Recommended by students

It has been a long time since I delved into my favourite type of book: books that kids love. It has been a complete treat to be able to read some extremely entertaining books, on the premise that as a teacher I should probably 1) be aware of what my students enjoy reading, and 2) be able to share this knowledge with my more reluctant readers.

Second only to results day (some of us are in it for the glory, to our eternal discredit) my favourite thing about teaching is when a student comes up to me, thrusts a book into my hands and says “Miss, you need to read this!” and then I go home and absolutely love every minute of reading it.

Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than this.

I’m going to write about texts I believe students must read later; the below aren’t must-reads; rather they are vital gateways to enjoying reading in students’ spare time.

I’m going to put a caveat on this that I work in an all-girls’ school, so these books might seem a little more appropriate for your ladies than gentlemen.

So, below are some of my favourite books, in no particular order, which students have recommended, along with some ideas about who I would go on to recommend these for.

Looking for JJ

I noticed an extremely gifted year 8 student reading this in a library session, and worried it wasn’t challenging enough for her. In fact, it probably wasn’t; but the fact that it was her eighth time reading it, and that I have led a lot of more reluctant readers to it since, allows me to forgive her just this once.

Cassidy’s novel has a variety of rubber stamps from the book industry: it was shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Book Award and won the Booktrust Teenage Prize.

It’s a great story involving murder, creatively told. Your year 7 and 8 students will love it; your reluctant year 9s will definitely get something out of it.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Possibly one of my favourite books ever, and one of my most successful re-recommends. This is one of those books I staggered into school on four hours sleep for because I just did not know when to stop.

This was first recommended to me by one of my most widely read year 10 students, and now serendipity has made someone lose their library copy of it in my room. I could give it back, but I have some repeat-offenders who have taken to it in detention. I’m a greater-good kind of person.

The structure of this novel is its main selling point: incredibly creative narrative jumping all through time, as the title would suggest. At its heart, though, this is a romantic tale full of slush, not to mention some great vocabulary. I’d probably recommend for year 9 and above.

Major warning: there is a film version. I tend to find this makes some of my students immediately discount reading the book as they can just see the film. I’d hold off telling students it even exists.

Life on the Refrigerator Door

This book was recommended to me last year by an amazing year 7 student, who brought me dozens of books to read on an almost weekly basis. This was definitely my favourite. An undeniably easy read, it is certainly one for our non-readers to whet their appetite for reading. Extremely short and told in the form of notes on a fridge between a mother and daughter, this explores relationships and family tragedies convincingly. Students love the note aspect, especially how they are presented (often pictorially).

I’d recommend to Key Stage 3 reluctant readers; or any Key Stage 3 student before the holidays – they can read something easier if they also take out a Dickens. Them’s the rules.

The Sky is Everywhere

My year 9 tutees are my best book recommenders. I’ve taught them since year 7 so it has been a long time in the making, but when I’m stuck for something to read I sneak a bit of tutor time to pick their brains. One of the Beliebers (who has so far recommended about 7 excellent books for me) told me to read this, and I really did love it. Another one of those mushy romantic stories – they do love them so – this one also explores ideas of bereavement. Gorgeously written, and again some nice presentation for students needing the safety of images. Not to down-grade it – there’s a lot of words here too. I think year 7 and 8 could read it safely, although some of its themes might be a little boundary-pushing; this one comes into its own for year 9 reluctants.

I’ll definitely be revisiting this topic, not least because I’m always reading something a child has thrust onto my desk in the English office. Sometimes I truly don’t know what I’d read without my students.