Reading Without Limits

Maddie Witter

A Cultivated Library

Reading Without LimitsChoice is one of the leading indicators that leads to success in reluctant learners.  Therefore, choice needs to be an essential component of our everyday instruction. Incorporating choice reading is one way you can integrate more choice in your instruction.  However, as I mention in Reading Without Limits, choice can also be debilitating.

As I share

“But don’t overwhelm students with choice.  Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, says,  “We become overloaded.  Choice no longer liberates, it debilitates.  It might even be said to tyrannize” (Schwartz, p.2).  Less is more in choice, as a study on taste tests shows.  Columbia professor Sheena Iyengar, in When Choice is Demotivating, ran a test in a grocery store.  She set up a table with 24 jams. Though 60% of the customers stopped to taste, only 3% actually bought a jam.  Then she set up a table with six jams: 40% of customers stopped to taste and 30% purchased a jam.  This study shows that while choice is important, narrowing a field of choice increased purchase power.  Include choice, but narrow the field.  Instead of putting every young adult book in your library, cultivate it by choosing high-leverage books (high interest, readability, excellent writing), order lots of copies of those books, and allow students to choose within your edited library.  Every term, rotate in new books.

A new term starts in a couple weeks.  Here are the titles I recently recommended to a colleague in Georgia who teaches middle school.  What titles would you add to the list below?

Series Books

The Warriors

The Red Pyramid and Percy Jackson

Gossip Girl

The Lunch Lady

Walking Dead

Alex Ryder (both graphic novel and novel)

Hunger Games


Artimis Fowl

Vampire Diaries

Captain Underpants

How to Train Your Dragon

Joey Pigza



Amelia’s Notebook

Amber Brown

Cirque Du Freak

Dead Girl

Dork Diaries

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Young Bond

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul


Author Studies

Walter Dean Myers

S.E. Hinton

Roald Dahl

Kate DiCamillo

Jacqueline Woodson

Gary Paulsen

Christopher Paul Curtis

Anthony Horowitz

Stephen King

Matt Christopher

Sharon Flake

Angela Johnson

RL Stine

James Patterson

Mike Lupica

Caroline Cooney



Check out this link

Fiction/Nonfiction Pairs

The One and Only Ivan with Biome NF or Gorilla NF

Bud Not Buddy with the Great Depression NF

The Outsiders with “How Male Elephants Bond” by Caitlin O-Connell-Rodwell


For more book recommendations, check out

The Nerdy Book Club

The Reading Zone

2 comments on “A Cultivated Library

  1. Lauren
    April 12, 2013

    I love that you bring in the Iyengar and Lepper (2000a) study. I certainly believe this literature on choice could be so useful in classrooms. Another paper from Iyengar and Lepper (2000b) indicates that students are more likely to complete assignments AND receive higher grades when they are given only 6 options for an extra credit assignment than when they are given 30 options. What are the implications here for the ways in which we encourage students to take on books? To take on writing assignments?

    • Maddie
      May 19, 2013

      Hi Lauren

      I think the implication is that we need to be pretty mindful that choice can be overwhelming. I recommend for students who take too long in the library (or choosing a writing assignment) to offer 2-3 choices as a scaffold.

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