This is the first year I've taught middle school since my first year teaching eight years ago. Many variables about me as a teacher have changed since that first year. One of the most important variables being that I have grown in my understanding knowing what books my students are reading and basing my recommendations off of those preferences. Each year my understanding of books is constantly developing and evolving. The past couple of years, while teaching upper elementary, I read a lot of realistic and historical fiction. These were the two genres my students really seemed to gravitate towards. No matter how many fantasy book I tried to book talk with students, they just never showed any interest within this genre.
Beginning this year, while teaching 7th grade, I predicted realistic fiction would be the genre of choice. I've never been so wrong. I can't keep fantasy books on my shelves. The student's top three genres to read are fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian (per reading conference discussions). In my opinion, these genres are very closely related and at times hard to seperate. I have commented over and over to students how they have helped me close my reading gap in the area of fantasy. Their love of this genre continues to amaze me on a daily basis. Two students have made very insightful comments about this genre that have really stuck with me.
"I read fantasy because books with characters my age or younger are too immature for me. However, realistic fiction books with older character contain love and romance that I don't like reading about right now. Fantasy books take me to a different world where I don't have to worry about either of those things."
"I used to read fantasy books 24/7, but now I've stopped reading because I don't know who to talk to about finding even darker fantasy books. I might consider a different genre, but I'm not sure I'm ready to read about the world without the possibility of another world hidden inside it."
I wish I would have been as insightful about reading in 7th grade as these two students are with their reading choices. I am slowly nudging them towards other genres, but only because I think they are ready to try a new genre without extinguishing their love of reading. Fantasy will probably continue to be their genre of choice for many years to come, if not forever. I'm just thankful that I have been able to listen to my students and build my collection around their needs (more fantasy) and not so much of my wants and past experiences (realistic and historical fiction).