Successful Book Talks

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.

Book Talks Collage

Building a Community of Readers in the High School Classroom

This past week my high school held a professional development summit with two other neighboring high schools. It was a fun way to kick off the school year since teachers had the opportunity to learn from and present to other teachers throughout the day. My friends, Lindsay Grady and Amanda Canterbury and I ran a two part session about the importance of a reading community in the high school classroom.

Lindsay, Amanda, and I are voracious YA readers and love fostering a love of reading in our students. It was my principal who suggested that I put something together for the summit; it was just the nudge I needed to make an inkling of an idea blossom into something more. I had been thinking about creating a PD session that was interactive and revolved around reading, but I wasn’t sure how or where to make that happen. Once my principal mentioned the summit, I knew I wanted Lindsay and Amanda working with me.

Lindsay's Read AloudSince each session ran for 50 minutes, we decided to run it in two parts. The first part would be the why we do what we do and the second part would be the how we do what we do. We focused on read alouds, book talks, a book pass, independent reading projects, and sustained silent reading (SSR). During the first part we explained what each of these are and tips/tricks/books to use. When we moved into the second session the teachers experienced a read aloud, book talks and a book pass. It was relaxed and really fun. Lindsay read aloud the first twelve pages of Stolen by Lucy Christopher, which will definitely hook readers. Amanda book talked Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby and shared why it made her cry. I book talked All the Rage by Courtney Summers and read the first five pages when Romy provides readers with a powerful flashback. We also shared pictures of our classroom libraries, book displays, and different projects students have created in response to reading. The three of us also made sure to express the importance of CHOICE; our students wouldn’t be nearly as excited about reading without choice.Amanda's Book Talk

As the three of us worked on creating this session, I couldn’t help but think about how powerful it would be if the attending teachers could leave with books to add to their classrooms. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and reach out to a few publishers for help. I’ve requested books from publishers, but I have never requested enough books to hand out to a large group before. I didn’t know what to expect and I felt awkward sending the emails. My friends, YA publishers are awesome and generous. Thanks to their overwhelming kindness, the teachers who attended our session left with roughly 10 books each! At one point this summer, I think I had close to 400 books in my basement.

Bags of BooksGrocery bags of books lined the front of the room where we presented. We waited until the end of the second session to surprise the teachers with the books and I really wish I would have taken a picture of their faces. They were SO EXCITED when we told them what was in the bags! A few were excited that the books Amanda and I book talked were included. For the rest of the day teachers approached us to thank us or to say that they were disappointed that they missed our session. It’s priceless knowing that those books are going to reach students across three school districts. I’ve tweeted it a few times already, but I’m going to say it again: Thank you, HarperCollins, Little, Brown & Co, St. Martin’s Griffin, and Candlewick Press!!!

Summit Books

I uploaded the presentation we created onto Slideshare and am including the link here if you’d like access to it. Lindsay, Amanda, and I included a link to Penny Kittle’s Book Love Grant and to ALAN’s website. We also have links to class library book recommendations, graphic novel recommendations (after it was requested by an attending teacher), and read aloud recommendations. If part of the presentation doesn’t work or if images are missing, please let me know.

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