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The Reading Room

Commissioner Corcoran’s Back-to-School Reading List

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran launched a new back-to-school reading list of his and Florida’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, Dr. Dakeyan Chá Dré Graham’s favorite reads for students and teachers to consider in the upcoming school year. The list is comprised of top-of-the-line literary recommendations, with world-renowned titles from experts that makes it the best reading list in the nation. Highlighting rich historical nonfiction, classical and popular literature, and thought-provoking Florida-based works, the list has been carefully curated to have all students vying to dive into books this school year.

“My favorite part about this reading list is that it includes several great works that deal with questions of morality, character building and philosophy that will help young children and adult learners grapple with some of life’s challenges in all chapters of life,” said Commissioner Corcoran. “Each of the powerful stories on this list will stretch the reader’s mind and are books that they won’t be able to put down.”

Dr. Dakeyan Chá Dré Graham added, “The ENJOYMENT of reading is not only FUNdamental to ALL learning, but also an essential part of elevating our students and community to open new doors, dream bigger dreams and achieve the impossible!”

This year, the goal is to expose children to the best books published – to take them on a voyage of discovery and make them enthusiastic readers. These titles have stood the test of time and possess spectacular substance that entertain readers with every word. 

While students enjoy these content-rich books, they will also learn better grammar, improve their reading skills, gain cultural knowledge and be exposed to complex subjects that will prepare them for the school year to come as well as life ahead.

Research shows children who continue reading gain an additional month or more of progress in a calendar year. By reading 20 minutes a day, students improve their literacy competency and score higher on reading assessments annually. On average, a student who reads more than 20 minutes per day scores in the 90th percentile on reading assessments. 

Below is the list of books on the reading list, with the associated catalog number for each book.

Kindergarten - 2nd Grade

  • A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (BR019536)
  • A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies*
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (DB050921/BR011322)
  • The Lion and the Mouse (available in Aesop’s Fables) by Aesop (DB031158/BR016557)
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen (DB043717/BR016541)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (DB024609/BR012015)
  • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch (BRC00186)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit (available in Selected Peter Rabbit Tales) by Beatrix Potter (DB013917/BR016551)
  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon (DB039478)
  • The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen (DB048266/BR019021)
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (DB024603/BR013012)
  • The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn*
  • Llama Llama Red Pajama (available in Red Pajama and 19 other favorites) by Anna Dewdney (DB090802)
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (DB026192/BR008934)
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (DB022906/ BR016352)
  • Curious George by H.A. Rey (DB028932/BR012910)
  • Jack and the Beanstalk by Steven Kellogg (BR008957)
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (DBC06031/ BR019020)
  • The Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff (DB011365)
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (DB034056/BR016721) τ
  • Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss (DB044160/ BR016725) τ
  • Don’t Touch My Hair! By Sharee Miller * τ
  • We the Kids: The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States by David Cotrow *

3rd - 5th Grade

  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (DB041291/BR016469)
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri (DB022936/BR006294)
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (DB023638/BR010102)
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco (DB041681)
  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley (DB089807)
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (DB024592/BR012977)
  • Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (DB016731/BR008876)
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery (DB050475/BR010098)
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (DB052436/BR013682)
  • Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (DB071967/BR007770)
  • Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary (DB024694/BR006619)
  • Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers (DB050917/BR017980)
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (DB044071/BR010846)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (DB033498/BR011466)
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (DB051047)
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (DB050842)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (DB023208/BR013442)
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (DB048978/BR011595)
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (DB033466/BR012512)
  • The High King by Lloyd Alexander (DB027715/BR015457)
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien (DB023562/BR016422)
  • The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (DB048132/BR016417)
  • Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution by Jean Fritz (DB026181)
  • The Last Egret by Harvey E. Oyer III *
  • The Haunted Mask by R. L. Stine * τ

6th - 8th Grade

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (DB058830/BR022556)
  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (DB02841/BR014244)
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (DB020209)
  • The Hound of Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (DB054993/BR010565)
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London (DB049486/BR012582)
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (DB048972/BR009403)
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (DB077454)
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl (DB031793/BR017775)
  • Bulfinch’s Mythology: the Age of the Fable by Thomas Bulfinch (DB042259/BR010347)
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom (DB043746/BR002785)
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell (DB022397/BR006230)
  • Where the Red Fern Grows: the Story of Two Dogs and a Boy by Wilson Rawls (DB032449/BR011548)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (DB056946/BR006917)
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (DB016982/BR007236)
  • Through the Looking Glass (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) by Lewis Carroll (DB050842/BR001412)
  • Sounder by William H. Armstrong (DB022898/BR006227)
  • Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham (DB071512/BR019083)
  • Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (DB055550/BR017274)
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (BR010164/DB025921)
  • The Constitution of the United States by Karen Judson (DB052778/BR013599)
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (DB02864/BR022588)
  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (DB032177/BR008420)
  • Selected Poems by William Blake (DB020845)
  • The Complete Poetry of by Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe (DB045236/BR004576)
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue (available in The Complete Stories by Edgar Allan Poe) by Edgar Allan Poe (DB044929) τ
  • Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome (DB092516/BR022448) τ

9th - 12th Grade

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (DB047868/BR022683)
  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (DB038464/BR009590)
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams (BR010905)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (DB025835/BR012173)
  • The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (DB016498/BR011061)
  • Howard’s End by E.M. Forster (DB034285/BR018502)
  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper (BR004092)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (DB050549/BR011521)
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (DB051553/BR013166)
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (DB056823)
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (DB048388/BR022324)
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell (DB038959/BR020910)
  • A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith (DB027069)
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (DB039507/BR002922)
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (DB072116/BR010599)
  • Finding Manana by Mirta Ojito (DB061443)
  • Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington (DB032540/BR015661)
  • Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis (DB051469/BR012931)
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller (DB032974/BR009499)
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (DB049497/BR010640) τ
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hanberry (DB043547/BR016492) τ
  • The Road Not Taken (available in The Poetry of Robert Frost) by Robert Frost (DB018824/BR013262)
  • Hope is the Thing with Feathers (available in Poems of Emily Dickenson) by Emily Dickinson DB023534/BR014122
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead Δ *
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (DB041823) Δ
  • Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown (DB025172) Δ
  • Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (DB077515) Δ
  • The Weary Blues (available in The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes) by Langston Hughes (DB041265/BR015321)
  • Woodlawn: One Hope, One Dream, One Way by Todd Gerelds *
  • Florida Made: The 25 Most Important Figures Who Shaped the State by Senator George LeMieux and Laura Mize *


* These books are in the process of being recorded by the Library and will be available for checkout in the future.

t Green text and this symbol indicate that the book was chosen by Dr. Dakeyan Chá Dré Graham, Florida’s 2020 Teacher of the Year.

? Orange text and this symbol indicates that the book is intended for rising seniors. The book deals with weighty and adult subject matters and, if a movie, would be considered "R" rated. It has been added to the list because of its profound impact on society and/or for the excellent way it teaches students about human nature and the importance of seeking liberty and justice for all.

A Universe of Stories for the Summer

Hello everyone! Hope you’re having a fantastic summer! Below you’ll find some great books that some of the staff at the Braille and Talking Books Library loved. They are available on the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service, unless otherwise notated. If you don’t know how to access BARD, please call your reading advisor and ask how to get started!

Maureen, the librarian, has provided reviews for some of the books below. 

Florida Teens Read award winners

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed. DB 90016. Lucy, Grace, Rosina, and Erin are four of the many girls who share their stories in this novel about truth, healing, friendship, and the exponential strength we find when we focus on our common ground. 

Whether you feel invisible or wish you could be, are an outcast or bored with popularity, you’ll find some of yourself in these characters as they seek an end to an ongoing series of sexual assaults in their community, and justice against those at fault.  An insightful read for girls everywhere and the allies who love them.

Sunshine State Award Winner Grades 6-8

Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt. DB 89519. Nicki’s father is in jail and her grandmother is dead so she’s in the foster care system. One day two U.S. Marshalls show up and offer her the adventure of a lifetime. They need her to help hide a family in witness protection from a dangerous criminal. Since they are looking for a family of three, adding a daughter to the family will make it easier to keep them hidden. Adding a street smart, kleptomaniac like Nicki may also help keep them alive- unless her past puts them all in danger.

Sunshine State Award Winners Grades 3-5

Bob by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead. DB 90947. Five years ago, Livy closed the closet door at her grandma’s house and left Bob, a small greenish being wearing a chicken suit, waiting for her to return. What happens when she returns?

WOW! I really liked this story! It really makes you use your imagination and think about who and what Bob could possibly be. I had no idea and was pleasantly surprised by the ending.

The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton. DB 90677. Three students are chosen seemingly at random to participate in a scavenger hunt with a ten thousand dollar prize...but there is much more than meets the eye.

AMAZING! I love how the author built suspense in the book and I was both cheering for and getting seriously annoyed with the characters all at once.

Books You Just Can’t Turn Off

  • DB 71565 Shadow Zone by Iris Johansen. “While mapping the ancient underwater city of Marinth in the Atlantic Ocean, submersible designer Hannah Bryson makes a shocking discovery: she may have finally uncovered the truth about the once-glorious city’s mysterious demise.” Lots of twists and turns, a very quick and easy, engrossing read!
  • DB 84266 Fool Me Once Harlan Coben: Maya “sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with [her] husband, Joe—who had been brutally murdered two weeks earlier.” Wow! A definite shocker, the ending sneaks up and bites you! 
  • DB 70784 The Last Surgeon by Michael Palmer “pits a flawed doctor against a ruthless psychopath, who has made murder his art form”. This story is utterly chilling, and you are mesmerized with horror at the killer’s thoughts and actions.

The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher. DB 92244. “Now is the fall of his discontent, as Jason Fitger, newly appointed chair of the English Department of Payne University, takes arms against a sea of troubles, personal and institutional. His ex-wife is sleeping with the dean who must approve whatever modest initiatives he undertakes. The fearsome department secretary Fran clearly runs the show (when not taking in rescue parrots and dogs) and holds plenty of secrets she's not sharing. The lavishly funded Econ Department keeps siphoning off English's meager resources and has taken aim at its remaining office space. And Fitger's attempt to get a mossbacked and antediluvian Shakespeare scholar to retire backfires spectacularly when the press concludes that the Bard is being kicked to the curricular curb.”

This book is the second in a series, but it works wonderfully as a stand-alone novel. I wasn’t lost nor did I feel as if I was missing anything by starting here. Considering that the first book was mostly letters the protagonist wrote, you really miss nothing if you skip the first one.

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong. DB 78699.  “In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned. Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.”

If you love young adult books full of romance, danger, and magic, you will love the Age of Legends Trilogy. It is exciting, world-building, and full of characters you will love one minute, loathe the next, and be heartbroken for in the end. Get your mythological creature fix with a good dose of mystery. The other books in the trilogy are Empire of Night (DB 81573) and Forest of Ruin (DB 92865).

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Parks. DB85265. Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’d like to get to know Grace better, but it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable. Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows.

I listened to this book while walking and running, and I have to say I was so absolutely mesmerized by the plot and development of this story, I ended up going much farther than I expected each time I went out!

Say Nothing by Brad Parks. DB91047. Judge Scott Sampson doesn’t brag about having a perfect life, but the evidence is clear: A prestigious job. A loving marriage. A pair of healthy children. Then a phone call begins every parent’s most chilling nightmare. Scott’s six-year-old twins, Sam and Emma, have been taken. The judge must rule exactly as instructed in a drug case he is about to hear. If he refuses, the consequences for the children will be dire.

My husband and I listened to this in the car on a trip to Michigan and I did not drop off sleeping as I usually do on car trips.

Lies by T.M. Logan. DB92455. Six days ago, Joe Lynch was a happily married man, a devoted father, and a respected teacher living in a well-to-do London suburb. But that was before he spotted his wife’s car entering a hotel parking garage. Before he saw her in a heated argument with her best friend’s husband. Before Joe confronted the other man in an altercation where he left him for dead, bleeding and unconscious. Unable to trust the woman he loves, Joe finds himself at the mercy of her revelations and deceits, unsure of who or what to believe. All he knows is that her actions have brought someone dangerous into their lives – someone obsessed with her and determined to tear Joe’s world apart.

Ever get so wrapped up and invested in the story, you start yelling at the main characters? That is what happened to my husband on the same trip with Lies.

NLS Operations Alert: Play Multiple Books Easily

The National Library Service (NLS) has updated the firmware for the Digital Talking-Book Machine (DTBM). This update (version 2.1.16) allows users to sequentially play multiple talking book titles on a single cartridge without the need to enter Bookshelf mode - a capability that has long been requested by NLS patrons and network libraries.

For cartridges containing more than one book or magazine, the new Sequential Play feature enables users to press the “Play/Stop” button to go to the next title when the player announces “End of book.” Standard Bookshelf mode will still work as before, allowing users to play multiple books or magazines in any order they wish. However, for those who want a simpler method, the new functionality makes it possible to move from one title to the next without having to use the bookshelf feature.

Get the Update

You may request an upgrade cartridge by asking your reading advisor for it. It is available for request on the WebOPAC as book number FDB03944 with the title DTBM Software Upgrade. The updated firmware is available for download on the NLS public website and the BARD main page. The NLS also included the firmware to the Magazines on Cartridge system for multiple-magazine subscribers. The firmware update will not be added to mass-duplicated, single title cartridges.

Using the Cartridge

Insert the cartridge or USB drive containing the firmware update. The player will announce it is upgrading your player’s software. Wait until the upgrade is complete and the player restarts (about 10 seconds) and then remove the cartridge.