To Booktalk or Not to Booktalk?
Booktalks I’ve Seen I have seen many talented librarians give booktalks in during trainings I have attended. One was about Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, which I was inspired to read since the booktalk was so dazzling. During my teen services librarian training, booktalking was stressed as one of the most important tools librarians can use to get teens interested in books.
What Booktalks Are For those of you who are unfamiliar with booktalks, they are essentially short commercials for the book, not summaries. They are supposed to be so scintillating that they leave you dying to find out more. Good booktalks last about five minutes and give the audience a taste of the story but do not reveal the ending. They give the audience an idea of the plot and try to entice them to immediately go to their local library or bookstore and devour the literature. Booktalks can be used for all ages, but especially for teens (by the New York Public Library definition, young people aged 12-18 years). One of the venues in which librarians can give booktalks is during school presentations.
Why I Procrastinated At first, I was very hesitant to do booktalking. Honestly, I could not imagine how I was going to write and perform marketing gems similar to what I had seen other professionals produce. In fact, I had a meeting with three librarians in 2009 about the importance of booktalking, especially for teens. I really did not think that I could do any sort of respectable job of this booktalking stuff. However, when I saw many short publishers’ pitches at the School Library Journal’s “Day of Dialog” 2011 at Fordham University's Manhattan Campus, I began to feel inspired. How hard could it be? And I love performing. This would give me a chance to create my own marketing promotional piece to really get kids engaged with reading, which I ultimately feel is the most important thing I can do as a teen librarian.
Another reason that I was reluctant to booktalk at first is that I don’t read much fiction. In fact, when I told an adult patron this, one who often revels in relating the convoluted plots of the fiction terrorism books that he loves to read to me, he gave me a look that seemed to say, “What kind of librarian are you?!!” That inspired me to read some fiction. I wanted to read something that was of interest to me and that was meaningful. I had seen Walter Dean Myers speak a couple of times, once at Book Fest 2008 at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (the library with the lions) in November 2008, and he seems very intelligent and interesting. I believe that he was the keynote speaker at the “Books for the Teenage” or “Stuff for the Teenage” one year. Walter Dean Myers is an intriguing guy, so I decided to read more of his books, and it has been one exciting journey.
My Inspiration to Booktalk Another vital incentive for booktalking was the requests by school librarians, teachers and other school administrators. My very first booktalk was not really a booktalk. I chose a nonfiction book about forensic anthropology and gave a summary of the book. It was horrible. The kids, teacher and school librarian were so bored as I droned on and on, and I cared more about the fact that I was boring myself. There had to be a better way. For the next school librarian, I did not want to embarrass myself. Luckily, I went to School Library Journal's “Day of Dialog” 2011 before that, so I had an opportunity to do something better. I was about to venture into the pithy, commercialized, dramatic world of booktalking. Yes!
My First Booktalk Riot by Walter Dean Myers was my very first real booktalk. I presented it first to kids in a local middle school who seemed to enjoy it. There are powerful voices in the stories, issues of racism and wartime, and best of all, it is written as a screenplay.
Stay tuned for my Booktalking blogs: Booktalking Title by Author, which will feature text from booktalks that I've written. Anyone can use them with kids in the library, schools, or community centers.
For more ideas, check out the following books about booktalking, which are available at The New York Public Library.
- Booktalking Bonanza: Ten Ready-to-Use Multimedia Sessions for the Busy Librarian by Betsy Diamant-Cohen (2009)
- Booktalking Across the Curriculum: the Middle Years by Nancy J. Keane (2002)
- Booktalking That Works by Jennifer Bromann (2001)
- Booktalking Websites
- School Library Journal A Fuse #8 Production blog