Thursday, October 9, 2008

Booktalking- Count the Ways

“So there I was tied to an altar of outdated encyclopedias about to be sacrificed by a group of evil librarians.” (Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson)

“If your teacher has to die, August is a good time of year for it.” (The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck)

Booktalking is a great way to get kids (or adults) to read books they may otherwise miss. There are lots of ways to do it. One way is by reading the first few sentences. Sometimes, as in the books above, it may only take one sentence to raise interest. You can also read the last paragraph in a chapter.

Which leads me to another idea- have your students collect first and last sentences in a graffiti-kind of way. Place a long sheet of bulletin board paper somewhere in the school. The cafeteria is a great place because it advertises the library outside the library. Title it: Best First Lines or Best Last Lines. Invite students to write lines from their favorite books, being sure to write the author and title.

I also use a document camera to booktalk. Sometimes I read just a few pages, leading up to the exciting point and then stop, telling them that if they want to know what happens, they can check out the book. Sometimes I use the document camera to do something that advertises the book. For example, I do a magic card trick that I learned from Sid Fleischman's webpage to sell his book, Houdini.

I am a huge fan of slide shows with book covers. In fact, that’s the backbone of my book presentations. Everyone can see the covers while I read from the book. It also makes a more lasting impression on those who need to see as well as hear. Right now publishers are fine with us using this method, as it sells books. As long as you are not doing it to save money or raise money, you are probably fine to copy a jpg and paste it into a slide show. You might even make one that loops as your screen saver in the library. If you have an announcement board or a television station, loop your slide show throughout the day to provide more exposure.

There are also places to go to learn more about booktalks. Nancy Keane has a website that features booktalking skills and examples. Many publishers have booktalks on their websites now. I noticed last night that Scholastic has video booktalks. Watch some of these and then let your students make their own video booktalks. Sometimes the kids can sell the books to themselves faster than you can.

Let me make a couple of final points about booktalking.
1. Read the book. You can’t sell a product you don’t know.
2. Read the blurb aloud. It’s a good refresher.
3. Show an interest in the books you are trying to sell.
4. Talk outside your own interests. (Even genres you don’t love.)
5. Talk about fiction and nonfiction. You will reach more readers.

Booktalking is the teacher/librarians’ product. If you love it, it will sell. If you keep trying, you can find the right match from product to client. Don’t give up. Books are like shoes. Not every shoe works for every foot. There is a book to match every Cinderella- or Prince Charming. Try 'em on and see.

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