Those of you who write for educators can probably relate to the fear that what you have to say hasn’t already been said a thousand times over; that your thinking is trite; that in your quest to support and inspire your colleagues, you’re actually being patronizing by telling them things that they already know.
While this may occasionally be true, so what? While we never want to act patronizing toward others if we can help it, so what if we’re dispensing “old” or hopelessly rehashed advice if that advice is good advice? Anyone who’s ever taught knows that educators have so much packed inside our brains at any given time that, once in a while, something we once held in the forefront of our brains will inevitably be muted out by lunch counts and copier jams and…oh, I don’t know…the thousands of important instructional decisions we make on a daily basis.
And sometimes, what we think is obvious to us is simply not so to others. The other day, one of my colleagues asked me how I find books to read. I had been remiss in recognizing how easy it often is for me to pluck book titles from the air and recommend them to others, how I take for granted my ever-growing to be read (TBR) stack. What I hadn’t recognized is how natural book selection has become for me–and in becoming something I needn’t put much thought or effort into, I’ve lost sight of how difficult or “unnatural” it can feel for others.
As nice as it is to feel needed by our colleagues, our job as teacher-leaders is not to be dispensers of wisdom, but to build capacity. To offer support to our fellow educators that is sustainable in the long-term. To that end, I have reflected on all the methods I use for finding texts to read and have listed them here. If any of these sound trite, or old-news, or obvious, I halfheartedly apologize–“halfheartedly” because for someone else, these may be ways of selecting texts and/or curating a TBR stack (particularly one that’s kid-lit heavy) that have only now, at this very moment, been made visible.
Curating Your TBR Stack: A Primer
BECOME A TWITTER STALKER.
- If you follow (and/or harmlessly stalk) a solid group of folks on Twitter, you’ll have a whole host of people you can rely on to recommend the latest & greatest reads, from picture books to middle grade novels to awesome blog posts to the best of YA. (Cool and not-entirely-unrelated bonus: if you follow your students’ favorite authors and illustrators, you’ll occasionally witness them tweeting out some of their work-in-progress that you can then share with your budding student-writers!) Recommended book gurus include @donalynbooks, @MrSchuReads, @guerrette79, @literacybigkids, @utalaniz, @nerdybookclub, @ReadWhileWhite, @ProfessorNana, @diversebooks, @strohreads, @100scopenotes, & @ShelfieTalk, to name a few. You may also want to periodically check out the hashtags #weneeddiversebooks, #bookaday, #nerdybookclub, and #IMWAYR (It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?). [Don’t wanna waste time scrolling through their Twitter feeds? Simply go to their page, click on “Media,” and see, at a glance, the covers of all of the latest books they’ve recommended.]
REGULARLY VISIT (or follow/subscribe to) SOME CHOICE BLOGS & WEBSITES.
- Not gonna lie: following blogs and websites on a regular basis can be its own part-time job. However, if you have some time to kill early in the mornings (while sipping your coffee) or late at night (while sipping a cocktail), check out these favorites that are helpful to me as both a reader, a thinker, and a literacy educator:
TAKE COPIOUS ADVANTAGE OF AMAZON’S “CUSTOMER WHO BOUGHT THIS ITEM ALSO BOUGHT…” FEATURE
- My spouse hates this feature ($$$). But as imperfect as it is–especially when searching for books similar to those that are part of a series–it sure can be helpful for curating “like” titles. (TIP: also take advantage of the “Look Inside!” feature before making any disappointing purchases or library runs.)
LISTEN TO READING-RELATED PODCASTS.
- Podcasts are freaking awesome, because you can often kill two birds with one stone by listening to them while driving to pick up your wayward children or collecting the dozens of socks that have been carelessly strewn about the house. Some current favorites include This American Life, The Book Love Foundation Podcast, The Yarn, All the Wonders, and Scholastic Reads.
READ MAGAZINES. LOTS OF THEM.
- Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a magazine nut, and am incredibly lucky in that I seem to share the taste of the folks who write these magazines’ book review columns. I most frequently find my non-kid-lit (but sometimes also my kid-lit) reads from The Atlantic, Entertainment Weekly, Mental Floss, People (don’t judge!), and Bitch (seriously, don’t judge!) magazines.
ASK YOUR STUDENTS.
- This is literally the best piece of advice I can give regarding the curation of your TBR stack. Our students, above everyone else, know what’s cool, what’s relevant, what’s relatable, and what is, ultimately, worth reading. Take note of the texts they bury their little noses into and follow. Their. Lead.
That’s it! Well, for now. I know there are about a hundred more ways that educators find their “next great read,” and I would encourage those folks to please share these ways in the comments below. But for those of you for whom some of this is new, take one last piece of advice and choose one of these ways to play around with, lest you drive yourself batty–and when you do find your next read, let me know what it is. ‘Cause there’s always room at the top of my stack.