I started Loose Canon when I was an English teacher and wanted to create a culture of excitement around reading. I believed then (and still do) that the right tool could help make a fundamental change in the way we teach.
The site promotes reading choice (either a little or a lot. You decide.) Here, students can collect past book titles and share their reviews school wide. Any member of your school community can see what students have read in other classes and in other years, and each student collects her titles in a "reading-resume" that she carries from grade to grade.
Loose Canon works best when it's iterative: students get most excited about new books when their friends have read and recommended them--just like we do. One round of lit circles or independent reading builds momentum for the next round, when they can choose that other book (you know, the one that those guys on the basketball team were talking about). Loose Canon is designed to be iterative over a period of years. In other words, if your school wants to offer the same summer reading options year after year, you can. Your students will be able to see what older students have read and how they reviewed it. And if someone missed reading "The Nightingale" the first time around, she can choose it the next summer. But she can't choose it twice.
The site also provides some 8000 teacher-curated book recommendations. If a book is on our sortable list, it's because other teachers in this country have already read it and are using it in their classrooms in some capacity. The list started as an aggregation and continues to be modified by teachers. If your students have found success with particular titles, let us know, and we'll add it. The sortable booklist is free, but we rely on educators to help us keep it current.
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 controversial 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. - Julia Franks, Founder of Loose Canon