Keeping Up with New Books as an English Teacher

Most of us became English teachers because we love reading. Some even have the passion and self-discipline to remain consistent readers while teaching.

I, however, am not one of them.

I’m terrible at balancing reading into my teacher life, which is made worse by the fact that I’m a picky reader. (There - I said it. Don’t turn me in to the ELA Police!)

I’m usually in the thick of an English Teacher Reading Rut: too busy reading student work and professional documents to squeeze in the latest hot book, much less the OTHER worthy titles being published seemingly every minute. And each school year, that problem gets worse for me, whether it’s due to my professional life (like adding on more to my plate) or my personal life (like adding a human to the world). I WANT to be reading, but I can barely read news headlines, much less the newest YA fiction.

As a result, picking out newer books to read or recommend is a real struggle. Even when I turn to a list of award winners or flip through a Scholastic catalogue, the lists are long enough that I can’t possibly read them all, decide which ones I need to buy for my class, and match them with the right reader... at least, I can't do it alone.

The question becomes, how can well-meaning English teachers find the best books to read, recommend to students, and buy for classroom libraries?

1. Build a relationship with a teacher or librarian you trust.
Even if you don't have a large English department of colleagues nearby, even one great librarian or teacher friend whose opinion you trust is a HUGE asset. If he or she knows your criteria and is actively reading, he or she can tell you if a book is worth buying and pitching.

In fact, my local library does "teacher requests" and creates PILES of books that meet what a teacher is looking for. It doesn't hurt to ask!
2. Follow teacher-readers on Instagram.
I stopped following certain types of readers on social media and started following more TEACHERS, ones who will not only look for similar qualities in a book but will be sure to recommend the REALLY good titles worth exploring.

To see a list of 40 recently-published books recommended by fellow English teachers, click through this Instagram loop!

3. Pick up the book you’re the most excited about.
If you've got a pile of books to catch up on, start with the one that YOU truly want to read. You'll be more motivated to fit it into your life, and your book talk to the class will be more enthusiastic.

4. Recruit trustworthy student beta readers.
If I know a few mature readers well (and also know their parents will be supportive), then I sometimes hand a new book to such students and ask them for their honest opinions. These readers often tell me what I need to know - both in terms of how engaging it is AND whether or not there's anything inappropriate that would cause me to pull the book from my shelf.

Do you have more ideas?
Tell us in the comments!

Enter to Win a Gift Card for Books!

The giveaway below is being sponsored by the following English teachers:

Secondary Sara, Tracee Orman, Nouvelle ELA, Hello Teacher Lady, Jen Maschari, The OC Beach Teacher, Read It Write It Learn It, Doc Cop Teaching, Mrs. Spangler in the Middle, Hanson Hallway, The Language Arts Classroom, Literary Sherri, Making Meaning with Melissa, Reading & Writing Haven, Erin Beers, Bs Book Love, and The Marvelous Middle

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1 comment

  1. Well I certainly won't turn you in to the ELA police because I would have to turn myself in too! Thanks so much for this helpful post!