How do you get kids excited about books? You talk to them about it! Booktalking is a skill everyone who works with children should develop. The idea is to tell a little bit about the story, such as characters, setting, and some of the plot to entice the potential reader. If it is a picture book, show some of the illustrations, but don’t give away the end! You want to hook your reader into finding out what happens next.
This can work with adults too. At a recent youth services meeting I attended as a part of my internship, I was able to hear one of Multnomah County‘s premiere booktalkers, Katie O’ Dell, who was recently the chair of the ALA Notable Books committee. Through listening to her descriptions of books and stories, I immediately went home and put several on the list. This is a skill you can take with you to many different settings. Getting anyone excited about literature is a good thing. If you can get librarians or teachers excited about a book, they can take that excitement with them and to the children they work with.
My earliest introduction to booktalking was the same as many children, through Reading Rainbow. The theme song still brings me back to childhood and getting really excited about books.
It is no longer on the air, though there are rumors that it may be returning, host LeVar Burton and a variety of children introduced books on a number of themes to kids on PBS. What made the show so strong in influencing the reading habits of children was not relying solely on Burton’s recommendations, but turning to the recommendations children might really listen to – those from their peers.
A fun activity to do would be booktalk some stories you are interested in and then teach the children you work with to do the same. You can share the love of books and reading in a way that will really sink in.
But don’t take my word for it!