story that has reminded some kids of The Hunger Games.
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
This one is STILL being checked out like crazy. My high school students loved it when it was new, and now my junior high students are re-discovering it after having seen the movie. I often use this book as a gateway to all the other fabulous novels by Green.
- Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
This was a new addition to my library at the semester and after one girl read it, another checked it out, and before I knew it, there was a long “On Hold” List started. All sorts of readers love this book from avid to reluctant because the writing is fast-paced with lots of dialogue and beautiful artwork.
Katie Sluiter is a junior high school ELA teacher and writer who lives in West Michigan with her husband and three young children. Her writing has been published in several anthologies as well as in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan. She currently contributes to The Educator’s Room and blogs at Sluiter Nation. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
great choices. It’s when I see posts like this that I really miss teaching.
Sorry for the lower case G at the beginning of my comment. My keyboard has started to stick and the G has to be hit quite hard!
I love reading about all of these amazing books but crave a “just as amazing” list appropriate for my 4th graders. Finding new, engaging realistic fiction text in the O-P reading level is a challenge! Any suggestions? I need a lot of books at this level!
Have you tried the 11 Birthdays series by Wendy Maas
A great selection! Donalyn was part of a workshop at Kent State on Halloween last year, I was actually part of a breakout session with her were I was about to meet and talk with her, and have my copies of “The Book Whisperer”, and “Reading in the Wild” signed!
This list is uncanny, I just downloaded “Winger”, and “Thirteen Reasons Why” to my kindle. I’m actually a couple of chapter into the latter. I just finished “The Scorch Trials” and can’t wait for the film! As for TFIOS I read it in one night the day before I went up to Cleveland to see author John Green, and the stars of the film version if your student liked this one, I would strongly recommend Green’s first book “Looking For Alaska”. Its my favorite his, one of my favorite books actually!
“Carrie” was a surprise for me on this list. It seems a little mature for the grade level, then again that’s King for you. However I wouldn’t censor anyone from reading any book, glad to see you aren’t either.
Finally, I don’t know if you knew but Daniel Handler is the real name of “Series of Unfortunate Event” author Lemony Snicket. A correlation of this might inspire a new interest in the series.
Great article! Happy reading!
I love this list! I’m moving into “reading lab” this year for 7th and 8th graders who are reading well below grade level, and I’m going to be doing a reading workshop with them. Are there any books on this list that you’d say are more accessible to not just reluctant, but struggling readers as well?
Ooh, and I’d add Raina Telegemeier’s graphic novel memoirs, Smile and Sisters, to this list. I kept buying more copies to try to keep the girls happy!
DEFINITELY Winger. I should have also added the Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian too. My struggling readers LOVED that.
Reblogged this on David Macinnis Gill and commented:
Want to know what 8th grade readers can’t get enough of?
Quite a few of the books I have already. Guess I need to look into these. All of these books are/sound great.
I am reading (well, listening to the audiobook) of Eleanor & Park right now. I’m almost to the end, and I love it so much. I think about them when I’m not listening. Great, great story. Reminds me so much of my first love (who happens to now be my husband).
Do you have a school library or a nearby public library, so the “hold books” can get in students’ hands faster? Or connected with an online funding organization (like DonorsChoose.org) to get more copies?
Great post, loved many of these titles, but found a few more, too! Thanks!
The struggle of wanting every book on the list!
I loved this list thank you!
Great list!!! I also want to influence my future students in reading books, thanks! 🙂
Hey, we loved your post! It is great to see that teachers can teach reading in a fun way. How did you begin your project and how did you deal with the typical struggels, like taking the first step to pic a book? And would you mind if we would translate your post into german? Or would you like to write a guest article for us?
Your Twolittlebibliophiles (Dana and Nathalie)
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