Tag Archives: book talk

Virtual Book Talk: Grades K-5

Book talks are one of my favorite parts of librarianship. I love going into classrooms, seeing a captive audience of students (who may or may not be excited to see me–at first), and building a feeling of mounting excitement as kids learn that their library is full of fun places to go, fun programs to participate in, and a bunch of books that are actually really cool. My booktalks are packed with energy and popular topics. And I haven’t presented one in about a year. We reached out to schools about virtual book talk options, but while some of my coworkers have had luck, every teacher I’ve reached out to never actually schedules a virtual book talk. I’ve made over 100 individual YouTube book talk videos, and while those are fun, I don’t get to talk to any kids. Finally, (finally!) about a year since I was last in a classroom, I had the chance to talk to some kids virtually.

This presentation was definitely different than in-person book talks. First, I had a collection of grades at once: K-2 and then 3-5 (30 minutes each). Second, since I was presenting virtually with a powerpoint with images, I could pick any book. I wasn’t limited by what was on our shelves. Also, unlike in-person book talks, where we are scheduled to see the same class multiple times a year, this was a one-and-done experience for the school’s literacy day. This opened up so, so many book possibilities. I’m still not sure I’m entirely happy with my choices–it was simply so hard to choose!

The school also wanted me to talk about some other services too. Specifically, they wanted a library tour, information about library cards, and details on programs and services. This was much tougher than usual because the places and services I normally highlight on a tour or during an in-person book talk still aren’t operating. Our play spaces, video game room, and homework help center are closed. Kids can come in and use the computers, but they aren’t encouraged to come game with their friends for hours like they might have done in 2019. I can and did share the different types of books we have, but I wasn’t able to highlight much beyond that.

I talked a bit about getting a library card–which is easier than it has ever been–and about some of our upcoming virtual events as well, before jumping into the books!

Just like I do for in-person visits, I included slides with big images of covers and select spreads:

For Grades K-2, I highlighted these books:

The full K-2 PowerPoint is available here:

For Grades 3-5, I featured these books:

The full 3-5 PowerPoint is available here:

I think the content presented virtually was a bit too much for the students in grades K-2, but grades 3-5 stayed with me and even asked a bunch of questions at the end about the books I discussed, other books, and the library’s history.

It felt fantastic to be able to talk to students again, especially in a way that let me hear from them too. Hopefully, maybe, we will be able to do more of these virtual visits next year in classroom settings. Even if we can’t go into the classrooms, hopefully our local schools will be on a better routine that might allow us to stop by (virtually) more often than we could this school year. There are certain core elements of librarianship that are part of why I signed up for this job in the first place–and talking to kids about books is one of them. While I know these won’t be around forever, especially if I pursue a career in management or collection development or many other future directions, I also wasn’t quite ready to let these things go yet–so for now I’m just happy to have had another opportunity to talk to a bunch of kids about books.

Book Talk – 5th Grade Reads

My library has a fantastic relationship with our local school district. We regularly partner with teachers, principals, and entire school buildings in variety of ways, from daily public library delivery and end of year summer reading assemblies to quarterly book talk and storytime visits.

I love book talking in classrooms–it gives me an opportunity to talk to a captive room of kids about the library, but it also provides me with a chance to talk to students about what they want to see their library offer and about the kind of books they really like. It also gives me a chance to show that yes I have read the newest Dog Man, and I can discuss the evolution of Petey’s character throughout the series. No, librarians don’t just say shush and only read the “classics” you are forced to read in school, thank you very much random Westerville third grader.

Our book talks vary from school to school and classroom to classroom, but on average we talk to 50-100 kids at a time, typically all of the students in one grade at that school, for about 30 minutes. I bring along a PowerPoint that includes visuals to help students see the books that I am holding up (especially in those rooms with 100+ kids). We all bring bookmarks for each student with the cover of the books we are highlighting as well as information about library services and upcoming programs.

Watch Virtual Reader’s Advisory videos, including 5th grade book talk videos, in this post.

Selecting Book Talk Titles

My powerpoint for this week’s fifth grade presentation is displayed above. A lot of these books overlap books I would recommend to fourth graders, as we are still at the beginning of the school year.

I am very particular about how I curate the collection of books I select for a particular book talk. Our marketing team recently revamped the bookmarks we distribute at these visits, so we have to present either 6 or 9 books. My ideal 30 minute book talk is 7-8 books, but I am settling into book talking 9 titles each time I visit.

Each of my book talk collections must include:

  • Fiction and nonfiction (typically 5 fiction and 4 nonfiction)
  • At least 2 graphic novels, preferably at least 1 fiction and 1 nonfiction
  • At least 1 book with a male main character
  • At least 1 book with a female main character
  • At least 2 books with diverse main characters (preferably more)
  • At least 1 school story/realistic fiction title
  • At least 1 fantasy/science-fiction title
  • I have to have read every title.

I also like to include at least one creepy book, one book with cute things (often animals), and, for grades 2-3, one book about poop or farts. These requirements are more personal preference than standards I hold myself to.

Some books can overlap many of these categories–for example, The New Kid by Jerry Craft is one of my favorite book talkers, and that book has a diverse male main character, is a graphic novel, and is a school story.

I focus on selecting books that are good but that are also books kids will like. The Gamer Squad series is definitely not going to win any awards, but Pokemon Go is still quite popular where I live, and the kids respond positively to that series. I want to see kids reading, and I want to connect them with a book that actually sounds appealing to them. In my experience, kids pick up fun, new books with situations they can relate to than books that are beating the reader over the head with “important topics” or books that I remember from my childhood (which are often outdated and sometimes filled with problematic plots–Maniac Magee, anyone?).

5th Grade Reads

This particular book talk was designed for 85 5th Graders during their first quarter in school. After talking about library services and upcoming programs, I book talked the following nine titles:

I’m not going to type my book talk blurb for all of these (because this post is already pretty long), but my spiel for my favorite is below. This is also a great book to promote in October in general.

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

If there was ever a perfect book talk title, this is it. It is the perfect combination of horror and mystery, with an excellent cliffhanger to leave students wanting more.

Ollie is riding her bike home from school, when she finds a strange woman yelling by a river. The woman is holding a book and threatening to throw it into the river. Ollie likes books and manages to distract the woman long enough to rescue the book and ride away. When she gets home, she discovers the book is a little strange–it is called “Small Spaces” and appears to be a diary about two brothers from a long time ago who loved the same woman. One of the brothers dies, and the other brother makes a deal with a smiling man to bring him back to life.

Ollie shrugs the creepy story and goes to school the next day. Her class is going on a field trip to a local farm. Things start to get strange. Ollie discovers that the woman who runs the farm is the same woman she saw by the river. While wandering on the property, Ollie discovers three hidden gravestones, with the same names as the two brothers and the woman from the book she rescued. Even stranger yet, their substitute bus driver is very odd–he just keeps repeating “avoid large spaces, stick to small.” Over and over and over again.

Ollie is relieved to leave the farm with her class, but as they drive away, their bus starts to slow down and eventually breaks down. It is getting darker, and no one’s cell phones have a signal. Their teacher decides to walk back to the farm to get help. It keeps getting darker and foggier, and the bus driver just keeps saying “avoid large spaces, stick to small.”

Ollie is very nervous now. She glances down at her digital watch. This watch is very important to her–her mom was wearing it when she died a year ago, and Ollie has been wearing it ever since. The kids on the bus are being loud–their teacher is gone after all–and no else seems to notice that it is much too dark and much too foggy for early evening. Ollie looks down at the cracked screen of her digital watch, and instead of numbers, it shows one word: RUN.

So she does.

(Insert gasps from the entire classroom here, followed by groans as I tell them to pick up the book.)

Book talking is a great way to help alert students and teachers to awesome new titles they might be interested in (I’ve had two teachers use Small Spaces as a classroom read after my book talk). It is also a fun way to show kids that libraries are more than books and librarians don’t just read the stuffy books kids associate with classroom assignments–we read the fun stuff too, and we enjoy them (I am the first hold on every new Dog Man release). It is extremely rewarding for everyone when a kid stops by the library specifically to ask for books a librarian brought to their classroom, and then sees that same librarian while they are visiting. They can chat about all kinds of awesome books and programs and topics–and, hopefully, that kid leaves thinking of the library as a welcoming place filled with interesting books and people.