Using book talks to cultivate readers and build community

A few weeks ago, I shared Why I Teach Genre the First Week of School and briefly touched on one of my favorite classroom routines of all time: Book Talks. Book Talks, or book snaps, make up one of the most enjoyable segments of my ELA period, and this week I’m sharing critical information on why, when, and how you can start using Book Talks to cultivate more passionate readers in your classroom this year.

What’s a Book Talk?

A Book Talk is a quick overview of a book given by either a teacher or a student with the intention of gaining their interest. Book Talks should be quick, personal, and engaging so that students will want to read the book after the talk is done. Most of the time, I had a waitlist for my book by the end of the day! Your Book Talk should feel more like a sales pitch than a deep ELA analysis. Your Book Talk could focus on one aspect of the book (like character or theme) or it could give an overall picture of what the book is about and what makes it a must-read.

Here are some good examples of Book Talks:

How to Do a Book Talk

  • First, choose a book that is at an appropriate reading & content level. A Google search will yield plenty of book lists, but another good place to start is Amazon or Good Reads. If you’re short on time, reach out to your librarian. There have been many times that my librarian has preselected a stack of books for my Book Talks to get me through the week.
  • Read the book! Sure, it isn’t possible to read every book out there, but we can read some. Try to use books that you have personally read because being authentic in your Book Talk is key to building a genuine connection with your students!
  • Plan your Book Talk. Take notes or make a quick outline to make sure you hit key points in your Book Talk. I frequently choose a powerfully written piece to read aloud, but I don’t give away any major plot points. The goal is to get students excited with an overview or a good hook.
  • Use your Book Talk to kick off your independent reading time. It provides a natural transition that engages kids and gets them excited to settle into a good book.

Why Use Book Talks?

Students are consuming media in smaller chunks than ever before. (Consider: 60 second TikTok videos!) Book Talks are meant to grab the students’ attention in a short amount of time and intrigue them just enough to want to check the book out. Book Talks also give you yet another way to connect with students over shared reading. Use your Book Talks to create bonds with your students that will not only cultivate better readers but will also create a stronger classroom culture.

Some Final Words on Book Talks

  • Don’t be the only one chatting! Get the students involved. Let students volunteer to give Book Talks or use them as an end of text assessment.
  • Not ready to give your own just yet? There are plenty to choose from on YouTube!
  • Try using a platform like Flipgrid to house Book Talks all year long or while teaching and learning virtually.
  • Want your students to do more than just listen to you talk? Have them create a visual mind map while you’re speaking.

Have you tried Book Talks in your classroom? How does it work for you? Comment below or follow me on Instagram or Facebook to join the discussion.