booktalk_logoWEB.jpg
According to The Institute of Museum and Library Services "A booktalk is a commercial designed to get someone to read a book. It is a way of 'selling' your merchandise, a performance to get the audience excited about your book." Booktalks are incredibly valuable for both patrons and librarians. They motivate readers to engage in material they may not have originally been interested in. Booktalks may be given by librarians, teachers, and fellow readers to get a reader motivated to read material.

Booktalks:

  • increase circulation
  • increase communication between patrons and library staff
  • promotes the collection
  • increase audiences awareness of library
  • expose children to new vocabulary
  • builds relationships among stakeholders
  • provide outreach for community groups

Evidence-based Booktalking


In his 1992 dissertation, David Terrence Nollen researched the effects of booktalks on the attitudes and behaviors of 53 fourth grade students over and eighteen-week period. In his research Nollen found that there was no significant impact of booktalks on the perceptions students hold about reading, however he does report a large jump in book circulation following the talks. Circulation after the booktalk study was a total of 79 titles checked out, compared to the 20 titles in the same time period before. There was no gender difference in either attitude or behavior, with neither holding a changed attitude but both increasing the number of books checked out post-booktalk. This increase was temporary. There appears to be a rather lengthy gap between this dissertation and other studies about booktalking that involves quantitative methods alongside qualitative.

Studies that have been published in the past decade show clear correlations between increased reading activity in classrooms and libraries and booktalks. A more recent thesis, submitted by Natalie E. Clower in 2010, focuses on the effects of booktalks given to second graders on the circulation of award winning titles. Titles were chosen using two criteria; the first was that it be an award winning book and the second being that it had low circulation. Clower found that sixty-eight percent of the students who heard booktalks immediately sought copies of one or more of the titles featured. Circulation records were collected during the three weeks after the booktalks, and found a statistically significant increase in circulation for all of the titles from the talk.

In 2011 Dr. Cheryl Wozniak, a teacher and reading specialist, conducted a brief six-week qualitative program in hopes of rehabilitating some dated techniques she was witnessing in reading intervention classrooms. Wozniak created syllabi for two classrooms to implement during their language arts block, with a special focus on booktalks and interactive learning. While she did not collect quantitative data, Dr. Wozniak observed a noticeable increase in student participation during lessons that began with booktalks, as well as better attitude overall about reading.

The vast majority of literature about booktalking use anecdotal evidence much like the 2006 article by J. Marin Younker from the Seattle Public Library. Younker claimed that he has seen circulation statistics up 600 percent for adolescents after booktalks were presented in local classrooms. Wealth of material similar to this article about the effectiveness of booktalks exists among both librarians and teachers.

Planning Your Book talk

It is important to plan your booktalk. Booktalks can be rooted within many topics, including theme, developmentally appropriate material, genre, author and calendar year. It is vital that as the "book talker" you are enthusiastic. In addition to planning your talk around an idea, it is good to consider the following when planning.
    1. Know your audience. Understanding your audience's reading interests, personal interests, and attention spans, and curricular goals is imperative when planning your presentation.
    2. Like the books you are booktalking. Your audience can tell authenticity- enjoy what you are selling!
    3. Think accessibility. Select books for your talk that are available in multiple copies in possible or provide children additional avenues to access the presented book. If you do not have many copies of a particular title, provide books by the same author or books similar in theme, literary style, etc. You may want to create a display in the library so that the audience finds the booktalking selection when they visit.
    4. Always prepare more than you will need. Have a script available- but do not memorize it. Booktalks are best when candid and interactive.
    5. Don't try to "elevate" their tastes. Include some titles that you know are super popular (e.g. Captain Underpants for young kids; Steven King for young adults). This will give you credibility, thus making the group more likely to pay attention.
    6. Start strong and end strong. You may find it best to begin with a known author.
    7. Accept that a booktalk program is a performance and learn how best to influence the audience.
    8. Variety is key. Since you may be covering over 15 books in one shot, vary the types of books you present as well as the lengths and styles of the booktalks. If you present a "dark" title, follow it up with a light or funny one. Be sure to include nonfiction as well as fiction. Some people like to use themes, but if you do that, make sure it is very broad (e.g. "survival" and then use wilderness, growing up, dysfunctional families, etc. or "food", and have that be the entrée into a number of stories)
    9. Remember to repeat the title. Your audience will forget the name of the book unless you repeat it and hand out a booklist or bookmark.
    10. Remember why you're there. Don't just sell books, sell reading and sell the library too. Talk about new resources, upcoming programs, etc.
    11. Have a system ready so listeners can check out books on the spot.
    12. Keep records of the books used and make notes about what worked and what did not.

Booktalking with Technology

Using technological tools can be an engaging way for patrons to access your book talks. Technology based book talks are easy to make and easy to access. You can create the booktalk or request your patrons submit booktalks as well. Digital booktalks reach many different kinds of learners and are relevant to children who interact with technology every day. Once you have created a booktalk using Web 2.0 tools, anyone can access your post via the Web.


social-media-with-media-logos_080206.jpg
Listed are free softwares and online tools to use when creating book talks.

iMovie- easy to use software available on Macs
Windows Movie Maker- easy to use software on PCs
PowerPoint- Office slideshow
Prezi- cloudbased presentation software
Animoto- online video maker using photos, video clips, and audio
GoAnimate- animated videos

Digital Booktalks vs. Digital Book Trailers


Digital Booktalks use multimedia to review and "sell" a book. They are accessible online and allow patrons access any time. Digital booktalks are also an excellent way to reach patrons with many different learning styles and reluctant readers.

Digital booktalks tend to be a discussion or analysis of what worked or was engaging in the text. They may incorporate supplemental visual and audio to enhance the talk, or could simply be taped presentation of an actual booktalk. Booktalks will often discuss the "highs" and "lows" of the book, examine literary elements (plot review, character analysis, setting, etc.) providing a review, read alikes, and " if you like this..." statements. These ideas examined in digital booktalks are similar to what would be presented in a traditional booktalk. According to Dr. Robert Kenny, Florida Gulf Coast University and digitalbooktalk.com, "Digital Booktalk expands {the} literary booktalk model by providing children with interactive visuals of the books that they used to only read. Many children are reluctant to read and would rather watch a movie made from books. It is our belief that you can use that reality as an educational advantage."

Booktalk "One and Only Ivan"



Digital Book Trailers are similar to Booktalks in that they are used to entice readers. Book Trailers will "show" the audience exciting points of a text, similar to a movie trailer. Book trailers will often preview the most exciting sections of the book. More and more often, book trailers are created by publishing houses in hopes of engaging readers. Kenny states, "While these trailers may serve well their commercial purpose, they often do not always accomplish the educational goal of creating avid readers...Drs. Kenny and Gunter hypothesize that, if a student experiences a 2-minute book trailer done in the style of a motion picture, they will be better able to find a book that matches their interests, and will expand their reading to an ever-widening range. Furthermore, they believe that the book trailer production process is a fun and effective literacy pedagogy for today’s technologically advanced youth."


Book Trailer "One and Only Ivan"


Booktalking for the 'eens


While booktalks can prove effective for inspiring reading in people of all ages, this section will focus on booktalking to young persons at the middle school through high school levels ("'tweens" and "teens," respectively). With increased social and school schedules alongside pressure to look "cool" so as to impress their peers, young adults in particular stand to benefit from an engaging approach to reading promotion.

Talking the Talk


"As a booktalker, your mission is nothing less than to set teen brains on fire for books" (Mahood, 2006, 171).

Booktalking, when done well, is an performance art that offers tantalizing glimpses into selected stories, giving the audience just enough information that they want to know what happens-- and will read the books to find out. It reaches out to bookworms and reluctant readers alike, demonstrating all that reading can offer: "excitement, wonder, heartbreak, hilarity, and insight" (Mahood, 2006, 172).

So how do you create and execute an effective booktalk? This multi-step process can seem intimidating, but it can also be a lot of fun. Creating a booktalk calls for creative thinking, a passion for connecting young people with books, and active engagement with YA literature (a professional way of saying you get to read a lot of YA novels). Here are some tips to get you started.

Meet Your Material


  • Pick a Genre, Any Genre - Books can be of any genre, whether mystery or romance, science fiction or non-fiction, horror or humor. Selected books should feature themes relatable to young adults that you can describe with excitement and conviction.
  • Know Thyself - It's best to booktalk titles you have read and enjoyed. Teens have an amazing ability to spot phoniness, so don't fake it-- either the reading or the enjoyment. If you didn't enjoy a particular book but know that it has merits worth sharing, be honest and explain why you didn't like it yet you think your audience might.
  • Know Thy Audience - Maybe your bookish, brooding cousin Sasha loved Crime and Punishment, but unless you're speaking to a room of aspiring Russian Literature scholars or future theologians, you might want to stick to titles with broader appeal. Think Alice in Zombieland or 12 Things To Do Before You Crash and Burn.
  • Represent - make sure the titles you're talking represent people within your audience. "Guy" books and "girl" books should both be featured, as should stories with multicultural characters and varied groups of protagonists to whom teens might recognize and relate: musicians and meatheads, news-makers and newspaper editors, geeks and gleeks.
  • What's New, What's Hot - Stay tuned in to the latest YA titles. Trade publications (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, School Library Journal, etc.) as well as broader media, such as the New York Times Bestseller List offer looks at what's popular. When in doubt, plug "latest teen books" into your search engine of choice.
  • Cheers and Jeers - Journals and websites devoted to librarianship and/or children's and young adult literature contain reviews that can help guide your selection. Keep in mind, though, that such reviews are generally written by adults for adults. Try exploring Amazon.com and/or websites dedicated to YA literature, as teens may have posted their own opinions on books you are considering.

Put the Pieces Together


  • Leave a Note - Scribble down thoughts as you read through your selected titles. What scenes, characters, or ideas grab you? Be sure to flag or write down specific pages that will shape your talk.
  • Tone Up - Know that the how of your talk is just as important as the what: "It is so important not to allow your talk to sound like a list of books to read; instead it should sound like a conversation or announcements of what is going on in the news world of teenagers, like gossip, music videos, or movie trailers" (Bromann, 2001, 54).
  • Work on your Hook Shot - As you read and for days, weeks, or even a year after, pay attention to your thought process on the material. Sometimes an idea for a hook -- a grab-their-attention move -- comes easily, and other times it takes a while to make the connections necessary for a compelling way into a book. Be patient with yourself and the material if you can. If you absolutely must come up with something right away, consider discussing the book with a friend or colleague or reading reviews (particularly by teens) to discover what caught the attention of other readers.
  • Practice Makes Perfect - Write down your talk, either in detail or in outline or bullet form, then practice. And practice some more. Stop shy of sounding rehearsed, but feel confident that you know the major points of what you're going to say and the way in which you'll say it. You're essentially telling a story about a story; what are some qualities of stories you enjoy hearing?

Mix Your Methods


In Booktalking That Works, YA librarian and seasoned booktalker Jennifer Bromann advises varying your approaches when discussing different books in a booktalk session. By mixing the methods she has identified as particularly successful (below, from Bromann, 2001, 63-69), "your talks will be more interesting and you will reach more members of the audience" (Bromann, 2001, 63).
  • Setting a Scene - In this approach, you describe a particular moment (or series of moments) from a selected book. The chosen scene should grab the audience's attention and get them thinking. You want to use these plot elements to intrigue teens, so don't offer closure.
  • Asking a Question - This method is useful for getting teens thinking and participating. Opinion and casually asked rhetorical questions are good-- the point is for teens to feel involved without being put on the spot or quizzed.
  • Drawing Connections - Here, Bromann suggests, you might hook teens by correlating current issues or trends or common elements of teenage existence (whether news or pop culture or curfew) with the plot of a book.
  • Focusing on a Character - Pick a remarkable individual (or a character so unremarkable he's remarkable) from the book at hand, using action statements to convey that person's uniqueness. Bromann also recommends comparing such a character to someone the audience may recognize or relate to.
  • Setting the Mood - Use your vocal and physical presence to convey the feel of a story. Adjust tone, pacing, and volume to both engage your audience and underscore the strengths of a book.
  • Hinting at the Plot - While your booktalk should not simply summarize a story's plot, with this approach you
  • Read Aloud - Bromann advises that this method should be used sparingly, and only when the author's message and talents cannot come across successfully any other way.
  • Above All... - Booktalks can employ a range of styles, from performance-driven to highly conversational-- a highly effective booktalk might use both ends of the spectrum during the discussion of multiple books. 'Tweens may be more open to theatricality, but don't over do it, lest they "think they are being treated like little kids" (Mahood, 2006, 122). With teens it is important to not appear too earnest or instructive; follow their lead and even seem dismissive of reading if necessary, for, as Bromann repeatedly notes, "teens are often likely to do what they are told not to do" (Bromann, 2001, 55).

Give Them a Place to Go


Once you've talked and tantalized, you have to let your audience know where they can find the books you discussed. This is an ideal time to talk about the library and what it can offer teens in the way of books and other media as well as programming. Librarian Kristine Mahood intersperses information about the library, including how to obtain a library card and an overview of teen programming, with her discussions of different books (Anderson, 124). This approach provides young audiences with factual information while they are still on the emotional journey of the booktalk-- that is, while they are still with you in the moment and curious how these books end.

Booktalking Resources

General Booktalk websites


Teen focused


Technology sites


Read up

Listen In



References


Bromann, Jennifer. Booktalking that works. Chicago: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2001.

Clower, N. E. (2010). Using booktalks to increase the circulation of award-winning literature. (Order No. 1485871, University of Central Missouri). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 53. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/750959296?accountid=14553. (750959296).

Crowther, Eleanor. "BookTalks/Read Alouds, Special Programs, and Service Projects To Encourage Middle School Student Participation in the Library." (1993).

Gunter, Glenda A. "Digital Booktalk: Creating A Community Of Avid Readers, One Video At A Time." Computers In The Schools 29.1-2 (2012): 135-156.

Mahood, Kristine. I want to read that book!: Booktalking to tweens and younger teens. In Sheila B. Anderson (Ed.),
Serving Young Teens and 'Tweens (pp. 111-145). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006.

Mahood, Kristine. A passion for print. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006.

Nollen, Terrence David. The effect of booktalks on the development of reading attitudes and the promotion of individual reading choices. Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Nebraska - Lincoln, United States – Nebraska, 1992. Retrieved from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text database. (Publication No. AAT 9225488).

Wozniak, Cheryl L. "Reading and Talking about Books: A Critical Foundation for Intervention." Voices from the Middle 19.2 (2011): 17-21.

Valenza, Joyce. (2007, August. Booktalking 2.0 (2.0). School Library Journal. Web.

Younker, J. M. (2006, April). Talking it up. School Library Journal, 52(4), 39-39.
Retrieved from Library Literature and Information Science Full Text database.