Book Talks: When the Fever for Reading Has Fizzled

Book talks are a great tool when the fever for reading has fizzled. They are a casual, conversational way to reel in readers and motivate them to pick up a particular book.

I noticed once my children approached a certain age, reading became more of a chore. They saw it as a "have to" rather than a "want to". It wasn't cool to read for enjoyment.

What happened to those children that loved library trips and had collections of picture books in their bedrooms, the playroom, the family room, the car...everywhere?

Middle school happened. My children reached the tween and teenage years. They discovered more "tech" devices. There was too much distraction for a book to compete against. Many parents see the same thing happen as their children reach the upper grades.

I have a secret I use with my own children. I combine a little parental psychology with some skills I learned from my teaching days. I work a book talk into my conversations with my kids.

They don't even realize I am "selling" them on a book to read. (No worries about my kids finding out, they don't read my blog).

Here's how it went:

It was winter. I had noticed the most avid of readers in the family was severely slacking. Rather than nagging, I started a conversation with him about what I was reading.

I was reading John Krakauer's Into Thin Air. (I know I was a little late to the party, as this was a big best seller back in the 1990s). I started talking with my son about how interesting I found this book about an expedition climbing Mt. Everest. I couldn't put it down.

I asked if he knew what types of things happen to people at very high altitudes. I told him what I was learning from the book: how lack of oxygen affects the brain, how you have to acclimatize yourself to heights, and how extreme frostbite affects the body. I explained how a man in the book got so oxygen deprived he walked off a cliff. I told of ice falling and being lost in a blizzard. I discussed how dangerous it was and what the characters in this true-to-life story were like.

I casually tried to reel him in. It wasn't too difficult because my own enthusiasm for the book was evident to him. Boys like danger, excitement, and extremes. He told me the books sounded similar to another he read for school called Peak.

I could tell I had his interest. I was ready to close the deal. I added what is usually a surefire way to hook this "age". I said I am not sure you are ready for this. It might not be appropriate. That tipped it in for my son. He wanted that book!

Ours was a successful book talk. My other son listened to our discussion and ended up reading Peak which was more appropriate for his age.

Remember, "back in the day" your school librarians holding up a book and talking a bit about it to your class? They were trying to pique your interest with a book talk. Book talks are ideal for the teen and tween aged students and entice them to read the book presented.

Children need ideas for books to read. Just like adults ask each other "what are you reading", kids who have more information on books will be more likely to read.

At Cary Junior High, teachers are beginning to use the school's Facebook page to suggest books middle schoolers might enjoy.

Parents can do this same thing, after all you know your child best.

Just follow these steps:
-choose a book that you think would appeal to your child's interests
-sell the book by telling them a small bit of the plot to interest them
-don't summarize the entire book
-leave them hanging and wanting more

Keep your book talk simple and casual. One benefit of a book talk, their is no nagging or haranguing. It is just simple discussion. It should work. If it doesn't try another book at another time.

I tried to bring up an old classic, The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. I was told the cover looked old and there was no way he was going to read it. (Made a mental note of that comment for the future)

It so happened my daughter wasn't as thrilled about Nancy Drew books as I was at her age. She did eventually read one for an assigned mystery book report and ended up liking it.

No time for a book talk of your own or don't know where to start just yet?
Scholastic has an entire library of book talks on-line. Here is an example for Wright's 3- another book my son enjoyed.

IF YOU LIKED THIS POST: You might also like this previous post on Ten Books Kids Want to Read. Subscribe to School Zone now for summer skills, tips, and ideas.

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    My name is Lisa Stiegman and I have been a Chicago area resident all my life. Besides being the mother of three children, I have been a writer, editor, and teacher.

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