Word of mouth is a powerful tool in the book world. Who doesn’t love a good book recommendation, especially from a trusted source like a friend or an expert? Most of the time this ups your chances of finding a book that you will like.

The same can be said for students and getting them excited about good books. All it takes is a good recommendation from a trusted source. An excellent way to showcase books, new or old, is to talk about them, which makes booktalking one of the most effective tools in motivating kids to read.

Our executive director and principal storyteller, Duncan McDougall, has been giving book talks for nearly 15 years. And we’ve found that the books he talks about during his presentations are checked out of libraries and chosen during free book giveaways more than any other books.

Booktalks are like commercials or movie trailers and can last anywhere from 30 seconds to seven minutes. They give the audience just a taste of the setting, the characters and the plot to leave them wanting more.

If you would like to try booktalking in your classroom, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the books you are talking about are available to your students through the school or public library or your classroom shelves. Talking about books that your students can’t access defeats the purpose.
  • Choose only books that you have read. If you haven’t read the book you are booktalking, your students will see right through you and know that you are judging a book by its cover.
  • Only booktalk books that you enjoyed. This is not a time for reviewing books or being critical. Booktalks are meant to motivate others to read the book you are promoting.
  • The books you talk about can be fiction or nonfiction as long as you make them exciting.
  • Give a short overview of the plot, setting and characters using exciting moments in the book to intrigue the reader. Look at your talk as an expanded book jacket summary.
  • Don’t give away the ending or any other secrets.
  • Think of different ways to begin your talk: with a question, setting the scene, focusing on a character, telling a little about the plot, or setting the mood.
  • Don’t tell too much about the book. You want to pull the readers in, but not drag them through the whole book.
  • There are so many ways to present a book. Just find your own style and be yourself.

Let us know if you decided to give booktalking a try. We’d love to hear from you. Again, we’ve found it works well for us and spikes children’s interest in the books we highlight.

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CLiF has served over 350,000 children since 1998.

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