Blogs About Reading

Aiming for Access

June Behrmann

June Behrmann is a longtime special education teacher (pre-K to grade 6) who retired for about two seconds, and is now prospecting for accessible instructional resources. Follow June on Twitter @aimnoncat. Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with us.

"Kids Recommend" K-8 Book Lists Are Compiled by Youths for Their Peers Who Hate to Read

January 15, 2015

This is not a special education "story" about instruction made accessible, but it could be.

This is a story of children in an independent school in mid-coastal Maine who read widely. One of their goals is to read and to compile grade-level lists that only include books that will engage their peers who struggle to read! The effort helps many children "carve out" identities as book choosers, reviewers, and readers.

Kids Recommend Lists

The "Kids Recommend" lists are the work of The Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL), a demonstration school where educators read in order to recommend books, and where the benefits of the taks enable students to say, "These are my favorite books, authors, genres, and characters this year, and this is why."

Establishing personal book preference is the "foundation, walls, and ceiling in building a reader for a lifetime," says Nancie Atwell, founder of CTL. Three times a year, CTL students help their teachers create master lists of best books by grade levels. Regular updates to the lists are common as new book discoveries are made. "While a handful of titles do maintain their popularity," Atwell notes, many drop off.

The Method

Book titles are separated for grades 3-8 by gender, she says, because student "tastes in books aren’t the same." Gender is not a factor in grades K-2. Not every book by an author makes it onto the lists, although sometimes series do make the cut.

From the Kindergarten List: Find books by: Bang, Molly (1), Brett, Jan (11), Carle, Eric (7), Crews, Donald (3+) De Beer, Hans (1), Elhert, Lois (7). Emberley, Ed (1), Falconer, Ian (1), Fleming, Denise (1), and more.

From the Grades 1-2 List: Find books by Carnett, Suzanne (1), Chaconas, Dori (series), Cleary, Beverly (7), Cowell, Cressida (series), Craft, K.V. (1), Creech, Sharon (2), Dahl, Roald (6), Daywalt, Drew (1), De Paola, Tomie (5), Doyle, Roddy (1), and more.

From the Grades 3-4 Boys List: Includes: Funke, Cornelia (5, Gardiner, John (1), George, Jean Craighead (2), Goscinny, Rene (series), Haig, Matt (1), Hawking, Lucy and Stephen (series), Hiaasen, Carl (1), Howe, James (series), Hunter, Erin (series), Ibbotson, Eva (3) and more.

From the Grades 3-4 Girls List: Includes: Jacobson, Jennifer Richard (1), Jenkins, Emily (1), Keene, Carolyn (series), Kelly, Lynne (1), Kessler, Liz (1), Kilse, Kate (2), King-Smith, Dick (2), Kinney, Jeff (3), Laiz, Jana (1), Lasky, Kathryn (2 series), Levine, Gail Carson (2) and more.

From the Grades 5-6 Boys List: Find books by: Kamkwamba, William and Mealer, Bryan (1), Kerr, P.B. (1), Kincaid, S.J. (1), Klages, Ellen (1), Kluger, Steve (1), Koertge, Ron (1), Korman, Gordon (5), Kostick, Conor (1), Krakauer, Jon (1), Kristoff, Jay (1), Lake, Nick (3), Landy, Derek (series), Law, Ingrid (1), Leavitt, Martinne (1), and more.

From the Girls 5-6 List: Includes: Pope, Paul (1), Porter, Pamela (1), Potter, Ellen (1), Price, Lissa (1), Pullman, Phillip (trilogy), Quick, Matthew (1), Resau, Laura (2), Revis, Beth (1), Rhodes-Courter, Ashley (1), Riordan, Rick (4), Rocklin, Joanne (2), Rosoff, Meg (2), Roth, Veronica (1), and more.

From the Boys Grades 7-8 List: Find books by: Ruebens, Michael (1), Runyon, Brent (1), Sacco, Joe (1), Salinger, J.D. (1), Satrapi, Marjane (1), Scalzi, John (1), Sedaris, David (2), Sedgwick, Marcus (1), Sheff, David (1), Shusterman, Neal (3), Silverstein, Ken (1), Smith, Roland (1), Sonneblick, Jordan (4), Spiegelman, Art (2), Steinbeck, John (1) and more.

From the Girls Grade 7-8 List: Weatherby, Lee (1), Weeks, Sarah (1), Whaley, John Corey (1), Wittlinger, Ellen (4), Wolf, Allan (1), Wolff, Tobias (1), Wooding, Chris (2), Wroblewski, David (1), Young, Moira (2), Zarr, Sarah (3), Zevin, Gabrielle (3), Zusak, Markus(2) and more.


"Our goal is a national network of websites of great titles, nominated by K-12 students in all kinds of school settings who choose their own books: the favorite titles of a cross-section of American children as the go-to resource for teachers selecting literature for classroom libraries in diverse communities across America." Atwell is author of The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers (Scholastic, 2007), and an overview of CTL’s entire program, is found in Systems to Transform Your Classroom and School (Heinemann, 2014).

Book Accessibility?

General and special educators and parents of children for whom print is a barrier always have the problem of finding accessible versions of wonderful books such as the ones chosen by children on the "Kids Recommend" lists. Reading aloud is an option that has limits. The use of accessible versions creates learning independence.

AIM-VA provides accessible versions of books at no cost to eligible students. Log on to the AIM-VA homepage in order to learn more. After viewing book titles on the "Kids Recommend" lists above, go to AIM-VA's unique Book Finder feature to see if AIM-VA or its partners, including Learning Ally and Bookshare, have the "Kids Recommend" titles. If they do, the ordering process is easy. In some cases, teachers order the books for individual students who then can immediately download them from their personal account.

All states have a version of AIM-VA. The program name may have changed from AIM to AEM in keeping with the latest round funding. Ask a special education teacher or school administrator how eligibility works in your state.


Thank you to AIM-VA: Accessible Instructional Materials for sharing this blog with our Reading Rockets audience.

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"Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. " — Neil Gaiman