The Missouri Reader Vol. 41, Issue 1 - Page 50


Cheri Gump





If I am going to help my fifth graders improve their reading skills, it is imperative that I get them excited about reading independently. Few instructional strategies I use create the buzz of excitement that book talks generate. Essentially, book talks are spoken commercials that “advertise” books. When I present a book talk in my classroom, they last anywhere from three to five minutes. I make sure to share enough about the characters, the setting, and the plot to generate interest without giving away the end. I have been using book talks with success for over ten years now, and every year I’m asked by the parents of recovering reluctant readers, “What’s your secret? How did you get them to read so much this year?” The answer is simple. I get kids to read by creating excitement about the books I read!

Any teacher who expects students to read independently must begin by modeling the behavior themselves. Students are likely to ignore a message about the importance of reading unless it is delivered by someone they view as credible. Can you honestly blame them? To establish credibility with students, I have a goal to read and share as many middle grades books as I possibly can each year. In fact, one of my favorite compliments from last year came from a student who said, “I like that you actually read all of these books. It motivated me to read them, too.” In order to book talk successfully, a

teacher needs to have a large repertoire of completed books from which to pull. I usually focus on books that have been published within the last year because I find that students get most excited

about new books, but I also find time to recommend classics and books that were popular in previous years as well. By recommending a variety of levels and genres, I ensure that all students will find something they can read and appreciate.

Another factor that contributes to the success of book talks is access to quality literature. A high quality classroom library with copies of the books that will be shared is an absolute necessity. In 2017, the National Council for Teachers of English published their position statement on classroom libraries. One of the many benefits of a classroom library that NCTE lists is the fact that they, “Motivate students by encouraging voluntary and recreational reading.” In my experience this is certainly true. However, a classroom library alone is not enough to make students want to read. Teachers must