Build Your Stack: Read-Aloud Recommendations - National Council of Teachers of English
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Build Your Stack: Read-Aloud Recommendations

NCTE’s members are readers—for themselves as they seek to grow their professional knowledge, and for their students as they seek to find texts that will inspire. Because NCTE members know: the right book in the right hands can transform a life.

This is why we’re starting Build Your Stack™, a new initiative focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries. As part of this new project, a Build Your Stack blog with book recommendations curated by NCTE members will be posted every two weeks. If you love this idea, you won’t want to miss this year’s Convention, which will feature 35 unique sessions in the Exhibit Hall with authors and educators talking about their favorite books and how to use them in the classroom.

This post was written by NCTE member Franki Sibberson.


I am always reading with an eye toward a potential read-aloud. Read-aloud time is one of the most important parts of our school day. It is a time when we come together as a community around a book. The talk around the book is always powerful, and this is the time that we grow as readers and as humans. Because there is time built into a read-aloud for talk, we can only read 6 to 9 novels each year as a community.  So it is important that I choose wisely. If I am not careful, I will read books that are all very similar in genre or author perspective. But it’s my goal to use this important time of our day to build community and have important conversations that stretch us.

When I read with an eye toward a read-aloud I am looking for:

  • A book that will start conversations around an important issue,
  • A book that is written specifically for middle grade readers
  • A book that invites us to think about things we may not have thought about before or to think about something from a perspective we may not have considered previously.
  • A book that stretches us as readers in some way.

I’ve discovered two new books that I am keeping in mind as possible read-alouds for next school year. These are Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes and The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor. Both of these books address important issues and are written in a way that invite deep thinking and thoughtful conversations from middle grade readers. Ghost Boys tells the story of a young African American boy who is killed by a police officer while The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle shares the journey of Mason Buttle, an incredible and complex character who is bullied by classmates.

From a reading perspective, these books offer so much. In The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, the relationships between characters, the interactions with family and friends, and the treatment of Mason Buttle by his classmates all give the reader new ways to think about characters and character development. The author invites a great deal of inferring from readers. Although this is a quieter book, there is a great deal for readers to think deeply about.

In Ghost Boys, the story is told from the perspective of Jerome, who has recently been shot by a police officer. Because this is told after the fact and Jerome has already died, readers are led back and forth in time, as we learn what happened before, and follow the family after, Jerome’s death. There is also a plot connection to Emmett Till, which gives us an important piece of history embedded in a fiction text.

Because both of these books have so much to offer middle graders as readers and as human beings, these are two I am glad to have on my stack of possible read-alouds for next school year.


We’d love to hear your book recommendations! Share with us on social media using #BuildYourStack.



Franki Sibberson currently teaches in Dublin, Ohio, though her reach extends much farther. A published book author, writer of numerous journal articles and blog posts, and grounded in almost 30 years of teaching experience, Franki has helped move thinking and leadership in English language arts forward. She has served NCTE in various capacities over her career and is active in her local affiliate, the Ohio Council of Teachers of English Language Arts (OCTELA). She was elected NCTE Vice President in 2016 and is the chair of the 2018 NCTE Annual Convention.