I set a teacher resolution for myself this semester. My goal is to book talk a different book every day and every class period for the rest of the semester. I started out the school year book talking a book every Tuesday, but because we’re on a block schedule I was only drawing attention to a specific book for my A day and B day classes twice a month (we meet every other day). Also, I have an expansive class library and too many books sit on the shelves unread. I can remedy that with an occasional book pass, but that can take up an entire class period, which I don’t have time to do on a regular basis. I can, however, make time for a couple minute book talk each day.
After our read aloud I choose a book to tell my class about before we start SSR. Sometimes I choose them ahead of time for the day, and other times I get distracted and find a book on the fly. Lately I’ve been asking my students what type of book they’d like to hear about. My freshmen want endless mysteries, which has been difficult because so many of my favorites are already checked out and I haven’t read as many mysteries as I apparently need to. Another class told me that I haven’t book talked enough dystopian. One of my senior classes said they like it when I choose which book because they know I’m choosing ones that they’ll enjoy and they trust my opinion. It’s been a really fun process these past weeks. I’m bummed that once May hits I won’t be able to book talk anything to my seniors since our entire class period will be dedicated to Senior Exit Presentations, but at least I know they’re hearing about great books until then.
In this post I’m going to focus on which books have been successful, meaning which books have been borrowed after the book talk. If you’d like to see the books I’ve highlighted this semester, you can follow the Pinterest board I created for this to help me keep track. I’ve been focusing on a lot of backlist titles because they’re new to my students even though it’s maybe been years since I’ve read them. It’s also my hope that even though I’m featuring a different book in every class, the word will spread to other students/classes about the books they’re picking up and reading.
If you need some tips on how to do a book talk or some ideas to make yours more successful, I suggest reading Erica Beaton’s post. I’ve taken a few ideas from her post to improve my own, particularly the idea to ask my class a question to pique their interest (the emotional hook).
I’m only featuring a handful or so of the successful book talks simply because I’m short on time. I’d love to know what your book talk strategies are and which books have been picked up after a book talk.
Swim the Fly by Don Calame (Goodreads): I book talked Swim the Fly earlier this week in one of my freshmen classes because they requested a book with humor. I hooked them when I admitted that I enjoy dumb humor/bathroom humor, which is embarrassing to admit. I referenced movies with that type of humor like Step Brothers (they love that movie) and said girls appreciate that type of humor like in Bridesmaids for example. One of my boys borrowed it right away, especially after hearing another boy in class state how much he loves this series of books.
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (Goodreads): I have a class of seniors this year that love edgy books, so I hoped The Spectacular Now would be a winner for that group. It helped that I showed them the movie trailer after I finished my talk. One of my seniors who keeps bouncing from book to book decided to read this, and so far she’s been sticking with it.
Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Goodreads): I think I won over my students when I said they’ll read about characters being cryogenically frozen. It also helped that this book is written from two points of view, which I know my students enjoy.
Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl (Goodreads): Honestly, this book wasn’t for me because I was listening to it via audio and Paige Rawl was narrating it; she is not a stellar narrator. But I know it’s a good book for my students to read. One of my seniors borrowed it and came into my room the following day to tell me how quickly she’s reading it and how much she loves it. She said she isn’t a big reader, but Positive has her hooked.
Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg (Goodreads): I don’t know exactly what piqued my students’ interest when I book talked this, but it hit a nerve because at least four or five freshmen from that class have read it. I think they liked the idea of reinventing oneself, reading from a gay teen’s point of view, and that I focused on how much I loved the writing.
If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Goodreads): I can’t remember if I originally book talked If I Lie in a senior or freshman class, but it has been extremely popular in both classes. One of my seniors kept talking in our class about how much she loved it and how she was reading more outside of school than she ever has before. What I loved the most about this is that another girl in her group (my students sit in groups of six) started recommending books for her to read next. Which leads me to my next book…
A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy (Goodreads): A senior was reading this last semester and she loved it so she recommended it to the student who was reading If I Lie. I book talked A Matter of Heart with my freshmen and it wasn’t picked up right away, but I could tell they were interested. That was confirmed when one of my girls in that class borrowed it after she finished reading the book she was in the middle of reading. She read it quickly and loved it. The girls have enjoyed the love story and the swimming/heart problems storyline.
The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (Goodreads): Many of my students love mysteries, Criminal Minds, and the I Hunt Killers trilogy, so book talking The Naturals was an instant winner. One of my senior boys borrowed this right after I finished my book talk and has been speeding through it. I need to buy the other two ASAP.