Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Booktalking Redux

Photo by Book Aid International

It's been a magical year of booktalking at our local schools! I posted last fall about getting in to our local schools for booktalks, and now that we're wrapping up our first booktalking year, I wanted to post about how things have gone this year. 

We ended up with 18 grades at 9 schools that we saw monthly (or regularly - one group had us come every six weeks when their language arts unit changed). This includes the 5th & 6th grades at our middle schools and our teen librarians visited the 7th & 8th grades there, as well. We saw different combinations of grades for a total of 12 monthly visits each month. Some of these visits were as short as 15-20 minutes and some of them lasted as long as 3.5 hours, depending on the numbers of classes and groups we saw.

For example, we visited one 4th grade class at one of our private schools for just one presentation, about 15 minutes at the end of their school day, each month. At one of our middle schools, we visited twice a month and saw 6-8 groups for 15 minutes apiece at each visit in order to get all the 5th/6th grade classes in. 

Typically, we see each class (or group of classes) for 15-20 minutes, during which time we can share 5-6 books. We always try to keep a balance between genres and formats and we always include diverse books. This year, we saw kids ranging from 1st to 6th grade. Some of the teachers asked to check out the books we were bringing in school collections, some did not. 

We were lucky this year that we had the collection budget to order multiple copies of the books we were bringing if teachers wanted to check out the books for their classes. Unfortunately, next year it looks like we may not have the money to do that, but we're brainstorming ways that we can still make it work. The good news is that we can reuse some of the books that we brought this year (but we have to be a little careful about that - if the 2nd grade team used a book that we also used for 3rd grade, that wouldn't be one we would repeat this year). That's going to be the biggest challenge for the 5th/6th grade groups we saw since we won't be able to repeat any of those books.

I scheduled certain staff members to visit certain schools and we all pretty much saw the same groups each month. This allows the kids to get to know their librarians and the librarians to get to know their kids. The way it's worked out is that I have a set of early elementary booktalkers and a set of older elementary/middle school booktalkers. We'll see how this pans out for next year when we may possibly have an increase in the number of programs we're asked to do.  

All in all, it's been an extremely fun and valuable year. Many of our teachers have already asked if we will be doing the booktalking visits again next year, and I'm excited to see who will have us back and if we'll have any "new recruits". 

As we are wrapping up with each group, I am sending out a wrap-up email explaining about scheduling for next year, including a book list of all the books we brought to them throughout the year and a link to a survey for teachers. I love to send out the book lists, which can be a great resource for kids as they're trying to find good books to read over the summer. We're slowly getting responses to the survey and we've been getting very positive feedback. It looks like the books we brought this past year were on-target for the age groups we were seeing and have been getting kids excited about reading and introducing teachers to new books. 


1. We see kids in all the time, asking for books we have brought to their classrooms. The books are checking out. 

2. Kids have gotten more excited about reading and teachers are being exposed to new books they didn't know about before. We heard from one middle school teacher who has used one of the books we introduced to develop a problem-solving lesson that her kids were super into. Huzzah! 

3. Kids have a chance to connect with librarians and ask questions about the library. We have the opportunity to tell them how to get a library card, give an extra push for Summer Reading Club, or tell them about fun programs that are coming up. 

Things We Have Learned:

1. May is too busy for Summer Reading Club school visits and a bunch of booktalking visits. Next year, we will do booktalks September through April (like the rest of our programming!) and maybe we can offer an extra visit in May to talk about and answer questions about the Summer Reading Club. 

2. We're taking August off for scheduling. That was the most stressful part of last year for me - trying to take vacation in August when I was in the middle of scheduling a ton of booktalking visits. This year, I have let teachers know that we'll be in touch in August to schedule visits for the school year. I am going to take that month to get everything scheduled and then we'll be ready to go in September. 

3. It's GREAT to be able to send teams of two to do the booktalks. Not only does it cut down on the number of books you have to prepare each month, but it makes it easier to get a nice balance of genres, formats, etc. This past year, I only sent one person to some of the smaller groups. Next year, I'll probably still send one person to these groups, but I am going to rotate so that it's not one person seeing the same group every month. We'll rotate between three or four of us, which will help make the workload more manageable and also result in more balanced presentations over the course of the year. 

4. Send reminder emails!!! I have gotten into the habit of sending out a short reminder note a week before our visit. This allows us some time to put together School Collections if anyone has any special requests, time to reschedule if we need to make changes due to field trips, etc., and it's helped keep everyone on track. I copy the staff who will be doing the visit so that everyone's on the same page. 

Now that I feel like we have a better handle on how booktalking programs can work for us and our teachers, I am really excited to schedule folks for booktalks next year!