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Sound It Out

Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

The best way to sell a book

January 6, 2009

Being January, I know lots of parents and teachers have resolutions that include getting kids to read more and different kinds of books.

Around our house, one sure-fire way to pique Molly and Anna's interest in a book is to put it on my nightstand! I usually have quite a stack there...books I plan to read or re-read before handing them over to the girls. Like Harry Potter. It's been 10 years since I read the first one, and I wanted to do the “scary check” before letting Molly read it. Not a day has gone by that she hasn't asked me if I'm finished yet. Apparently I'm taking too long!

As a teacher, I had the same phenomena in my classroom. There was this tiny half shelf in the front of the room on which I kept our current classroom read aloud. As soon as a book appeared there, kids would scramble to the library to get their own copy. They enjoyed following along with me as I read, and I thought that was just fine!

Booktalks are another great way to get kids interested in books. A booktalk is usually a fun, teasing summary of a book told with the passion of someone who really liked it. In my class, we often used booktalks as sales pitches for the next round of reading group books.

In my opinion, the best and most convincing booktalks are led by kids. Who doesn't love those last minutes of Reading Rainbow where the kids talk about books they've read? (If you don't know what I'm talking about, watch the show and you'll be hooked!)

Booktalks can also be led by adults. Scholastic has some video booktalks, mostly done by Scholastic staff. There’s something similar at Podfeed called Bookwink.

However you do it, whether it is by nightstand, shelf, or booktalk, find a way to sell a book to a reader today!


Thanks for the comment, Kim. Some of the recommended practices for fluency might help your reluctant readers. For example, if they read and reread the same text a few times with a partner, they could become experts with that book. They could then share their expert book with the class. Maybe they'd like to read into a tape recorder for their classmates or families to listen to? Or perhaps a simple Reader's Theater script that doesn't involve a great quantity of reading but requires repeated practice? Let me know if any of those sound useful!

I'm looking for strategies to motivate struggling first grade readers to actually look at books and try to read them. I've got many books at their level, but the stories are pretty dry, because these youngsters can't really read many words yet.I do a read aloud every day, and we spend a lot of time with books. It makes sense that these struggling readers don't want to read; it's hard! But, as you know, it will only get easier if they practice reading. Any thoughts?Oh, they are learning to read in their second language, but don't read in their first language either. Thanks.

I love the idea of using a more old-fashioned check out system within a classroom, Rebecca! Thanks for the suggestion.

I was just thinking about this the other day when I was at the library with my kids and remembering the days when you checked out books by signing your name on the library card in the little pocket in the book. When looking for a new book, I'd always look to see who else had checked out the book and if any of my friends had, I usually trusted their judgement and checked it out too. You could be sure it was a good recommendation if the book had been checked out many times by the same reader! This was a great way to connect with friends around books in the rural area I grew up in since you weren't likely to get to see what others were reading at home. I wonder if a similar old fashioned check out system for a classroom library would encourage readers to pick up the books that friends have read.

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase