How to Give Students Better Book Recommendations: Part 3

How to give students better book recommendations

Hey there and welcome to the third post in my series about how to get better at recommending books to your middle and high school readers. If you missed the first or second post, head back to those for some of my favorite advice for strenghtening your book rec skills. Then, come right back here for more book recommendation tips that build on everything I mentioned in parts 1 and 2.

Today, I’m sharing 5 more book recommendation tips to help you serve your readers the next time they ask, “What should I read next?”

1. Follow various book awards and lists for children’s and young adult literature.

The best part about getting better at recommending books is that there are so many people out there curating book lists for you. All you have to do is know where to find these resources and then share the texts you think will resonate with your readers.  Here are some resources and organizations you may find helpful.

Follow various book awards and list for children's and young adult literature.
One of the best ways to stay on top of current books is by following book organizations, awards, and lists.

2. Track your book recommendations so you can reflect on what you suggest to students.

Anyone else guilty of recommending the same book that you’ve already recommended to a particular reader? Or recommending a book that you should *know* they already read, because they chatted about it with you? Me too! It’s difficult to keep track of your readers, their books, and your recommendations. My solution: Start tracking it if you can! Not only will it help you with your recommendations, but it will ensure that you are recommending a diverse variety of books, authors, and genres.

I track my book recommendations in the master reading profile spreadsheet that I keep for my classes/readers. You can see this spreadsheet in action HERE or check it out HERE. In addition to tracking these types of recommendations, I also try to track my book displays, mainly my whiteboard displays. I’ll either take a picture to document and/or jot down the titles in a spreadsheet. This prevents me from featuring the same book twice and serves as more accountability to make sure I am exposing students to an inclusive, diverse rotation of books.

Track your book recs so you can reflect on what you suggest.
It’s important to reflect on the books you recommend so that you can continue to offer a wide variety of voices to your students. I love to track the books I recommend so I can periodically reflect and find any gaps, weak spots, or areas for growth.

3. Ask students to list their favorite books.

One way you can start the year strong is with recommendations from previous students. If you forgot to ask them last year, no worries! Chat with the new English teacher/s and see if they’ll share a quick Google form (or anything else) so students can record their favorite titles. You might be surprised at some of the titles that stuck with them. When I asked my former students, I was thrilled to see that some of the books we read as a whole class (like The Giver) and in book clubs (like Long Way Down) made the list.

Once you’ve rounded up student favorites, create a list, poster, or other graphic with the top books and display it in your classroom library. I like to create posters in the same format of my topic- and genre-based book posters for middle and high school.

Your new students will be reading in no time, because nothing beats a peer recommendation! Of course, once your new students start finding some favs, don’t forget to do the same with them, too. 🙂

If you really want to level up your book recommendations, take some of your students favorites and round up lists of read-alikes. For example, if students love The Hunger Games, you can recommend the following:

  • Scythe or Unwind by Neal Shusterman
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Legend by Marie Lu
  • Sanctuary by Abby Sher and Paola Mendoza
  • The Testing by Joelle Carboneau
  • Matched by Allie Condie
  • Uglies by Scott Westerfield
Ask current and previous students to list their favorite books and authors.
You don’t have to start your book recs from scratch. Ask previous and current students to list their favorites, and tailor your recommendations from there.

4. Get on #BookTok to check out what’s trending among teens.

I know, I know…it’s TikTok. I waited forever to jump on the train, too. Thankfully, TikTok is not all weird dancing and lip-syncing, and there’s a whole niche for fellow book lovers, teachers, and librarians!  TikTok is a great way to discover new books, find “If you liked this, then try this” recommendations, and maybe even gather some book talks to share with your students!

Here are some hashtags to follow:

  • #yabooktok
  • #yabooks
  • #youngadultbooks
  • #middlegradebooktok
  • #middlegradebooks
  • #middlegrade

Here are some accounts to follow:

  • @jennajustreads
  • @colby.shap
  • @amanda_wtrs_library
  • @mhplteens
  • @gvhslibrary
  • @moonbeambooks
  • and of course, me: @writeonwithmissg
Book Recommendation Tips: Get on #BookTok to check out what's trending among teens.

5. Give your students an opportunity to share what they read.

Are you catching on to my book recommendation tips here? Your students can be one of your best sources when it comes to book recommendations! I’ve read some incredible books (and promptly recommended them to anyone who would listen) that I otherwise might never have discovered, all thanks to students. One way you can facilitate this is to create some sort of routine or process for your readers to share what they have read. I like to do this with our “book buzzer” routine. At the end of our free reading (10 minutes at the start of every class), any student who has finished a new book can briefly share about it.. They come up to the front of the class, press this DJ-airhorn-style buzzer, and then share the book and a quick review. It’s such a great way to build reading community AND a collection of student-approved book recs.

Just for fun, here are a few books I now LOVE, thanks to student recommendations:

  • Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder (adult, but suitable for middle & high school readers)
  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (MG)
  • Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone
  • They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (YA)
Book Recommendation Tips: Give students an opportunity to share what they read. Example: Book Buzzer
One of the best ways to strenghten your book recs is by LISTENING to what your students. Give them a chance to share what they are reading.


I hope you found these book recommendation tips helpful! Remember, stay tuned for the final post in this series, which will be full of 5 more tips for making the most of your book recs.


Lucky for you, I’ve worked hard to curate lists, systems, and resources full of book recommendations for middle and high school readers. 

  • Free Book Trailer Tuesday Links for the Entire Year: Want to recommend books and hook your students on reading in less than 3 minutes a week? Try Book Trailer Tuesday! I’ve made it easy to start with a FREE list of book trailer links (for middle and high school). You can find that free resource HERE.
  • Free Middle & High School Book Recs Facebook Group: Join our free community for book recommendations for grades 6-12 readers HERE.
  • Book Recommendation Brochures: These book brochures are designed to help students answer the question of “What should I read next?” Through interactive reader personality quizzes, these brochures automatically suggest personalized book recommendations to your students. It’s a magical, self-sustaining system that will get good books into the hands of your readers! Click HERE to learn about the brochures, HERE for ideas on using them, HERE to find the middle school set, or HERE to check out the high school version.
  • Visual Book Recommendation Posters: Help your middle school readers find their next favorite book with visual book recommendation posters. Organized by topics like sports, survival stories, mental health, what to read if you don’t like to read, and MORE, these posters make it easy for your readers to find the perfect book. Click HERE to read more about the posters. You can check out the middle school version HERE and the high school poster set HERE.



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