Tag Archives: reader's advisory

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

Virtual Video Book Talks

A few weeks (or months?) ago I posted about some audio book talks I created, aimed for grades 2-5, for our library’s SoundCloud platform. I knew that eventually I wanted to return to video book talks, as our book talk audience typically uses YouTube more than SoundCloud (2nd-5th graders), my library has a larger following on YouTube, and YouTube adds a visual element that allows for deeper exploration of picture books and graphic novels.

My first few videos are below. I expect these to evolve over time. They are all edited using the YouCut app through an Android phone. Due to the quick cuts and simple editing, these actually take me less time than an audio book talks–I never like to read from a script, and this format allows me to write out my thoughts but only have to worry about a few sentences at a time–I don’t memorize my script, but only having to talk through 1-3 sentences that take no more than 30 seconds total allows me to have a few potential retakes for each snippet and still be done filming in no more than 15 minutes. Editing takes about 20 more minutes. Of course upload speeds are always changing, but at least that can happen in the background while I work on other projects.

These video book talks span ages a bit more as well, with a baby and preschool title added to the mix.

Learn more about my Virtual Book Talks – with many more video examples – in this post.

Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne:

Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story by JaNay Brown-Wood:

Meet Yasmin! by Sadia Faruqi:

Ana & Andrew by Christine Platt:

Jada Jones Sleepover Scientist by Kelly Starling Lyons:

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado:

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia:

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi:

Black Lives Matter: A Non-comprehensive Book List for All Ages

If you have spent any time reading this blog, you know that I am not the best posting partner. But after sharing my resources with Annamarie (Scaffolding Anti-Racism Resouces, A Plan for Movement Worksheets, Student Voice) and reading her post, I felt like I should contribute more than a weekly post of “here are some good books I’ve read”.

Let’s be real, I am a white woman. I am not maligned because of the color of my skin. I do not face adversity, I am not profiled, and I am not judged or harmed because of the amount of melanin I have. I may have grown up in a “black and Hispanic” neighborhood, I may be considered an ally, but I am not a person of color and will never know the same struggles. My skin tone has given me an advantage all of my life even if I hadn’t always been conscious of that fact.

My story is not one that needs to be focused on.

But stories teach people. And written words can sometimes reach people better because they refuse to listen or cannot hear other’s truths over their own. So while my goal was to contribute more to this blog than a list of books…..I’m still going to give you a list of books.

Black Lives Matter: Books for All Ages

Picture Books & Readers:

Youth:

Teen:

Adult:

And just because Isa’s (a student in my community) words are so powerful I wanted to include her spoken word poem again:

Virtual Book Talks

Reader’s Advisory and book talks are a major part of any youth librarian’s job–you need to be familiar with popular titles as well as be ready for those more obscure reader’s advisory questions (“I want books about REAL unicorns. None of that pink glittery nonsense. The REAL ones that eat people.”).

In the library, we provide this service regularly through all kinds of resources–in-person reader’s advisory, displays, booklists, librarian-curated posters and bookmarks of recommended titles and popular genres, and more. My library also sends us into classrooms to talk directly to kids about some great books they might be interested in.

I read a lot. I also love booktalking in classrooms. But I am now working from home, schools in Ohio are not going back this year, and, honestly, I don’t really expect public librarians (or anyone really) to be allowed into classrooms next fall.

So how do we keep reaching those kids? The same ways we have been doing everything lately…virtually.

Learn about how my virtual reader’s advisory evolved into video book talks – plus plenty of examples – in this post.

Video Book Talks

Someday, when we are in a better routine and know what to expect out of life again, I would love to make video book talks. At the moment, I am just getting my feet under me with weekly virtual storytimes and starting monthly virtual school-age programs, and with the constant uncertainty of when and how we will reopen, I don’t want to start something like this at the moment.

Feel free to watch this, uh, interesting creation circa 2017 (that has over 700 views?!?!?!).

I think there are ways to make virtual video book talks much more engaging than the above video, even after eliminating the obvious issues like what-color-is-that-wall and better sound (And, um, pronouncing the title and main character’s name correctly. I’m sorry Hena Khan.).

Some of my dream video book talks include a lot more engaging cuts, edits, and images to be more visually exciting, but I think I may have to settle for a notch under that if I am able to start filming these in the next few months, just due to the time required to make those edits. I’m storyboarding our summer reading video at the moment, and while I think it is going to be pretty awesome, I also recognize the time involved.

Audio Book Talks

One of my coworkers started making audio-only book talks uploaded to SoundCloud, which is a new format for me. I really miss the visual element of video, but I will be the first to admit that it is much easier to read a script into a microphone than babble into a camera and worry about lighting and camera placement and my hands endlessly moving.

I have not put in the time on these that my coworker has (listen to Lisa’s great work here), but some of my files are linked below.

For any of you with an ear for audiobooks–I know some of you are reading this blog–please ignore my mouth sounds. And breathing. And spit. And dry mouth. And p-pops. I’ve been trying to edit all of that out, but it is exhausting, and there is only so much time in the work day. I can’t spend three hours or more editing a three-minute audio file, as much as ALL I HEAR is spit when these play.

Note: I watched a webinar yesterday on disability access and virtual programming. One of the key points they mentioned was making audio files accessible with a script to read for folks who are deaf. I hadn’t considered that before but am planning to edit descriptions for the files below and include text for future audio book talks.

2nd-3rd Grade:

Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol by Andres Miedoso

Mia Mayhem by Kara West

Zoey & Sassafras by Asia Citro

3rd-4th Grade:

Poop Detectives by Ginger Wadsworth (non-fiction)

Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat by Johnny Marciano

4th-5th Grade:

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Do you have plans for new ways to look at reader’s advisory in a world where we may not be encouraging patrons to hang out in our building and may not be going into new locations for in-person outreach?

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.