10 books teachers think their students should read
Here's a list of the 10 most-requested books from middle school and high school teachers, from DonorsChoose.org.
Editor’s note: In the era of “distance learning” due to the coronavirus pandemic, students and teachers are finding new ways to connect. Parents and caregivers, too, are adapting to the new reality of quarantine. We share this story, first published in 2019, to offer recommendations to families with middle and high schoolers at home. We also published this list of free and affordable ways to access books while quarantining. Stay safe everyone.
ORIGINAL STORY FROM JULY 23, 2019 — Want to know what today’s students are reading? Look no further than the incredible classroom projects teachers are creating on DonorsChoose.org, the nonprofit crowdfunding site for public school teachers. Since 2000, educators have used our site to bring nearly 9 million books directly to their students.
We’re not exaggerating when we say that the right book and the right moment can change a student’s life. Read on for teacher’s top 10 most-requested books so far this school year, and see the enormous impact reading can have.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
Even before The Hate U Give hit theaters and collected critical praise, it was being read in classrooms across America. And it’s no surprise why, if you read how Mrs. Mangrum’s students reacted to the book: “Have you ever seen a teen who hates to read find a book that they cannot put down? That is exactly what happened when I introduced my students to The Hate U Give.” Mr. Rivera gives us a clue to the book’s popularity: unlike some YA novels (and plenty of “adult” books too), it doesn’t give readers “easy answers or simple characterizations.”
A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
The true story of a refugee from South Sudan, A Long Walk to Water has become a jumping off point for teachers to begin conversations about a wide variety of important global topics, from sustainability to the global refugee crisis. Mrs. Allen is using it for all of the above, and more: “This unit study will give my students a lesson of current events, sustainability, consequences of war, perseverance, how one individual can make a difference to a global problem, and working together as a group to solve a problem.”
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
Novels aren’t just for English class; they also play an essential role in Social Studies, helping students understand the stories behind the names and dates of history. And Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars has played this role in thousands of DonorsChoose.org classrooms, giving students a deeper understanding of an impossibly challenging subject to teach. As Mrs. A puts it, “Words cannot describe the moment when a child relates to a character in a story and that story becomes a part of them.
The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
How can a story about a gorilla who lives in a shopping mall say so much about humanity, friendship, and freedom?! Katherine Applegate’s heartwarming novel does all this and more. Teachers bring the novel into their classrooms for everything from enhancing reading comprehension to building community to studying environmental protection initiatives.
All American Boys, by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds
If any theme jumps out at you from this list, it should be that fiction written with young people in mind doesn’t shy away from challenging subjects. All American Boys is no exception, with a frank discussion of police brutality. That’s why Ms. J used DonorsChoose.org to bring 300 copies of the book to her school for an all-school read. She described it as the start of a conversation, not the end, writing: “This book is not our solution; rather, it is an important step in the direction of difficult conversations and real dialogue that build understanding of diverse experiences and perspectives.”
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This quote, often attributed to Albert Einstein, is brilliantly illuminated in Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s novel about a young girl hampered by dyslexia but brimming with creative spirit. From California to New York, from Florida to Alaska, Fish in a Tree is helping teachers create communities of brave, empathetic students capable of fulfilling their potential.
The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
S.E. Hinton’s coming-of-age novel stands the test of time. Mrs. Ange has taught the book for years to inspire discussion among her middle school students. Ms. T’s students read the book to learn about communities beyond their own. And Mrs. Rose leads her kids in an in-depth comparison of the book and the movie. No matter how you slice it, this slim novel packs a lot of punch, especially for reluctant readers. (Just ask Mrs. Hallinan.)
Dear Martin, by Nic Stone
When Mrs. Gist requested Dear Martin for her students, she explained: “By donating to this project, you are helping to spark an interest in reading. However, you will also be providing students an avenue to explore their own identities and important place in modern society.” This timely book explores race relations in the United States and has quickly become a favorite in high school classrooms since its publication last year.
Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
The story that started the phenomenon. Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone was first published in the United States exactly twenty years ago. Thanks to timeless themes of friendship, courage, right vs. wrong, and chosen family—not to mention a wildly imaginative premise—students and teachers still invite Harry into their classrooms. Just check out how Mrs. Riddle (no relation to Tom, we assume) used the book to inspire her young readers. Expelliarmus, ennui!
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Mrs. Siler says it best in her project to bring a class set of Wonder to her students: “If I had to pick one thing to teach them all year, this would be it.” The most-requested book on DonorsChoose.org for several years in a row, teachers bring the story into their classrooms for all sorts of reasons. Relatable characters, emphasis on empathy, and vocabulary-expanding prose are just a few. But one thread runs through all of the classroom projects requesting Wonder on our site: Kids can’t get seem to get enough of it.
Want to help a teacher put incredible books in the hands of their students? Find a book project in your school district here.
Are you a public school educator in need of resources? Learn more about funding your classroom projects here.