Reading Plans: The Power of a TBR List

In every spare minute of time I’ve had with students for the past month that hasn’t included standardized testing, I’ve tried to talk books with them.  I’d recently given them a reading interest survey and when I was conferencing with them individually about their responses, one thing struck me as being the same among all of them.

It was the way they answered the question, “What do you plan to read next?”

They all replied in one of three ways:

1) “I don’t know,” or

2) they listed a familiar (and very independent level!) book, or

3) they simply left it blank.

The beginning of our year was very exciting, particularly with the “Grand Opening” of our classroom library.  I cordoned off the shelves with yellow CAUTION tape and we utilized the first couple weeks of school to become researchers in our own library. We had mini-lessons about how it was categorized and  the maintenance and care of the library, while pulling out a few labeled bins at a time to scour the contents, and share with each other titles, authors, and series of interest that the kids wanted to read or recommend to others.  The library officially opened, students enthusiastically engaged with texts, and reading stamina was rising. Things were on a roll.  But that’s not good enough.

As a reader, I am constantly getting recommendations from friends, family, colleagues, and students about books or authors they think I should check out.  If I don’t happen to have my iPhone with me, I frantically grab for a pen and piece of paper so that I can record those recommendations to prevent them from becoming lost in the daily minutia that’s filed in my brain.

Enter… my To Be Read List.

My TBR List is a critical tool for my reading life.  It keeps me going… it fuels my literary fire.  It prevents me from falling into reading slumps. It gives me options and a plan, when I may not be able to decide where I want to focus my attention next as a reader. My TBR List keeps me current with new and popular books and authors. It keeps me in touch with what my friends and colleagues are reading, as they share theirs with me and vice versa.

So to hear that my students weren’t formulating a plan for where they were headed next as readers meant that I had to re-examine my instruction.  I needed to help them understand what an important lifelong strategy… what an important habit it is.  I shared my TBR List with them.  I shared the stories that led to the stories on my list- how each title had “made the cut,” how I categorize my reads: personal, professional, & children’s texts.  We talked about the benefit of having those written down, in order to be an efficient, well-prepared reader.  I also shared with them the times that I chose to edit my list… moving titles up or down on it, adding to it, deleting from it.

And then we set to work.

Each student got their own blank TBR List to be kept in their reader’s/writer’s notebook.  We dedicated an afternoon to crafting our TBRs and when we were finished, we talked about our choices.  I even added a couple more books to my own list that day.  One student, who has not truly viewed herself as a reader prior to this year, happily shared with me 7 titles she had added, through browsing and talking with others.  Students are now diligently maintaining their TBRs and as we come together for book talks, we make sure to bring them with us, pencil in hand, poised for the next great addition to our reading life plan.


This was one of my favorite places to record my TBR Lists,

prior to switching over to my iPhone. 

Old school, but I still love it!

One thought on “Reading Plans: The Power of a TBR List

  1. I am so glad that I found this. Last week, I talked to a group of teachers and I was surprised by the number that did not relate to the “pile of TBR books” by my reading chair, bed, or “wherever” I read. I thought it was a common “reading behavior” for adults, especially in the area of literacy. I often resort the stack based on student needs or whatever I am working on as my priorities may change on a weekly or daily basis!

    Great job of figuring out a way to prioritize this for your readers!

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