I’m a novelist and a former teacher and an advocate for reading choice in schools. I started Loose Canon™ when I wanted to create a culture of excitement around books in my own classes. I believed then (and still do) that creating book lovers is one of the most important missions English and ELA classrooms have. I also believe the right tool can make it easier to innovate.
Loose Canon™ works best when it’s incorporated into an iterative program. In other words, the best way to create reading momentum is to offer reading choice more than once. One round of lit circles or independent reading builds momentum for the next round. Students, like adults, are more likely to read books their friends have read and recommended. So if someone missed reading The Nightingale for last year’s summer reading, she can have another chance to choose it this summer. Loose Canon tracks what she’s read over the course of years. You and your teaching colleagues don’t have to keep records. We’re doing it for you.
Nor do you have to search out appropriate titles. Our site provides thousands of teacher-curated book recommendations. If a book is on our sortable list, it’s because other teachers are using it in their classrooms in some capacity. The list started as an aggregation and continues to be modified by teachers. The sortable booklist is free.
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. Our sortable list allows you to layer on as many filters as you like. Books with the most graphic 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. Book lovers are more likely to be successful in all academic areas. What’s more, good readers make good citizens.
Here’s what educators have said about Loose Canon: In 2019, the International Literacy Association highlighted our application as a site set up to encourage school wide, face-to-face discussions about books. New Learning Times, a publication of Columbia University’s EdLab, profiled us as one of their “influencers who have transformative visions for the future of learning.” In 2018, SETDA selected Loose Canon as one of their Emerging Partners, and that same year IATE, the Illinois affiliate of NCTE chose Loose Canon for a Classroom Essentials Award. They wrote, “Research shows that providing student choice can increase reading engagement, empower students, lead to meaningful conversations, and create independent life-long readers. Loose Canon is an excellent organizational tool for teachers who want to offer independent choice reading into their curriculum. It provides teachers with hundreds of great book titles to offer students and a platform for conversations about the books the students are reading. Loose Canon also allows students to create a personal archive to keep track of all the books they have read.” You can also read more about my teaching journey on the NCTE blog in “Save Reading, Save the Country.”
If you’d like to experience Loose Canon the way a subscribed school does, contact us. We can provide you with dummy logins so that you can nose around the application “from the inside.”
(For more on my career as a novelist, see juliafranks.com)
– Julia Franks, Founder of Loose Canon™