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There's a First Time for Everything: Booktalking

I have been in youth services for more than 6 years in public libraries and this is the first year I've ever been asked to go to schools and booktalk! I will admit to completely panicking at first, but then-- like any good librarian would-- I started doing some research. Now I am sharing some of the resources I discovered along the way.

A search in my library's catalog for "booktalk" turned up an awesome book from 2003: The Booktalker's Bible: How to Talk About the Books You Love to Any Audience by Chapple Langemack. I found Chapple to be very reassuring to me even while most of the recommended titles given as sample booktalks are actually adult books. The advice is solid no matter your audience.

I also found Silly Books to Read Aloud by Rob Reid to be a great source of short book talks. I will be the first person to admit that my personal reading tastes tend towards the macabre so I thought this was a great way of balancing the mood and throwing some funny titles in the mix as well.

Before I started writing my talks, I found it really helpful to listen to some of the audio ones that Multnomah County Library has on their podcast for Kids and Teen Booktalks. It gave me a sense of what to include since I hadn't done any booktalking as a professional but did write some in my YA literature class in library school. I also looked at some book reviews aimed at a tween/teenage (not professional librarian) audience to see how the books' plots and appeal were being described.

Book Speed Dating Rating Card
Here are the titles I booktalked* to the 5th graders: 
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
The Twits by Roald Dahl
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf by Jennifer Holm
The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Weird But True! 2: 300 Outrageous Facts by National Geographic
BOMB: The Race to Build--And Steal--The World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

I also did a "book speed dating" part of the program where I pulled some of the titles that we have used as book discussion group books at my library in the past (and thus had lots of copies). The kids had a few minutes to "sample" the book by reading the blurb and possibly a few pages and then I gave them a sheet to mark done whether they wanted to read it or not and included a space for them to jot notes down. I saw this idea on a blog months ago--can't remember which, so sorry!--and loved it. My fellow Michigander and someday-best-friend-but-doesn't-know-it-Colby Sharp just posted about how he does book speed dating in his classroom. I like that it gives kids permission to say "NO, THAT BOOK IS NOT FOR ME." Summer reading is all about choice, right?

The books the kids got a chance to "date"** were: 
The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

If anyone has any advice for fun ways to spice up booktalking, or any advice at all, I'd love if you'd leave a comment below. Or recommend your favorite books to do at this type of occasion!

*Yes, I read all of these before booktalking them. I tried to come up with books for varying reading, interest, and maturity levels because the kids vary so widely at this age.
**These too


  1. As a school librarian, the book talk is a staple. I love the Multnomah site for their book discussion questions but didn't know about the podcasts! I need to do those!!

    I am so glad you pointed out that you read the books beforehand. I attended a reader's advisory that talked about booktalking books you haven't read and tried it. It worked up until students asked more questions about the books they were interested in! FAIL!

    The speed dating rating card? So cool! It could even be adapted as a stand alone display idea!

  2. The speed dating was a huge hit! I agree that I am wary of booktalking titles I haven't read yet. I mean, if I haven't been interested enough in them to read them--then how do I know anyone else would?

  3. That's awesome that you got into the schools for booktalks! We just got into one of our schools for booktalks to 4th graders for the first time just last week. I love booktalking and have really missed it. :D


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