Research has shown that students often choose books to read based on the
recommendations of their peers and their teachers. Why not introduce and
recommend quality science-related trade books? One way to do this is by book
talking exciting science reads to your students.
What is a Book Talk?
Think of book talks as a classroom sales pitch where the item(s) you are
selling just happen to be books. Book talks are brief in duration although long
enough to engender interest. They are not summaries or reviews or a recounting
of plot. Instead, they are lures intended to hook potential readers. When you do
book talks you might keep the following in mind:
- Show students the book. Identify its title and author. Write the information
on the board so that students can make note of it.
- Only book talk those books that you would recommend.
- Make certain that the books you promote are available to students.
- Be enthusiastic!
- Don't give everything away! Leave your listeners longing for more.
- End book talks with a question. Listeners will want to read the book to find
out the answer.
- Be playful when warranted. Try using different voices for actual or imagined
- Vary your delivery. Match your tone to the tone of the book. It helps create
mood, interest, and atmosphere.
- Make book talks a regular part of your classroom routine.
Why Do Book Talks?
There are many reasons to incorporate book talks into your classroom. We
offer a few. Book talks:
- Enable teachers to introduce students to a large number and variety of books
in a relatively short period of time
- Provide students with the chance to explore different kinds of books that
they might not otherwise learn about
- Reinforce students' language listening skills
- Help provide guidance for students when selecting books for recreational
and/or classroom reading
- Model the teacher's excitement about literature and present him/her as a
reading role model
- Celebrate books
Book Talk Tips
- Vary the topics, style, genres, and authors of the books you select for your
book talks. In that way you'll be able to appeal to more students' interests.
- A book's beginning is usually written to hook readers. Check the opening
chapter, and if it is particularly funny or suspenseful consider reading it to
- If the books you are recommending are available in audio form, try playing
them aloud for a few minutes. (Movies work, too, when available.)
- Book talk multiple books for an author study you will be beginning.
- Share a range of books that match your science curriculum, and make certain
to include various genres.
- Share series books, like those in the Scientist in the Field or All About
series. Share books by authors with a large corpus of work, such as Laurence
Pringle, Jean Craighead George, Jim Arnosky, or Gail Gibbons. When students like
one of the books it's easy to find another one just like it.
- Illustrations play an important role in book selection. Highlight books with
dramatic or enticing illustrations or photographs by book talking the artwork.
Photo-essays are good choices, especially those of Seymour Simon.
- Sharing a book of poetry? Read one or two aloud. Douglas Florian would work
- Have a book of experiments or a how-to book? Share part of the book's
offerings by doing a quick demonstration.
Beyond Book Talks
If you want to take your book talks to a brand new level, why not try some of
the following ideas.
- Set up an author's corner and book talk that author's books.
- Encourage students to give book talks of texts they have read and would like
- Set up a "Recommended Reading" bulletin board and have students write and
post the written form of their book talks.
- Keep an archived binder of student and teacher book talks in their written
format so that students might revisit prior book talk recommendations.
- For those with classroom websites or classroom newspapers consider adding
"Book Talks" as a regular feature.
For more on book talks, visit Nancy Keane's BookTalks—Quick & Simple at
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9912078. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.