Students of all grade levels benefit from teachers’ reading suggestions. But to help students get interested in reading a particular text, present it to the class in the form of a book talk. The book talk as a reading strategy is a wonderful tool for creating reading motivation. Book Talks also help build vocabulary, especially for young readers, whose little ears benefit from actively listening to speech.
The purpose of this strategy is to "sell" the book to your students. Think of yourself as a book promoter, and make sure your body language— as well as your words— show how much you like the book. Here are a few basic tips on how to give an interesting book talk:
•Give enough detail of the book’s plot to entice listeners, but don’t give an actual summary. Just give a few highlights, or teasers that your readers would find amusing.
•Don't give away the important or watershed moments of the book. You certainly never want to give away the ending.
•Choose a few passages to read to your listeners. Even better, act them out! But just give them a taste of the story.
•Introduce your students to your favorite character, who may or may not be a main character. Talk about that character like a friend.
• Wrap up your Book Talk with a cliffhanger that makes students want to hear more!
•A final word of advice: Don’t try to have a Book Talk with your students about a story you really don’t like. Chances are, neither will they.
Book Talks do not require a huge time commitment, usually only five to seven minutes can work well. There are plenty of resources out there in support of book talks, but don’t listen to the ones who say book talks are only effective for older children. For a fresh spin on book talks, let your students give book talks about their favorite books; it is far more powerful for students to give advice to their peers. The goal here is to get students motivated to ultimately make good reading choices on their own.
In 1993, British children's author and literature teacher Aidan Chamberswrote Tell Me: Children, Reading and Talk. It has been widely debated in the U.S. ever since. Those who have tried his approaches in the classroom find their students discussing text on a deeper level. As we like to say, if it gets children reading, it’s worth doing.
Beck and McKeown (2001) found that it is actually through the discussion around books that students gain experience with “decontextualized” book language – that is, the language that represents ideas and concepts. If you think you are talking too much about books, think again. You are doing your students a great service. Keep up the great work!
For more ways to improve reading comprehension in your classroom, download our free guide, K-6 Best Practices for Reading Comprehension today! Start the New Year out right by trying a reading strategy you haven’t tried before!