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NRHEG Secondary School will begin our second year of Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) this week after a half year trial last year. This program sets aside a block of time every Wednesday for EVERYONE at school to just kick back and read something, whether it’s a novel, a newspaper, or a magazine.

Obviously, I love it as an English teacher and also as a voracious reader. Sometimes life gets so busy that I don’t have enough time to just relax and read. I heard many staff members last year talk about books they’d always wanted to read and had never had the chance before.

Ultimately, there are two goals to this program. The first is to improve student reading. The more you practice something, the better you get! The other goal is to develop a lifelong love of reading. Too many people leave high school and never pick up another novel again. It’s sad how much joy can be missed out on by ignoring the good literature that awaits one on library and bookstore shelves.

As the summer approached, I was excited since I had made a goal to read as much as possible in-between hauling the kids hither and yon and preparing some new material for this school year. I dedicated this summer to reading a batch of books that appeal to young adults. This way, I can recommend novels to my students. I’ve also discovered that one can really enjoy these, even as an adult. Following is a sample of some good reading I enjoyed the past few months.

I’ll start with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Many of my female students read this heartbreaker last year, and I kept putting off reading it to see what all the hubbub was about. Finally, Jayna said, “Dad, you HAVE to read this.”

Now I’ve become a little leery of teenage girl love books. I’ve been burned by Twilight (ugh, pure schlock) and Divergent (hard to keep interest). However, I found that Green’s seminal novel delivered on many levels. The characters were likable and real. The basic gist was following a couple teenagers dealing with cancer. I freely admit that I shed some tears near the end, and that happens about as often as the Twins win the World Series.

Many of my students tried out The 39 Clues series last year. There are eleven books in the series, following two orphans on a mystery to discover a powerful treasure. They must fend off and team up (and sometimes both) with various family members searching for the same treasure. This is not earth-shattering writing, but the books are entertaining enough to keep one’s interest, and I’ll be recommending them to my struggling readers. I finished three books and look forward to reading the rest throughout the year.

It wasn’t all young adult novels though. I recently read World War Z by Max Brooks. Many people have told me they saw the movie starring Brad Pitt, but I can only imagine how different it is compared to the novel. This is a book that tells a unique version of a zombie apocalypse. However, there is no real central character to invest in as you read. There is a narrator who is going around after the zombie war collecting points of view of various individuals who were involved in the action. I’ve not read much in this style, but it was enjoyable, especially for someone who’s a big fan of The Walking Dead comics and TV show.

I’ve just started The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This is another book Jayna recommended to me and stars Death as the narrator. So far, it’s well written (especially the similes!) and engrossing. The problem is I just got a call from the Owatonna Library that a book I requested back in July is finally in. Oh oh, two books at once!

I wonder how many staff and students will pick up a book for the first time since May as we resume. Hopefully, it is less than could say that last year; hopefully, many have at least attempted to keep reading over the summer and can suggest some other great books to read!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is plangent, which means loud and resounding or sad and mournful, as in, “The plangent sounds as patrons left the movie version of The Fault in Our Stars could be heard in the next theater.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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