Great Expectations is a complex, and rather daunting, text, which is why I do so much of the reading aloud with my students at the beginning. They need time to familiarize themselves with the style and language. In order to break up the pace and to give them a break from Dickens, I assign an outside-reading project. The reading will take place almost entirely at home, while we read Dickens in class, but in a few weeks, that will all switch. We will begin working with their choice texts in class for an essay, and they will read Great Expectations at home.
I only give two stipulations for their outside read: the text must be age-appropriate (RL.9-10.10) and it must be a coming-of-age story. I insist on the latter because I like it to complement Great Expectations, but I interpret coming-of-age liberally: I just want at least one of the characters to mature in some way. We are going to use these books to practice composition writing and I want to make sure that each text has enough depth to support analysis.
Before we head to the school library, I address options and protocol. I start by reminding my students of all the resources our library has (they had a tour during their freshmen orientation). First, we have an extensive section of both fiction and nonfiction books, and it is so easy to find interesting texts because they are arranged by genre: historical fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, horror, biography, etc. Moreover, the librarians have worked tirelessly to give access to digital texts, so students can check out a book for their kindle or iPad. We even have some Nooks available for check out.
Although it doesn't exactly fit the context, I find myself quoting Spiderman: "With great power comes great responsibility." They have been given an invaluable resource in the library itself, and in the librarians who are constantly updating the queue, and they must respect it as such. I remind everyone that other classes are studying in the library and deserve quiet. We will spend about 30 min in the library, but if they find a book early, they should check it out, and then sit down to read until everyone else is ready.
Once in the library, I just make myself available to students with questions or to direct the ones who claim to have never chosen a book on their own before (because they "hate to read" of course).
I love seeing where each student gravitates and which books get them excited. I also love matching students with books I think they will like: Feed for the boy obsessed with his iPhone, Speak for the girl who loves soap operas, The Book Thief for the reader. I find that once I start recommending texts, and students show interest, the excitement is contagious. Everyone always leaves ready to read.