Have I mentioned I’m new to this library business? Among the many new skills I’m learning is the art of the booktalk. That’s the one-word-on-purpose booktalk I heard about in library school.
There is one major goal for booktalks: Get students to check out books and read them!
Easy, right? Well, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
The trick, as far as I can tell at this point, is to—
- Start with a hook,
- Be succinct, and
- Leave them wondering.
You also have to know your audience. Junior high students are not all the same. The booktalker—me in this case—must be prepared with different kinds of books for different kinds of kids. That means books appropriate for the age range of 11 to 14, books for the varying kinds of life experiences present in your average junior high, and books for both the avid and the struggling reader.
The best part of booktalking is you know when you have done a good job because all the books are gone!
Click HERE to open the booktalks in a new tab. Feel free to use these slides with your own students.
I’ve done a bit of strategizing about how best to deliver booktalks. I make a slide with the image of the book cover and I put the text I want to say in the speaker notes. When I present through the Apple TV on my iPad, I can glance at the speaker notes when I need to. I found that I don’t need to look at my notes very often, though.
At first I attempted to booktalk the same 5 books to 5 consecutive class periods, telling students they had to come back the next day if they wanted to check the books out. That did not work, probably because most junior high kids forgot by the following day. In the end, I started booktalking books that we own several copies of and/or prepared around 20 booktalks to last me for an entire day. That was a lot more work than I anticipated, but it was worth it.
I had to swallow a hard truth about this process. Students did not check out some of my very favorite books. I booktalked these books with passion and purpose, but still, no checkouts. Even going over the slides right now makes my heart feel a little sad. Why do books go in and out of style? Why don’t kids want to read books that mean so much to me personally? For now, the answers to those questions don’t matter because the most important thing is to keep the students reading. A closed book lingering in the backpack or under the bed is not helping anyone.
Here’s another hard truth: I detest when people force books on me. In fact, telling me to read a book more than once pretty much guarantees that I won’t read it. I bet many of my students feel the same way.