Web Watch
Book Talks

Denise Johnson

The above book talk was shared so enthusiastically by a student in a fourth-grade class that I was observing, that I immediately had to go to the bookstore and purchase the book. He was right—it was hilarious and courageous and sad and heartwarming. Sometimes the best books come from recommendations by our friends and colleagues. That is why book talks in the classroom can be so powerful.

Book talks are brief "teasers" given enthusiastically by librarians, teachers, or students in elementary through high school as a way to entice others to read a particular book. A book talk doesn't reveal the whole story; rather, it tells just enough to hook perspective readers. Book talks can be used to introduce students to books in the classroom library, books for literature circles, a text set of books for a unit, or books written by a particular author. Tompkins (2003) suggests the following steps for book talks:

1. Select one or more books to share. When teachers share more than one book, the books are usually related in some way: they may be part of a text set, written by the same author, or on a related topic.

2. Plan a brief presentation for each book. During the one- to two-minute presentation, the presenter tells the title and author of the book and gives a brief summary, and then explains why they liked it and why students might be interested in it. The teacher may also read a short excerpt and show an illustration.

3. Display the books. Presenters show the book during the book talk and then display it on a chalk tray or shelf to encourage students' interest.

If students have prepared a project related to the book they also share it during the book talk (p. 465).

Regie Routman (2003) uses book talks as a way to demonstrate for students how she chooses books to read:

Recommendations from friends and book reviews are my main sources for deciding what to read. I read The New York Times Book Review every Sunday, clip book reviews, and earmark books I want to red. But mostly, I rely on friends for trusted recommendations....I also keep a folder of "Books I Want to Read." When I hear or read about a book I might want to read or clip an intriguing book review, I place it inside the folder (p. 31).

Routman recommends that students keep their own folder noting books they want to read. She also suggests a few other activities that promote enthusiasm for reading:

Book talks can be easily integrated into the school day as part of a daily or weekly reading share time. They are a great way for teachers and librarians to model their own love of reading while introducing students to quality children's literature. There are many Internet resources to assist teachers with book talks, including articles, tips, and book talks that are ready-to-use samples.

When students give book talks, they must demonstrate effective oral presentation skills to "sell" the story to their peers and they must exhibit the ability to summarize the story without giving away the ending. Some students also include quotes and illustrations from the book to supplement their presentations. There are several Internet resources that feature rubrics and checklists for student book talks, as well as other projects students can do in connection with book talks.

Book talks can be a powerful motivator for reading in any classroom. They are easily implemented, and all that is needed to get started is a classroom, school, or city library, an enthusiastic teacher or librarian, and possibly a few tips or ideas from the Internet. As the fourth grader who did the book talk for Love, Ruby Lavender so aptly put it, "don't be a chicken"--try it!

Online Articles

"'Talking' Books Creates a Hook!"

This article at the Education World site focuses on Nancy Keane, a library media specialist from New Hampshire, USA, and the development of her website, Booktalks--Quick and Simple (listed below). Included are book talk tips from teachers and comments from kids.

"Motivating Middle and High School Students With Booktalks"

Julie Coiro's article at Suite 101.com provides information and resources for book talks for middle and high school students.

Guidelines, Tips, and Ready-to-Use Book Talks

The ABCs of Booktalking: Ideas to Help Produce Terrific Booktalks

A resource housed on the Utah Educational Library Media Association website that features an alphabetical list of tips to help readers produce successful book talks. A list of useful references is also provided.

Book Talks

These pages on the Random House Publishing website provide 40 book talks on recently published books by Random House or its imprints. New book talks are posted monthly. The book jacket and purchasing information is provided for all books listed.

The BookTalker

Developed by Joni Richards Bodart, author of several books on book talking, this site hosts many book talks for upper grades, with new book talks posted monthly. The site also features book talks specifically for Christopher Crutcher books.


This page of the Young Adult Library Services Association has sample book talks, as well as books, articles, and Web resources on book talks.

Booktalking Ideas

Part of the Century 21 Librarian site, a resource for school and youth librarians, Booktalking Ideas is a webpage of 12 ready-to-use book talks for middle and high school students.

Booktalking Tips From A to Z

From the Learning Resource Center of Washburn University, this site houses guidelines, tips, and examples of book talks.

Booktalks--Quick and Simple

Developed by Nancy Keane, author of several books on book talks, this site has over 1,200 ready-to-use book talks for children in grades K-12. The site is updated monthly, and also has information about giving book talks, reading lists, and awards.

BPLG's [Bibliotecas Para Le Gente's] Booktalks

This site features book talks written by BPLG members and others who work with Latino/Hispanic youth. It describes a variety of books that the site authors believe will appeal to young readers from elementary through high school.

Promoting Reading With Book Talks

This resource, hosted by the Department of Education and Training of Western Australia, provides information on all aspects of book talks and also includes an observation checklist, peer and self-assessment sheets, and more.

Yahoo Discussion Group: Booktalkers

An online discussion group on the subject of book talking. Topics include tips and tricks for effective book talking, exchange of book talks, and discussion of children's books.

Other Projects to Use With Book Talks

Book Talk Projects

This site, hosted by Murray Park Elementary School in Ripon, WI, USA, lists 113 projects students can do after they have finished reading a book.

Book Talk Using iMovie

This site, from the Minnesota-based TIES consortium, demonstrates how to use iMovie to create a video or QuickTime book talk that describes the book through pictures, music, and audio.

Bookfomercials Project

A Bookfomercial is a book talk done via video conference—a live event that can be taped and shown to classes unable to participate at a scheduled time. The webpage, from a school library media specialist in Rhode Island, USA, offers a checklist for planning a video conference, a book talk graphic organizer, an oral and written presentation rubric, a listing on online book lists, and a PowerPoint presentation on book talking.


Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Tompkins, G. (2003). Literacy for the 21st century (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

About the Author

portrait of Denise Johnson Denise Johnson is an assistant professor of reading education at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virigina, USA. She received her Ed.D. in reading from the University of Memphis, Tennessee. She has worked as an elementary classroom teacher, a middle school reading specialist, and a Reading Recovery teacher. She now teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy education and conducts research on the integration of technology into preservice and inservice education courses and within elementary classrooms. Her articles on literacy and technology have been published in a variety of journals and she is active in several professional organizations. She enjoys traveling with her family and reading to her son, Derek. Contact her by e-mail at cdjohn@wm.edu.

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Citation: Johnson, D. (2003, June). Web watch -- Book talks. Reading Online, 6(10). Available: http://www.readingonline.org/electronic/elec_index.asp?HREF=webwatch/book_talks/index.html

Reading Online, www.readingonline.org
Posted June 2003
© 2003 International Reading Association, Inc. ISSN 1096-1232