Adventures in Booktalking

Since starting my current position as a “middle years” focused children’s librarian, I’ve spent a good chunk of time developing relationships with the Teacher Librarians at my area schools. It’s been a wonderful part of my job – all of my TLs are super friendly and open to collaboration. We’ve been developing ways we can work together throughout the year that benefit both parties. On my end, my overarching goals are to ensure that all the kids in my area have three things:

  • a public library card
  • a visit to the public library
  • a knowledge of and (hopefully!) a relationship with the public librarian (that’s me!)

One of the ways I’ve made headway on the last goal is by doing booktalking programs at the schools. In addition to promoting our collection and cultivating a love for reading, booktalking programs let the kids get to know me. They see my face, they learn my name, and we get to talk about our favourite books together. It’s been amazing, and somewhat astonishing, at how effective this program has been. Kids have been coming in and asking for the books I talked about. Some of them personally ask to speak to “Len-say.” And my hope is that when I visit them again in June to promote the Summer Reading Club, I’ll be a familiar face.

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Last fall I’d definitely been feeling what Erin puts into words so well – the pressure to put on ground breaking school-age programs that I see on so many wonderful blogs. But then I realized that booktalking – though it may be considered a very basic program – is exactly what my community needs; in addition to falling in line with my library’s strategic initiatives. So I’m going with it, and I’ve been super happy with that decision.

So, what exactly did I do? Well, the first thing I did was email Abby who gave me lots of booktalking advice and shared some examples of booktalks she’d done. She has been a great role model to me in this endeavor and I highly recommend checking out her blog further.

Here are the details! I’m providing you with pretty much EVERYTHING I used because I wish I would have had something like this last year when I started to plan.

What ages did you target?

Because I do more of a storytime program for the K-2 students, I focused on reaching kids in Grades 3-7.  A lot of the schools in Vancouver have mixed-age classrooms, so I broke my talks into three groups: Grade 3-4, Grade 4-5, Grade 6-7.

What books did you select?

I focused on three factors: new(ish) releases, number of copies in my library system, and diversity. Diversity in terms of genres, formats, character experiences, settings, backgrounds, etc. I ended up going with 10 books for each group: 5 chapter books, 3 non-fiction titles, and 2 graphic novels.  Here’s the complete list. Some of the titles overlap because reading levels vary and I was trying to keep my work load manageable.

 

Grades 3-4Grades 4-5Grades 6-7
  • The Worm/The Fly/The Slug/The Rat by Elise Gravel
  • The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman
  • Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins
  • Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (whole series)
  • Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires (whole series)
  • Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
  • Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Crabenstein
  • Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis (whole series)
  • Alvin Ho by Lenore Look (whole series)
  • Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson
  • Curiosity’s Mission on Mars: Exploring the Red Planet by Ron Miller
  • This or That? The Wacky Book of Choices to Reveal the Hidden You by Crispin Boyer
  • Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Crabenstein
  • Rain Reign by Anne M. Martin
  • Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon (whole series)
  • The Graveyard Book: Volume I by Neil Gaiman
  • Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature’s Undead by Rebecca L. Johnson
  • Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
  • Sea Turtle Scientist by Stephen Swinburne
  • Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric L. Gansworth
  • The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
  • A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman
  • The Graveyard Book: Volume I by Neil Gaiman

 

 

How long did you have?

I saw a rotating groups of kids for about 30 minutes each. I spent about 20 minutes booktalking (2-3 minutes per book), and left 10 minutes for discussion, sharing, and advertising library programs.

What did you actually say and do?

Here’s a brief outline of each 30 minute session:

  • Introduce myself and where I work
  • Define “booktalk”
  • Booktalks – the bulk of the presentation
  • Ask kids their favourite books
  • Promote library programs

I created a PowerPoint presentation that accompanied each of the sessions I presented.  Here they are for you to view. Please note, most of the images are copyrighted and cannot be used outside of educational purposes. I borrowed liberally from authors’ websites but if an author ever contacted me to remove the images, I would gladly do so.

These slides were broadcast behind me while I talked. They definitely helped keep the kids engaged and focused. I also hope it helped them remember the books a bit better.

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I had all of the books lined up on a table, so when I talked about a book I could hold it up and show them some of the pages. The other trick I learned from a colleague is to tape what you want to say on the back cover – see here!

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If you want to see the content of the booktalks, click on this file. For the most part, I only used these as reference and tried to talk about the book without reading from a script. Also, I do not claim ownership of any of these booktalks – I took stuff from online reviews, GoodReads, and any other helpful source I found. They really come from a mish-mash of sources. Some of them Abby generously shared with me!

What did you take with you?

  • USB with PowerPoint presentations
  • Copies of all the books – invest in a good bag on wheels!
  • Library card application forms
  • Flyers with our current school-age programs
  • Bookmarks with all the titles, authors, and call numbers of the books I shared. Each kid got one of these at the end of their session. I also left some on the information desk at my library so that other staff could reference them if kids came in asking about the books.  Nothing fancy but they work!

Have you blogged about booktalking to school-age kids? Do you write booktalks on a blog? Let me know in the comments! I’m thinking about writing a booktalking resources post next!

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13 thoughts on “Adventures in Booktalking

  1. Awesome!! Thanks for sharing your experience! I think you’re absolutely right that booktalking is a great way to get back to basics in promoting the library and engaging kids with the library. It’s also amazing to me how LONG the kids will remember my face. I have had kids at one of our middle schools remember me from booktalking to their 4th grade class TWO YEARS ago!

  2. I’m working on a new presentation for area schools where K-5th graders and caregivers will be present and I thought I’d do it in a storytime sort of way (instead of early lit tips, I’ll do asides from our caregiver bootcamp we typically do just for caregivers) to engage kids, but it just occurred to me that BOOK TALKS would be A GREAT IDEA so THANK YOU!!!! This is tremendously helpful. I love book talks, but don’t have the opportunity (or don’t think of having the opportunity until it’s too late!) to do them often. And thanks for the shout-out!

  3. I love your booktalking powerpoints! Do you scan in pictures from the books or how do you get such great graphics? Any tips for newbie powerpoint makers? Thanks!

    1. Thank you – I spent a lot of time on those! All the images are from websites. Like I said in the post, I used images from author websites and blogs very generously with the hope that they would appreciate the promotion. I use a tool called the Snipping Tool which allows me to take a screen shot of anything I see on a website. I highly recommend it! I just save the screen shot as an image and insert it into the PowerPoint. If I need to edit the images, I just use Paint (very basic here!). For the book covers I try to find high resolution photos so they don’t appear blurry. I hope this helps!

  4. This is awesome! I’m going to be doing my first-ever school visits in the next few weeks, and I’ll need all the help I can get!! 🙂

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