Summer has always been an opportunity for teachers to stop and reflect on the previous year. What worked? What didn’t? And most importantly, how can we take what we’ve learned and apply it to the fall semester. It’s during this period that I’ve always encouraged teachers to look over their classroom bookshelves. These mini libraries serve an invaluable purpose in our classrooms. They can inspire students to read, provide positive representation, and help develop social-emotional skills.
Like any tool, our classroom libraries need regular maintenance to stay effective. As such, it never hurts to update your shelves with new and exciting books. Here are just five awesome books that can re-energize your classroom and get students engaged.
The Best Man by Richard Peck (Grades 4 – 7)
The Best Man is a story about growing up, small-town life, and everyday heroes. In this engaging novel, readers are introduced to Archer Magill, a young boy trying to navigate the awkward trials of middle school. Helping him along the way are a series of colorful characters, including Archer’s three biggest role models, his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer; and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. For students who need help finding their way on the road of young adulthood, The Best Man can serve as an encouraging roadmap through some of life’s biggest adventures!
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters (Grades 6 – 12)
Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best friends determined to have an awesome summer together at Lumberjane scout camp…which apparently includes plenty of supernatural hijinks. Throughout their stay in the wilderness, these girls will need to band together to solve mysteries, defeat three-eyed wolves, and maybe learn a few lessons about friendship along the way. This zany, Eisner-winning series is a great option for young readers thanks to its strong female protagonists and powerful social-emotional themes.
Darius the Great is Not Ok by Adib Khorram (Grades 7 – 12)
Mental illness can be a hard subject for teachers to discuss with students, but Adib Khorram’s coming of age novel handles it with both grace and nuance. Readers are introduced to Darius Kellner, a half-Persian teenager who struggles with depression. Throughout the story, we learn some of the many misconceptions around mental illness and watch as Darius works to overcome its side-effects. At the same time, the book explores Darius’ Persian heritage and the complexities it creates for him in the wider world. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking, Darius the Great is Not Ok is an excellent book for every young student who’s ever felt a bit out of place.
The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan (Grades 5 – 12)
Every teacher has that one student with absolutely zero interest in reading. If that’s the case next fall, then The Trials of Apollo may just be the series for you. Set in the same universe as Riordan’s celebrated Percy Jackson novels, The Trials of Apollo follows the Greek god of music after he’s promptly kicked out of Olympus for misbehavior. Stripped of his weapons and powers, Apollo must complete a series of grueling quests to earn back his place in the pantheon. Luckily (or perhaps unfortunately) for him, he’s joined by Meg McCaffrey, a scrappy, stubborn young hero with a few secrets up her sleeve. Filled with plenty of action and Riordan’s signature humor, The Trials of Apollo is the perfect book to get your students excited about reading.
Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Grades 8 – 12)
I’ve written before about the importance of keeping comics in the classroom. Comics and graphic novels have been shown to increase interest in reading, improve student vocabulary, and provides representation for young readers. Young Avengers is a particularly good example of these positive qualities. Throughout this volume, readers get to watch as a diverse cast of odd, brave, and lovable characters save the world while processing the ups and downs of teenage life. If you let your students dive into the world of caped crusaders, you may be surprised by how much they discover about life, learning, and literature!
Take the opportunity this June to examine your classroom bookshelf and consider which books will re-energize your students next fall. Classroom libraries are amazing at shaping young minds into curious and creative thinkers. Let’s make sure our shelves are full of diverse stories that inspire our students to grow with confidence!