Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How Do You Think About Books?

The annual Library Donation Sale is coming up next week! This is a fun event for so many reasons -- showcasing the quality and range of books that we want in the library collection, having enthusiastic volunteers involved in a library activity, and getting to talk about books and the library program with Paideia parents and grandparents. And a book with a permanent bookplate is a neat way for all families be able to contribute to their child's school -- even high school students get a little thrill from finding their names in a book donated in their honor.

In preparation for the sale, Natalie and I read library reviewing journals, online reviews and keep up with several respected book bloggers to select what to order for the Library Donation Sale. We can't read everything (not even close!) before purchasing, and librarians depend greatly on the evaluations of other readers and reviewers when buying for our students.

Book blogger Jen Robinson recently wrote a post on her 6 Ps of Book Appreciation, a thoughtful explanation of the elements she's looking for when selecting, reading and evaluating pleasure reading. Some of her Ps are renamed standard "elements of literature," others are useful criteria for thinking about whether a book works. One commenter added a 7th criterion -- she called it the "message/theme." I think it's a valid addition, and for the sake of alliteration, I'm going to call it "Point," as in "what's the point of this effort, anyway?" I've added my own 8th P at the end.

  • Premise: What the book is supposed to be about; the interesting hook; a genre (mystery, coming-of-age); whatever it is that makes you pick the book up to read
  • Plot: What actually happens; is it a good story?
  • People: The characters
  • Prose: The author's writing style; is the dialog realistic or clunky?; are there memorable sentences?
  • Place: The setting
  • Pictures: How well do they work with the story?
  • Point: Is there something valuable to be learned from the story and/or the characters' experiences? is the story inspiring, does it provoke thought or emotion? or is it heavy-handed and didactic?
  • PAIDEIA: All librarians are selecting information for a specific audience. Will this book/video/audio/database be useful to Paideia students and teachers? Is this subject a part of our curriculum? Does it reflect our school values?

An alliterative list is a handy way to remember a bunch of connected concepts, and these Seven +1 Ps are useful for all readers, young and old. Though they are't necessarily original or new to experienced readers, I'm now going to think about each one explicitly as I read and evaluate for our library.

Would you add or delete any of the above criteria?? What do you look for in a good book?? Please add your thoughts in the comments.

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