What are kids reading? It’s all about choice

By Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research

I am NOT a fan of book clubs. Don’t get me wrong, I am a voracious reader and I like to discuss books as much as the next gal, but I simply cannot have someone else choose which book I read next. I know many people love these gatherings, but for me there are just too, too many books out there and just not enough time to read them all. So having to read a book that someone else has selected? No thank you.

I do, however, love hearing about books others have enjoyed, digging back into classics I may have bypassed years ago, and cracking open a random book that catches my eye and then draws me right in with its first line of text.

I take choosing each book that I read very seriously. I never want to read a book I don’t feel strongly about (see my distaste for book clubs, above) and I also feel very unsettled by the notion of starting a book but not finishing it because I lose interest. So, when deciding what to read next, I’m choosy. Very choosy. I read reviews, find out what others have read, and examine what books have somehow crept into my consciousness. Sometimes I have a mental list of books I’m eager to read and sometimes I feel like I’m starting from scratch, asking “What in the world should I read next?”

Deciding on that next book is really challenging sometimes. What a great, low-stakes challenge and wonderful “problem” to have, of course, but a challenge nonetheless.

And I’m a reader—an extremely engaged, enthusiastic reader. I cannot imagine what kids who are reluctant or resistant readers go through in trying to find the right book. Or those who struggle with reading or struggle with finding something—anything—to read that is interesting but also understandable for them. The task must be daunting and extremely frustrating. And for these kids, this challenge is not so low stakes. There are implications to not finding that great read—the one that hooks them in right now and then drives their desire to read more later—that can weigh heavily on their achievement in school and their later success in life.

So how do we help? How do we light that first spark for reading and then continue to foster their relationship with books?

What we do is celebrate reading. We make it fun. We not only offer them choice and ownership of their reading, but we learn about their individual interests and then help them seek out books on those topics. We find out what their peers are reading or recommend. We help focus their efforts so that we simultaneously open the world of books to them while lighting their unique paths to follow.

What Kids Are Reading: 10th Anniversary Edition is brimming with K–12 book lists and data insights to help light the way as you and your students take this journey. Inside you’ll find popular reads for each grade, top nonfiction books and articles, top books read independently, top chapter books, kids’ highest rated books, educators’ recommendations, and a decade of number one books. A close examination of Renaissance Accelerated Reader® data, upon which the report is based, sheds light on key findings for nonfiction reading, struggling readers, and popular reading trends. Guest essayists include author/illustrators Nick Bruel (Bad Kitty series) and Janet Stevens (Tops & Bottoms) as well as three educators—Genny Kahlweiss, a classroom teacher from California; Nicole Erwin, a librarian from Tennessee; and Valerie Kropinack-Hackett, an administrator in New Jersey—who share their personal reading experiences and how the Accelerated Reader program has impacted their teaching and students.

So jump in, get inspired, and then go inspire your students. Maybe you’ll hook them with a title that’s read the most in their grade or the books their peers rate highest, or maybe by grouping together kids with like interests and forming a book club. What’s most important is finding out what works for them.

Download your copy of the What Kids Are Reading: 10th Anniversary Edition report today—and be sure to sign up for a month of helpful reading tips!

Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research

Heather Nagrocki works as senior writer and editor for the Research team where she oversees all external publications for the department. She collaborates with educators on case studies highlighting school and district success with Renaissance solutions as well as shepherds the development of key annual reports including What Kids Are Reading.

Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research
Heather Nagrocki, Senior Writer/Editor, Research
Heather Nagrocki works as senior writer and editor for the Research team where she oversees all external publications for the department. She collaborates with educators on case studies highlighting school and district success with Renaissance solutions as well as shepherds the development of key annual reports including What Kids Are Reading.

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