By Lysha Thompson
Sweet summertime! I love having long, summer days to recharge from the school year. Time to spend with family and friends, time to work on projects we have saved for summer break, and time to just relax with a good book. Whether your summer includes a long anticipated vacation or a simple staycation, take the time to enjoy the days we have all looked forward to all year long.
I also (as I’m sure most of you as well) use summer break to prepare for the new school year. Preparing bulletin boards, readying the library, and making plans for lessons. I always try to focus on one new initiative. This summer, I plan to focus on booktalks.
As a librarian, I frequently do booktalks. New additions to the library, an old favorite, individually with a student looking for their next book. Booktalks are just a part of what I do. But, as I have been reflecting on the past few years and looking for my summer focus, I realize I haven’t been consistently doing booktalks with classes. Booktalks are an important tool to stress reading for pleasure. You never know which one of your students is going to be hooked on a new author or new genre simply by spending a few minutes talking about a book you have just read or feel students are going to love.
So, where to start? I read daily always but voraciously during the summer. My reading this summer has a new focus. Each book I read, I’m not only evaluating for the library collection and for the Reading Circle recommendations but also considering it for my new focus on booktalking. Which class will this appeal to? Does this one appeal to a smaller group or will it fit a whole class talk? I’m finding that I am more focused as I read and many times have specific students in mind.
I’ve also developed a plan to include a booktalk each day for each class I see. For me, this will mean one middle grade book and one elementary book each day. I’ll also add several young adult novels to my list to share with high school students. High school classes are not scheduled for me, so I will be discussing with high school teachers ways I can push into their classes or collaborate with them to make this happen.
Where can you find titles to booktalk? Start with favorites of your own such as books you enjoyed as a child or enjoyed reading with your own children. The Reading Circle website is a great resource as well. The committee members review books all year long to choose the best books for Missouri students. The reviews are broken down by PK-K, Primary (1-4), Intermediate (5-8), and Senior (9-12). Be sure to check the website often as new reviews are added frequently and are arranged by copyright date. Books for 2020 (2019 copyright) will be available soon as well. The Missouri Association of School Librarians book award lists are also a good resource for books to promote with booktalks. The ShowMe Readers Award will appeal to students in grades 1-3; the Mark Twain Readers Award to students 4-6; the Truman Readers Award to grades 6-8; and the Gateway Readers Award to high school students. The readers award committees spend an entire year reading and choosing the best books for these lists. You are sure to find books here to appeal to your students. An additional resource for PK-K students is the Missouri Building Block Award books which is sponsored by the Missouri Library Association. The American Library Association Youth Media Awards list is also a great resource for potential booktalk material. The awards are announced in late January each year and include the Newbery and Caldecott awards.
Once you’ve chosen books for your booktalks, where do you go from there? A booktalk should give enough of the plot to be interesting without being a summary. Highlight an interesting part or even read a few lines. I usually end my book talk with a cliffhanger. Remember, the purpose of your booktalk is to catch their attention and make them want to read the book. Try to keep it around five minutes and no spoilers.