Virtual Reader’s Advisory

Our library is closed to the public, including for browsing. Our county COVID numbers just dipped low enough for us to allow for appointment based services, but, sorry to all of the school districts that decided to start the school year with blended learning at the last minute, but I do the same math the governor’s team does every day, and our county numbers are increasing. Again. The reason any of that is relevant to this post is that the public will not be browsing our shelves anytime soon…meaning reader’s advisory is not the same experience.

And browsing is something we hear about frequently. Kids in particular often don’t know what they want to read (or they know EXACTLY what they want to read and will take nothing else). Parents are trying to homeschool or supplement in-person schooling, and they are eager for beginning reading books in particular. How can we recreate the browsing and reader’s advisory experience for our users?

New & Awesome Books to Reserve

These short clips are designed to be Instagram posts or Instagram stories (identical, vertical versions are used on that platform, all under 15 seconds to accommodate Instagram story rules). There seems to be a positive response to these reader’s advisory tools–the first Instagram post got a lot of happy feedback (I think people missed seeing inside the library). The most recent Instagram story (first chapter books) got more click-through response than other stories I had created in the past.

I really wish there was a way around the 15-seconds, or a way to make it easier for viewers to see titles and immediately put them on hold. I recognize the books in the video, but I can’t imagine many parents do without having to put in the effort to watch multiple times and pause a clip.

New & Overflow Books (July 2020) (this was a first attempt and this video is longer than most)

New Books (August 2020)

Beginning Readers

First Chapter Books

Parent Teacher Collection Titles

Virtual Reader’s Advisory

These reader’s advisory videos have a few purposes:

  • Reader’s advisory tool to supplement the lack of browsing
  • Possible substitute for in-person book talks that take place in local classrooms

We’ve had an okay response to these reader’s advisory YouTube videos. I hope that these are useful to teachers and students, especially as the school year progresses (and post-COVID too!).

My book talk video filming tips:

  • Film in Short Clips. My filming structure involves me talking for 1-2 sentences before cutting to a new clip. I find this really valuable when I am trying to get my words exactly right (especially important when sharing books that talk about racism, neglect, or aspects of a culture that isn’t my own). I don’t memorize what I’m going to say, but this quick structure makes it a lot easier for me to redo a clip as needed. Refilming something 20-30 seconds long is easier, and it is much less frustrating than getting to the end of the clip and messing up a pronunciation.
  • Add visual interest. Add images from the book whenever possible. Some books are chapter books without images where this doesn’t make sense, but whenever I can, I add images and change them regularly. An adult has about an 8-second attention span in non-COVID times. Watching me sit and talk at a screen for even just a minute is boring. Images help.
  • Talk about books you like. Always. I only book talk books I’ve read, enjoy, and can vouch for. I’m not this strict when I’ve got an in-person reader’s advisory experience, with a patron in front of me asking for Wonder readalikes, but when I’m only able to take a handful of books to a classroom, or in this case, select what books I want to put my time and effort behind highlighting, I want to make sure they are books I genuinely enjoyed and think kids will enjoy too.
  • Recommend diverse books. Following the last tip, this means you need to be reading diverse books. Hopefully you are. I don’t care how white your community is–even if your community is made entirely of clones of one Christian, straight, physically and mentally able white boy–there is a whole world out there that those kids need to be aware of and empathetic toward. (Also, if you are living in a community filled with cloned children, I would suggest you stop reading now and run. Fast.)
  • Look up those pronunciations. Author names, illustrator names, character names, settings. Look up them all. Don’t be the Annamarie of three years ago who mispronounced Amina’s name repeatedly in a book talk video for Amina’s Voice that still makes me cringe every time I see it on YouTube.
  • Of course, all the regular technical things:
    • Film with the highest quality camera you can access
    • Good lighting (don’t sit in front a window, avoid shadows)
    • Good sound
    • Consistent feel/intro/conclusion
    • Easy access for a viewer to put the book on hold in your catalog

I’ve made a lot of videos, and this post is already long, so I’m going to try to highlight grade level playlists and list links to specific titles underneath. Many books appear on multiple grade levels because they appeal to multiple ages.

Book Talks: Preschool
We are focusing on books for the ages we regularly book talk to in the schools (Grades 2-6), so there are fewer videos for this age.

Book Talks: Kindergarten
We are focusing on books for the ages we regularly book talk to in the schools (Grades 2-6), so there are fewer videos for this age.

Book Talks: 1st Grade
We are focusing on books for the ages we regularly book talk to in the schools (Grades 2-6), so there are fewer videos for this age.

Book Talks: 2nd Grade

Book Talks: 3rd Grade

Book Talks: 4th Grade

Book Talks: 5th Grade

Book Talks: 6th Grade

Collection Videos
These videos cover more than one title connected by a common theme. These seem to be getting slightly more views, but, be warned, they take a lot longer to make. A 10 Readalikes Video is essentially the equivalent of making 10 individual book talk videos–a lot of effort for what feels like less of a result. I’m going to keep chipping away at these, but they are exhausting, so I don’t make them as frequently. Maybe I’ll focus on these more when I feel like I am slowing down on a regular pool of titles to book talk individually.

12 New Graphic Novels (published in the first half of 2020)

10 Baby-Sitters Club Readalikes

10 Dog Man Readalikes

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