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One of the movements in education is to have students read from a variety of genres, or types of books. I was hesitant about this at first – why not let kids have more choice in what they read? If they start a series of books (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.), should we interrupt something the students truly enjoy?

As with so many things, when I saw my own daughter embrace this idea, I decided to try it myself. There are any number of genres, but I focused in on these: realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. Realistic fiction could be broken down into many sub-genres (sports, teens, romance, etc.), but leaving it as one encourages students to try more.

The basic theory is this: expose children to many different forms of literature, and they will discover areas outside their comfort zones and learn more through that exposure. Let’s face it: many students would stay cozily confined in realistic fiction because they associate those stories most with their own lives. There’s nothing quite like seeing a kid, sometimes grudgingly, admit that non-fiction or fantasy is rather fun to read.

When I started exploring this path a few years ago, I made it my aim to do this type of reading myself. If I want kids to read different types of books during the year, I should make the same thrusts into the literary realms. I’ve always been partial to fantasy and science fiction, but now I’ve discovered new ranges of reading, sometimes thanks to the suggestions of my students! With your permission (which is given if you keep reading!), I’d like to share some of that broadening with you by telling you about some books I’ve read recently. They’ve helped me explore new and exciting places that I might or might not have reached for before.

Non-fiction: This is a tough one to have kids think is fun to read. Most people think of non-fiction as boring real stuff. However, many kids have discovered they enjoy biographies of sports stars, informational books about hunting, and other items that hit on a particular interest. I had a chance to read Yes, It’s Hot in Here, a fun non-fiction book about life as a professional sports mascot. It was an intriguing look at the history of mascots and one man’s personal journey, interspersed with humorous stories of such characters as the San Diego Chicken and the Phillie Phanatic. Good stuff, an easy read, and something I might suggest for kids who have a hard time picking out some good non-fiction.

Mystery: Many students have become interested in the 39 Clues series of mysteries. These books follow a couple of kids on a treasure hunt of sorts, as they try to solve various clues to find the most powerful substance on earth. There is family intrigue and parts that really make a reader think. However, these are books that are also an easier reading level, so they become good choices for struggling readers. I enjoy trying to keep up with some popular trends, and these have been good books to read in-between some heavier selections.

Fantasy: I’m currently listening to the final book in the Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman. The best way to describe these books is Harry Potter for adults. It’s a much more mature look at a world in which magic exists. Fascinating characters and situations make for good material.

Science Fiction: While the many comic books I still read fit into this category, I also finished the Southern Reach Trilogy. I still don’t know what to think about it. It was confusing at times, interesting enough to keep me going at others, but unfulfilling at the end. I’m not sure I’d recommend these unless you like really off-kilter stories.

Historical Fiction and Poetry: I’ve been remiss in these areas. I’m not a huge poetry fan and haven’t read a book with that in a few years. I enjoy historical fiction, but haven’t had one come across my plate in the past year or so.

Realistic Fiction: I mentioned earlier that this includes so many different books, but I just finished a good one. Biggie is the debut novel by former Owatonna journalist Derek Sullivan. It follows a high school boy who’s morbidly obese and his struggles to lose weight and decide whether or not he really wants to fit in with his classmates. It follows some traditional themes of sports and dating, but Sullivan doesn’t always follow the path a reader might expect, and it was a very good read that will likely end up on my bookshelf at school.

There you go! Why not try something outside your comfort zone? Much like some food your parents made you eat, you just might like it!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is placentious, which means pleasing or inclined to please, as in, “The placentious book appealed to a wide range of readers.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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