One day in a Grade 9 English class, I had a great conversation with a few students about their chosen books for silent reading. The teacher allows students an absolute free choice for their silent reading books, and a few students I was talking to were all reading Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games book series. They were so happy to talk to me about their books: how they were liking it so far, how it compares to the other books in the series, how they thought it was going to end. We had a conversation about series books, and how by book 3 of a series it can often get “sketchy” and “cash-grabby.”

I was surprised how the students were so willing to talk to me about their books with such minimal prompting. The conversation was really genuine and I felt such a connection with the students as we shared the experience of having read the same book. I think that this kind of conversation may not have been possible if the teacher had not allowed them to pick their books, which is interesting to me as a hopefully future English teacher. They were so much more engaged in their learning and willing to share about it because it was a work that they were passionate about and that they had chosen with their own agency. I think that moving forward I will definitely understand the value of student choice whenever possible and practical in my classroom. In addition, I was reminded how valuable these little conversations are with students to building relationships and connections, and how easy it is to talk to them about things that they’re interested in.