(tips offered by LM-NET
Make a list of the books. I
hand it out beforehand, so that the kids can write on it and note books
that they are interested in. When I worked at the Public Library and was
booktalking in schools, the top of the list had a map, a treasure map,
showing them how to get to the library. Only one boy ever said that he
was afraid to go to the library because he had to go through the neighborhood
on the map where the dragon lives.
I think the most important
thing is to put the booktalk in a context. Reading is an exercise, everything
you read makes you a better reader. The better the reader you are, the
better you are going to do at anything that has books about it. The faster
you read, the sooner you finish assigned reading. It gets easier, you get
less tired, you enjoy it more. The same as ice skating or running. At first,
it's hard, it makes you tired and it's no fun. But the more you do it,
the easier it gets, the less energy you expend to accomplish the same thing,
and the more fun it gets.
The main thing that I do is
give dramatic readings and oral interpretations of passages from books.
I'll start with a little bit of setup, read from the book, and then close
with a teaser. This works with non-fiction and magazine articles as well.
You need to mix it up, a funny passage, a sad passage, a tense passage....
You also need to mix up the length and pattern. A long booktalk with a
reading, a short tease, a minute to mention 3 similar books....
The main thing that I think
you need is what I call a silencer. The silencer is the book that will
grab their attention. Sometimes you need it at the beginning, other times
in the middle, and if you never need it you can use it for a big ending.
"Wait 'till Helen Comes," where she first sees the Ghost for lower grades
and "Chinese Handcuffs," right after J. Maddy has been abused make great
You can booktalk books you
have not read. I still don't know what happens in "Killing Mr. Griffin,"
but the passage where the kids torment him when he is tied up in the woods
is very powerful. A good ploy when you haven't read the book is to admit
it. "It's a new book, it sounded good or I wouldn't have bought it, I would
appreciate it if someone wants to read this book and come down and talk
to me about it.
I don't think you should give
the books out in the classes. Kids will want books because other kids want
them, but these kids will never read them. The kid who wants the book bad
enough to come get it, is the kid that will read it.
I think it is important to
have a few very short books, and call attention to their brevity, and a
few long ones to talk about the idea of the "book that you never want to
have end." A few classics, "You're probably going to HAVE to read this
book someday. A few admitted "girls' books" and a few "boys' books." I
even like to throw in a "bad book," for comic relief. And you always need
a book with a picture of Michael Jordan on the cover.
My art teacher and I are working
together on promoting reading for pleasure. She and I are already collaborating
on the SC Book Award Nominees and how to promote them. Brainstorm idea:
She will get students to make book (look alikes) for a bulletin board,
and then we'll paste booktalks along with the appropriate cover. We'll
promote them daily on the morning news and put them on a centrally located
bulletin board in the hall.
1.)You don't have to do a lot
of books. What about 5 per class and rotate them each month. Maybe you
could do a book talk moment and pop into classes to give a brief book talk
about one book--2 minutes or so. See how that goes. You could also do a
different theme for each class and then rotate those books talks and add
a new one when you are up to it. Caroline Feller Bauer and Joni Brodart
have good ideas that can be modified for secondary. I have given booktalks
on mysteries where I only read the first line. That can be a grabber.
1. Multiple copies are nice,
but I have talked with just one copy.
2. I usually talk 6-8 a visit.
3. Yes, I must admit I've talked
books that I have not read or read so looooooong ago that the story line
is very fuzzy. The thing that I found most useful to me is that I tend
to select a theme and talk books relating to that theme. Such as family
life, humor, growing-up stories....this is how I connected with my reading
teachers. They have thematic units. It also narrows down the possibility
that you will select the same book for a future talk with that class.
I like to take a selection
of more books than I can booktalk in a session - say 30 - (all of which
I am prepared to booktalk). I stand them up in front of the class on the
blackboard ledge, teacher's desk, etc. I tell the kids that everyone says
not to judge a book by its cover but I want them to do just that and tell
me which ones they want to hear about from the cover. I pick on kids to
tell me which one to tell about next. I can usually get through about ten
in a class period, especially if I read a a short section, which I usually
like to do to give them a feeling for the writing style. It's good to have
about three copies of each title - one out and two hidden away - but a
little bit of a rush on a book isn't such a bad thing. After the booktalk,
you still have the twenty books you didn't talk for the next group The
bottom line is, you need a lot of books, you need to read a lot of books,
and it's generally unmanageable but a whole lot of fun and really worth
it. You may want to do just a couple of classes at the beginning of the
3.)I *love* to booktalk! However....I
have given it up :( The reasons you stated are the very reasons that led
me to believe it was best not to do it. Instead, I find myself doing a
lot of "shelf talking" ---- going over to a group of students who have
congregated and pulling off books from the shelves where they are standing
and "shelf talking" those. I've read extensively in our collection so can
always find a handful that I know well enough to push. (Or sometimes I
pull books ahead of time and walk around with them in my hands looking
for the right group of kids to push them to.) I guess "shelf talking" is
a lot like booktalking but just to a MUCH smaller group. I just never thought
it fair to lure 13 classes of 6th grades to 6-8 titles so I don't do it
anymore. I know that there are many LMSs who do, and probably very successfully,
but I'm happier this way.
4.)I was hired last year to
work in a 6-8 library. I was called upon by a variety of teachers to do
booktalks, so I didn't worry too much about not having enough to go around
as I didn't always do the same ones in the different classes. One 6th grade
Language Arts teacher however asked me to do them once a month to 2 of
her classes. I would take about 20 minutes(although I am so long winded
when I am talking about books that I love that I sometimes went over!)
Let's say I tried to keep it to 20 minutes. I usually wheeled a small book
cart into her classroom with a number of books,of which I would talk about
only some of them (whatever I could fit in in 20 minutes). I would have
students sign up for the titles they wanted and that way I could booktalk
those same titles in the next class, and let those students do the same.
Then I would make a reserve list and students would eventually get the
book they had requested. When I'm asked to do book talks for a number of
classes that require the same theme or genre, then I try to pull at least
enough books off the shelves to accommodate the number of students and
have those books on my cart, although obviously I wouldn't booktalk every
one. I never booktalk a book I haven't read. I think I have more influence
with kids when I am passionate and enthusiastic about the books I am presenting
and I can't be that about books I haven't actually read. Hope this is useful
5.)The more copies you have
of a title the better, but I have book talked a book and only had one copy.
I use different books for each class. On the odd occasion I've book talked
a title I haven't read. Seems like there are never any takers!! I don't
know how they know. I book talk to grades 3-6. With the 5 and 6 classes
I just put out sign up papers for anyone interested in reading the book.
I use to ask if anyone was interested in reading it or draw numbers, but
found there is a lot of peer pressure at this age. Many don't want to appear
keen before their classmates. I like to use props to catch their attention.
Hope this helps.
6.)Here's a few guidelines
that have worked for me:
1. Never booktalk
a book you haven't read. The kids--no matter what age--will see right through
2. If possible, go into the
class about a week before hand to just ask kids what kind of books they've
read before that they liked. Ask for specific titles or authors if they
can remember them. Then pick out books that are very similar to booktalk.
Also along this line, if they are not readers, ask them what movies they've
seen that they've liked. Then get books that are like those movies.
3. I usually only have one
copy of the book. When I'm done talking it, I pass it around and tell the
kids that if they want the book to hold on to it until the end of the period.
Then I'll check it out to them right on the spot (take an old date stamper
with you). If they wait until they get to the library, they'll prob. forget
the name of the book. "So strike when the iron is hot.
7.)I frequently booktalk a
book I have not read. I do rotate the books from class to class so there
is better chance they can read them. I keep 3x5 cards on each book so I
can use it again. I always thought I'd put them on hyperstudio so kids
could browse them...but time.
8.)If you need a source for
prepared booktalks, check out my page "Booktalks -- Quick and Simple" There
are about 2,500 ready to use booktalks. http://www.nancykeane.com/booktalks
I agree that you do not want
to present the same books to each class. I would try to do as many "short"
talks as I felt comfortable with and maybe just show a few books to add
an assortment. I try to read each book I booktalk but I end up skimming
most. Since I've read most of the books on my site, it's just a matter
of reacquainting with an old friend.
9.) When I took a YA class
a couple years ago we were given some advise about book talks. You need
to know the book which means you do have to read it; it is too hard to
rave about something that you don't know about. I would think a suggestion
might be to do a different set of books for each class and rotate the sets
each month. That way no one book would be in demand by more than one class
at a time. Know this means you need to be able to book talk more books
but once the initial work is done, then just change them for the different
classes. Another thing we discussed in the YA class is you need to like
the book. Can be hard to convince someone else to read something you really
didn't like. If you keep the talks short you could probably do around 10
at one time. That way you give a wide variety of things for them to think
about. Also have other books out that might be similar to the ones you
talk about. Can say, "If this sounds good, so might this" type of thing.
10.)NEVER book talk a book
you haven't read!! the kids will know you're working from the cover and
be disappointed in you. As for books, I never check out the one I'm booktalking
to anyone that day because I don't have enough to go around. You could
try booktalking a couple of books by the same author (Lois Duncan, Gary
Paulsen) or books with the same theme (humor, survival, mystery). That
way you don't have to have read all of them, but you have similar books
to check out. I generally will book talk two or three books but no more
because the kids lose interest. If I only do a couple, that makes the ones
I've read go further!
11.)A word of advice - Never
booktalk a book you have never read. You can do 4 or five books per visit.
To make it easier you could do one or two fiction books and then follow
up with some non-fiction titles. You can do a theme, you can do what is
currently popular, or you can do books that fit in with what is going on
in the classroom. Booktalks don't have to be just fiction -you can use
non-fiction, magazines, any items that you have available for check-out.
A booktalk can focus on one
article or aspect of a book or magazine - kind of like a teaser. What you
are really doing is giving an "ad" for the book, a hook, to get them interested
in checking out the materials. I had the same problem with having limited
copies of materials that I was booktalking when I was in the public library
and went to schools for class visits - I found that I had to do different
titles for each class or I would have a riot when the kids came to check
out the books. My advice - do what you can with what you know/have now
- and just keep reading reading reading to build up your number of fiction
12.)I try to have other titles
available that are similar to the ones I booktalked Sometimes by the same
author; sometimes by genre. I also start a "hold" list for the titles.
I work at a school of readers, so students will often go to the public
library. I write out on the board (sometimes even a handout), authors and
titles for the students
13.)I usually have 2 or 3 copies
of the books. I book talk 3 or 4 per class. I often try to booktalk an
author so they have several to choose from. I also hold back a few copies
for the later hours so they have a chance at the books, too. We also do
reserves if they really want the book. I do not book talk books I haven't
14.)Hi! Booktalking is a great
tool, if you feel comfortable with it. I think it would be very difficult
to booktalk the same books to all classes, unless you have multiple copies
of the books. How many copies of booktalk books do you usually have? I
often booktalked a combo of paperback and hardcovers. My library had multiple
copies of the paperbacks. I would make sure I did a good number so the
books would be available. I also had a list of "similar" titles in mind
that I could recommend when all the booktalked titles were checked out
. Often, I would put the books on a cart in YS so the kids could find them
How many books do you booktalk
in a visit?
It varies, depending on the
time and the type of books. I always try to include at least one Nonfiction,
if I'm doing fiction. I would booktalk as few as 2 and as many as fifteen,
depending on type, genre, goals, etc.
Does anyone booktalk a book
they haven't read?
Absolutely not. It is way
to hard, and the kids can always tell. Sometimes, kids will ask questions
about the book that you can't answer if you haven't read it. That ruins
your credibility. If you don't have time to read the whole book, read the
first and last few chapters and then skim points throughout the books so
you feel you know the book well enough to be able to answer questions.
Hope this helps. While it's
daunting at first, experiment with different ways of presenting the booktalks.
I would vary from reading a passage, to describing, to relating it the
audiences' life. Sometimes I would take on the personality of a character
in the book. When booktalking a poetry book, I would choose one poem and
read the majority of it, maybe all but the last line or two. The most important
things to remember are to enjoy yourself and to talk about books you can
get excited about. Happy booktalking!-
15.)Some people learn or read
the book talks available in a variety of places. I don't recommend that.
Students can tell if you're not talking "from the heart." You want them
to trust you and believe what you're saying, so don't cut corners by book
talking books you haven't read. If you haven't read the books, how can
you be sure that you would recommend them, and why should students bother
to read them if you haven't? Students will also ask questions that you
may not be able to answer.
Don't book talk the same books
to all classes. In addition to the problems you've identified, you'll also
get bored and perhaps not be as enthusiastic to the last classes as you
were for the first ones.
Why not aim for a more reasonable
work organization? Do book talks with some of the classes, perhaps one
grade level, this semester, and another activity with the others. Next
semester, switch. That way, you'll have both semesters covered. Why not
talk with the teachers about a second activity that would work for the
different grades? I'm sure they'll understand your situation. They've been
16.)I've done little booktalking
in my current job (K-8), but I'll answer from the viewpoint of my previous
job in a middle school.
How many copies of booktalk
books do you usually have? It varied. I was happy any time I had more than
> How many books do you booktalk
in a visit? As many as 20 or more, so that there would be at least one
title per student.
> Does anyone booktalk a book
they haven't read? Yes, although some "experts" say it can't be done. Read
enough to give you enough info to talk about the book.
Here are some ideas on how
to organize the lesson if you are doing a few booktalks. Pick books with
different themes. Or pick books with the same theme. Go the a local bookstore
and get an idea of what hot, new children's books they are promoting.
You could do a few booktalks
on a certain theme, and finish up with a group activity. The books could
deal with bravery, courage or the ocean:
Call It Courage by Sperry
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Noah's Ark by Spier
Activity: Assemble a survival
kit for being stranded on an island by writing the words on paper and packing
them in a backpack
Or you could do four booktalks
on dog books:
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds
Sounder by Armstrong
Grey King by Cooper
Officer Buckle and Gloria by
Activity: Discuss pet dogs.
Read aloud dog poems or jokes or riddles.
Or you could do a booktalk
with the theme of Stories, Stories, Stories
Start with A Story, A Story
by Haley, then Fables by Lobel and finish up with a choral reading from
Joyful Noise by Paul Fleishman.
One person suggested that you
could select an "oldie but goody" like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
and a Newbery or Caldecott title of more recent vintage.
Titles of books on or about
Nancy Keane's many books include
booktalks as well as curricular connections.
Books Kids Will Sit Still
For by Judy Freeman
More Books Kids Will Sit Still
Joni Bodart's Booktalk! books
volumes 1 - 5 (I think 5 is the latest. She includes booktalks for new
books as they are published for each volume.)
What about grouping the books
you discuss: voyages to other planets; to other times. Voyages and departure
times. Upstart and Demco have had posters and bookmarks for sci fi. Each
has an 800 phone number, you can check 1-800-555-1212 for 800 phone information.
Don't get Lost in Space as
you take voyages to the Forbidden Planet. If you have Trekkies, some Star
Trek stories would be good. They could poll their parents about the TV
series and movies.
Since I personally am not crazy
about science fiction, I usually enlisted students to share their favorites.
Additionally, since I'm from Ray Bradbury country (Waukegan, IL) I sponsored
a Ray Bradbury contest with students doing various types of performance
based sci-fi book reports, shared Ray Bradbury videos and filmstrips/cassette
tapes, and had one wonderful filmstrip which highlighted about 15 excellent
sci fi books. I am home replying so don't have producer nor title for you.
Oops, I almost forgot -- we had "dandelion wine"(lemonade) and cookies
for those students who participated in Ray Bradbury contest and when Ray
was in town the students with the most points (as seats were limited) got
to attend his presentation and meet with him.
I once went to a workshop of
a librarian who booktalked to 8-11th graders. She used an overhead or just
held up pictures from magazines and said, "This is Mary...Do you know what
happened to her?" Well...and proceeded to tell the story (booktalk) the
book she wanted to show them. She also used current events headlines and
clippings to get them interested..The volcano on Montserrat, battles, heroes,
deaths, etc. of someone famous and tie it into the booktalk somehow..
Could you get any of the students'
grandparent or parent to come in and talk about how that book affected
him/her when they were young?
My 8th grade lit teacher put
up a beautiful border from a teacher store on classics for middle and high
school...and that got us going on required reading for all 8th graders
(3 classes) for this marking period (2 classics). I made a list of all
on the border and this was our kickoff. Kids had to check off if they had
read (all did Anne Frank last year) in the original, in an adaptation (lots
had done this) or seen the movie/video version. This got them realizing
thy were a lot more familiar than they thought. I also had other lists
and we basically decided to accept anything as a classic that was on anybody's
list OR on the book itself (there are lots of series out there, like Apple
Classics) Each student got a bookmark from Upstart (classic cars, guitars,
candy--they have posters too) FAX 1-800-448-5828. Kids got very excited.
This is the reporting form the teacher devised: summarize the book in three
or four sentences. Include main character(s) and setting (time place).
What did you learn about life and human nature from reading this book?
Review the definitions of what a "classic" is. Explain what makes this
book a classic. All on a card which she will display. Some classic definitions
we used: c delights us when we are young and is cherished, reread and quoted
when we are old" "c has weathered one generation and is accepted by the
next".."c not only has something to say but says it very well". Oh, I started
my talk with a bottle of classic coke and told about new coke and how people
demanded the old/classic.
Another librarian introduced
me to this "HOOK" for classic books. Tell the kids that you don't check
these books out to younger kids; but that they are now MATURE enough to
check them out. Perhaps they have plain brown covers because the information
in them is just too juicy to show. Take "A tale of two cities" there's
death and love and sacrifice and all kinds of mature themes, not to mention
the most quoted first line of any book ever. Or talk about Jules Verne
and how he predicted the amazing visits to the moon, the submarine, etc
long before there were any kind of realistic inventions scientifically
possible. How did he know? Or refer to HG Wells and the "War of the Worlds"
and how people actually believed the story when they heard it on the radio
in 1939. I've also used the "hook" that we have meat and potato books,
dessert books and salad books. And classics are meat and potato books.
I've given out small packets of potato chips or beef jerky to students
who had read a classic or could identify some information from a classic.
There are lots of classic "girl" books, like the Bronte sisters books,
Jane Austen, etc. Easy to talk to girls about those.
Instead of starting off telling
them which book you're going to do, why not just say:" Book #1", then launch
into a vivid description of part of the story from a narrator's or one
of the character's views. Have some appropriate taped music in the background,
or a few props, or have the teacher turn of or flicker the lights on cue
depending on the story. Spend only about 5 minutes or so, then move on
to "Book 2." For example, "Kidnapped" could be done in the frightened voice
of the hero describing his abduction, with seafaring noise, etc. in the
background. "Little Women" could be started with you entering the room
hurriedly, wearing an old fashioned velvet bonnet, long gloves or better
yet, a muff, and a shawl, shivering and rushing to the fire to warm yourself,
then slowly and dramatically removing hat, muff, shawl as you describe
the situation you've just returned from (it's the Christmas morning scene
when they take their special breakfast and sacrifice it on behalf of a
very poor family in poverty). End with a funny story like Rip Van Winkle
- start off fast asleep, snoring, twitching, etc. perhaps with hair disheveled
and bits of dried grass or twigs, then wake up suddenly, rubbing your eyes,
and begin your walk home, proclaiming your consternation at the unexplained
changes you find in your town, and especially when you arrive at your own
home - now an abandoned, broken down hovel!
Afterwards, let the students
guess, or simply announce all three titles, or without a word place all
three books on display, or dramatically pull off a cloth revealing them
on a nearby table. Or give them just the authors' names and let them search
the catalog by author until they find the correct titles by reading the
Of course, this means you'll
have to reread or at least scan each book and prepare something special.
Perhaps you could eventually have the students each do a short skit, based
on the classic they're reading. I strongly suggest a slightly different
approach for each title, to keep the interest - don't get in a rut, and
keep the suspense by not revealing the titles 'till the very end.
Perhaps you could ask them
for suggestions about music, movies, etc. of today that they think will
still be popular 50 years from now. Once they understand that some of today's
great stuff will be classics "someday" they may be more receptive to the
ones of yesteryear.
Don't know if this is something
you can use or not but the best book talk I ever saw presented started
with the book _The year of impossible goodbyes_ The librarian assumed the
role of a military person and barked out orders to the teacher. The kids
were "hooked". She didn't necessarily take direct dialog from the book
but rather used one of the themes (military occupation of a country) of
the book to write her "script". Maybe an idea like that could be used with
one of your titles?
Do you have any video resources?
What about a one two minute piece of the movie playing on a TV (with the
volume off) while you talk about the book? Use the visuals. There are so
many lush movie adaptations of classics that can attract a more "sophisticated
Dry as "classics" may seem,
I try to booktalk classics: (1) tied to films with which they are familiar
and to contrast the original book to the hollywood version challenging
them to determine the differences; (2) that have a couple of editions of
the same title showing differences in size, print, thickness, etc. and
not to be put off by nondescript covers; (3) that cross genres providing
something for everyone from adventure to sci fi to fantasy to ...(4) and
define classics as crossing nations, languages, universality of theme and
the test of time (ten generations of readers).
I did a booktalk for 7th graders
using the idea that each of the characters in these books was reaching
for something, wanting something -- and that the book was about their journey
toward that goal. As a "visual", I brought a Hershey's candy bar (the kind
with almonds, my very favorite!) and set it just out of their reach (and
mine). The idea was that the candy bar was something to be reached for,
a goal to work on. It did get their attention!!! Are you planning on posting
a hit of ideas you get? I'd love to hear what other librarians are doing.
You're right, using the word
"classic" is the kiss of death. How about "Tried and True" or "Forever
Read" (I don't know, I'm making these up as I go along). The biggest problem
I remember with these is that they're basically all loooonnng. Never mind
that an 8th grader will happily read a Steven King or John Grisham that
is much longer without blinking an eye, if it's an assignment, they want
First, don't tell them their
classics! There are a couple of gripping paragraphs in "All Quiet on the
Western Front" (p.70-73 in the Little, Brown 1958 edition). I would suggest
reading a couple of short excerpts rather than just tell about the books.
I read to my 8th graders as much as I can and they like it a lot (as much
as they think it isn't cool. This way your not just talking at them, but
engaging their imaginations. Beg for more time, if you can.
Most of the classics have been
made into movies.... I do a movies and books talk...showing the book reading
a bit. One could show a clip from the movie. I've never been that prepared
but now that I'm telling you... I think I'll create a movie clips video
to use with my next books/movies talk!
I like to use a display of
actual objects when I do a series of booktalks. It's amazing what you can
find around the house that you can *make* fit a novel you want to push
:) Wouldn't tell the kids they are classics until the *end* of the booktalk
if you have to tell them at all. I'd probably say that these were books
that 8th graders (and I sometimes might fudge and say "8th and 9th graders"
which makes the students perk up even more :) have really liked. Period.
(Not that they have liked them "in the past" or "for decades" etc. Just
that they have liked. Period.)
Aloha from Hawaii! Here's a
suggestion I offered our YA Librarian. Try the "Fact or Fiction" theme
from the TV series of the same name. In the half hour show, incidences
are reported with the ending statement, "Fact or Fiction? You decide. Find
out at the end of the program." I think that all the booktalks must be
stated in a journalistic style, and the more enticing information that
can be shared about the characters and conflict the better. You could distribute
numbered scorecards for students to guess "fact or fiction", then at the
end of the session, tell them which stories were from nonfiction books,
classic or contemporary novels, newspaper articles, or maybe movies or
I don't think you need to be
afraid of the classics. Just don't mention the word. Most of the stories
have universal appeal that will grab your audience's attention: Imagine
that you're an orphan in year 191???. Both of your parents are dead, &
like many orphans in 191?, you've been loaned out to work. Your work for
a family, where you cook, clean house, babysit & care for their needs.
It's very difficult work. No one ever thanks you & there seems to be
no end in sight. Then you get word! Some one wants to adopt you! So you
board a train, travel all night, but when you arrive, you're all alone.
You wait at the station, until a shy gentleman arrives in his horse-drawn
buggy. He looks kind. His first quiet words, are:...You're not a boy. We
wanted a boy....... Of course you'll need to do some elaborating!
Have a raffle at the end of the
booktalk and give away several books...Each child puts their full name
into a large jar as they come. Talk about the books you will raffle.