One of my weaknesses as an English teacher is that I’m not particularly well-read when it comes to YA titles. When a kid asks what his next SSR book should be, I’m a bit flummoxed. Sure, I have default recommendations based on previous student book talks: girls with hipster glasses dig John Green; dudes at risk of dropping out will actually read Chuck Palahniuk; and everyone in my freshman classes likes Richard Paul Evans’ Michael Vey series because the protagonist is also a 9th grader at a real high school near ours here in Idaho. Relatable.
Much beyond that, though? I just don’t know. Happily, fellow teacher and writer James Tilton at Eastside High School in Lancaster, Calif., has spent the past two years solving this problem. His website, StoryTimeTeen.com, is a digital librarian at our fingertips and was built so he’d have a place to send his own students when they needed help finding a new book. With a team of teen curators (some are former students; others are interns), Tilton has done the hard work for us and built a super-cool Book Rec Generator that can help any student find a new book to read in less than 60 seconds.
Here’s how it works.
Students start here and make a choice:
Then, the generator will funnel them through a choose-your-own-adventure-style path:
Finally, the kid is given a book recommendation based on those personal preferences. My own bookish teen was absorbed by the generator and found several new titles to fill this last month of summer vacation. I also was charmed by the site’s Instagram feed which encourages students to submit fan art (extra credit or a Quarter Trio challenge, perhaps?) and the author interviews, many of which were conducted by Tilton’s teens.
Tilton adds fresh titles to the database twice a year during winter and summer breaks. He even cycles out titles that’ve been turned into films. Hallelujah!
If you share our belief that kids who say they don’t like reading just haven’t found the right book yet, then Tilton’s page should be added to your toolbox. Teach on, everyone.
All images used with permission of James Tilton. I’ve received no compensation of any kind for this review of his site. I just think it’s cool and will help our students.