What Should I Read Next?

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.

10 thoughts on “What Should I Read Next?

  1. Love that! I’m excited to share with my kids. Thanks!!

  2. Kris Betley says:

    Thank you for sharing! And thanks to James for creating this tool!! I know there are so many more books out there that will appeal to our students, but my knowledge of them is limited. This will be a huge help.

  3. I think so, too, Kris! The pathway is fun for kids to follow and there’s a bunch of titles in there that are new to me. I mean, we can’t be expected to know ALL the books, right? 🙂

  4. Can’t wait to share this with my kids. Thanks

  5. Hi Laura!

    I was just wondering, how do you make time for SSR with all the things that you pack into your calendar (the bellringers, fun supplemental activities, assessments, crazy essay week, etc.)?

    Do you feel that SSR makes you sacrifice a significant amount of time that could be used for lessons?


  6. Great question, Eng10Santos! Indeed, my calendar is pretty packed and my classes work at a good clip to fit in everything. SSR still fills about 40 min. every Friday, though, because both my kids and I NEED it. They need to fall into a good book and develop stamina with text. I need the time to conference one-on-one with struggling students, host book talks, and stay on top of grading. Over the years, I’ve come to peace with the idea that we may read only four major pieces a year whereas we used to read five. SSR, Quarter Trios, and 20Time are more important to me than squeezing in one more classic novel. They get plenty of that as it is. Hope this helps show my thought-process on calendar building and giving my kids a robust, well-rounded ELA experience! 🙂

  7. These links to PickMyYA.com are broken. I’ve tried doing a quick search for the site with no luck. Does anyone know if the site is still running under a different name/link?

  8. Thanks, Sarah, for the heads-up on this. Indeed, it looks like the site has been removed. I just emailed James to see if he migrated to a different platform and will update or delete my blog post when I get more information. Stay tuned…

    UPDATE: Yup, James migrated everything to a new site recently. Goodbye, PickMyYA. Hello, StoryTimeTeen! Links in the blog post above been updated.

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