Not too long ago, I had a friend who sent me a text that said, "You have to read this book!" She explained that one of her sixth grade students had recommended a young adult fiction book to her, but the student asked her not to preview it - 'just read it' - and she did. I asked her if it was good. Her response? "Holy sh**!" (Okay, not with the asterisks, but...you know.)
My friend brought me a copy of the book a few days later and, again, all she said was what she had text. She told me to just read it for myself. She also wanted my opinion as to whether I thought it was an appropriate book for a sixth grader to read, even though it is classified as YA. (And that's a whole conversation in itself, if you ask me. A book meant for a high school student should be in a different category than a middle school student. There should be some kind of 'content level' for young adult fiction. Seriously.)
I read the book, admired the style of writing, and - sure enough - my sentiments were somewhat similar to my friend's text when I finished. I was impressed with the book. Was it appropriate for sixth graders? Well, I felt like it might be for some of them. There's nothing really inappropriate about the book, in my opinion, but the main characters are around 15 years old and they talk and act like most young people that age. There are a few 'bad words' in it, but very few.
So,...I had a decision to make: Do I recommend this great book to my students or not?
I decided to share the book, on a limited basis, to just my advanced reading students in one class. Most of them read more mature content on their own, anyway. I introduced the book to my students and told them it was a well-written book I highly recommend. I also told them it had a few things in it more appropriate for 15 year olds, but I felt they could handle it okay. I also told them it had a few 'bad words' in it and if they, or their parents, had a problem with that, they should not check it out. I had bought several copies and asked if anyone was interested in borrowing one. I told them I would put their name in a drawing to see who could borrow a book first, if more than four people were interested.
Most of the class put their names in the drawing, and I drew out four names. I had the students stand in front of the class, raise their right hand, and take a pledge. Basically, the pledge was that they were going to read the book beginning that day, not share it with anyone else, and the only people they were allowed to talk to about the book were people who had already finished it.
I never intended it to become a secret book club, but that is what has happened,...and it's spreading like wild fire! The first round of students to get a book have already finished it. They came to my classroom to talk about it, so excited! The second round is reading it now, and I've been asked to order more copies, which I've done.
It's so great to see so many students excited about a book and having fun whispering about it with other readers. They've actually connected with other students they don't normally hang out with, and I've been impressed with the feedback I've gotten from them about what they liked best about the novel.
In keeping with my own pledge, I would like to recommend this book to you...without saying anything about it. Yes, I know it makes no sense,...but it will...if you just read it.