I’m a former teacher and a novelist and an advocate for reading choice in the classroom. I started Loose Canon™ when I wanted to create a culture of excitement around reading in my own classes. I believed then (and still do) that creating book lovers is one of the most important missions English and ELA classrooms have. I also believe the right tool can make a fundamental change in the way we teach.
Loose Canon™ works best when it’s incorporated into an iterative program. In other words, the best way to create reading “momentum” is to offer reading choice again and again. One round of lit circles or independent reading builds momentum for the next round. Students, just like adults, get most excited about the books their friends have read and recommended. (They want a chance to choose that book those guys on the basketball team were talking about last year.) And if someone missed reading “The Nightingale” for last year’s summer reading, she can choose it the next summer. Loose Canon tracks what she’s read over the course of years.
The site also provides thousands of teacher-curated book recommendations. If a book is on our sortable list, it’s because other teachers in this country are using it in their classrooms in some capacity. The list started as an aggregation and continues to be modified by teachers. The sortable booklist is free.
We try to recommend a grade level for each title. Unlike publishers, who will typically recommend their books for a very wide age range, we think it’s more helpful to provide a target range. We know, of course, that some students will want to read above grade level, and some students will be reading below it. We presume that teachers, who know their own students better than we do, will adjust their assignments accordingly, based upon the abilities and sensitivities of their own students. Books with the most graphic subject matter are usually classified as “college plus,” and those with no controversial bits at all can be found with that filter.
Our aim is for kids to discover their own tastes and their own favorite authors. We want everyone to graduate with a personal reading habit, maybe even an obsession. Good readers make good citizens.
You can read more about my teaching journey on the NCTE blog in “Save Reading, Save the Country.”
Or read about the trouble with immovable canons in my NCTE piece “Let’s Stop Pretending To Kill a Mockingbird is Progressive on Race.”
For more on my career as a novelist, see juliafranks.com
– Julia Franks, Founder of Loose Canon™