Organizing Booktalks

Reader’s Advisory can take many forms, but my favorite is booktalking.  The beginning of a new semester is the perfect opportunity to reach out to teachers and offer to do booktalks for their classes.

Last week, I gave booktalks for twelve classes.  Each booktalking session averaged three to seven books which can become a management nightmare.  I use the following method to organize booktalks so that if teachers wish for me to booktalk more than once to their classes, I can be assured I am not repeating myself.

Organizing Booktalks

1. First, I created a spreadsheet of the books from which to choose (and keep adding to it).

The spreadsheet includes the author, title, and up to three genres.

2. Next, I gathered the booktalks I have created (or found) on each title.  These are all titles I have read; one of the primary rules I learned in my YA Lit course was to only booktalk books you have read.  Creating booktalks is often time consuming, so when I don’t have the time, I use Nancy Keane’s Booktalks — Quick and Simple.  I file these alphabetically by title.

3. Finally, I created a simple booktalk chart template that I use for each teacher.

I keep all of this information in my Booktalk Notebook that I keep for reference at the Circulation Desk.

Giving the Booktalks

Once a teacher requests a booktalking session, I confer with him/her to determine a few factors I need to consider as I plan:

1.  length of time teacher wants to stay

2.  class composition (equal numbers of males and females?)

3.  student interests (At the beginning of the semester, teachers often can’t provide a great deal of information, but if they have done interest surveys they might be able to share if any students are in band, chorus, orchestra, student council, or participate in any sports.)

Then I pull together from three to seven books based on teacher information.  I use the template to record the titles I plan to do for each class. If this changes (sometimes I can tell from a class’s attitude as they enter the library that I need to change a title or two), I note the changes after the booktalks.

I set up a display of the books I plan to booktalk in front of the Promethean board, and as students enter and are settling in at the tables, I play an Animoto video I created on the current year’s South Carolina Young Adult Book Award nominees. Brochures on each table provide more information about each of these titles. I end the booktalks with a book trailer and tell the students that they are free to check out the titles I used on the table.  It is always SO rewarding when students run to get a copy of the books on the table!

Analyzing the Booktalking Session’s Effectiveness

Often I can tell if a title is going to get checked out as I am doing the booktalk.  High school students don’t fake interest in books; their body language speaks volumes.  And, bless their hearts, some students are not ashamed to say, “I’m getting THAT book.”

Other ways I use student feedback to help me improve my booktalks:

  • A quick look over at the table a bit later as students are checking out books lets me know if a title (or titles) didn’t get checked out.  I make a note of this on the template.
  • If a title did not get checked out, I discuss the booktalk and title with my service learners and the other media specialist to see if I can pinpoint the reason for lack of interest.  If possible, I revise the booktalk before giving it again the next block.  Sometimes this works, sometimes not.
  • If students ask me if I have more copies of one of the titles I booktalked, I put the title on hold for them and make a note of it on booktalk template.

I would love to read about your booktalking methods and sessions.  How do you organize your booktalks and what techniques have you found to be successful?


On the Prowl – Video Booktalks

I’m on the prowl again – this time for more video booktalks to share with my students.  Today I’ve been browisng Vidlit. The site offers several ways to search for video booktalks:  author, title, genre, and popular.  By clicking on “popular”  I found

The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga. This vidlit is cleverly done and I’m sure would encourage my students to pick up this title.

Clicking on “genre” supplies “Young Adult” as one of the genres, but few titles are offered here. I’d love to see more, but do like one other feature here that SLMS could use:  you can download Vidlits for your iPod.

Image by Connecticut-Outdoors found at
Gizmo - on the prowl

Book Trailers

For more than fifteen years I have been using booktalks to encourage teens to try new books and authors.  Booktalks work, plain and simple.  Advertising a book sells it just as advertising shampoo or jeans sells them.  Presentation is everything in grabbing a reader’s interest.

So last spring, my media center showed the book trailers produced for the 2006 Teen Book Video Awards during the kick off for our READissance program.  The three trailers included the one above as well as The Book Thief and How I Live Now

 Not only did these beautifully crafted videos spark student interest, they lead me to purchase two of the titles for our collection.  As our students raptly watched the videos, I thought, “Why not have our students create book trailers?”  This idea never came to fruition as life, work, and grad school seemed to crowd out my fleeting moments of free time.  Luckily the world was not depending on me to provide new book trailers.

How else can my media center increase the use of Web 2.0 tools for book advertisement? 

 Joyce Valenza, media specialist extraordinaire, explored the use of book trailers, vodcasts, and podcasts in October 2007’s issue of e-Voya.  Her article, entitled “Booktalking 2.0”  provides links to many professionally and student-produced podcasts. These can be used in conjunction with your already prepared booktalks to encourage your students to read.

Now, another set of book trailers have been honored by the Teen Book Video Awards,  doubling our small arsenal of high quality book trailers to entice readers to try new books. Many other book trailers can be found on video hosting sites like Youtube, Teachertube, and Google Video

Here is another trailer for a newly released young adult book that looks interesting.

 The Adoration of Jenna Fox (from Henry Holt and Company)