Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Readers' Advisory:
How to Talk About What You Want
When What You Want Is a Good Book

One of the best parts of any day is when I get to help a student find "a good book." In the library biz, this process is known as "Readers' Advisory." I often call it a "personal consultation," and have a bunch of questions that help me get an idea of what the student is looking for.
What kind of book do you have in mind?
(fantasy, realistic fiction, non-fiction, adventure, mystery . . .)

Robots or dragons (two main branches of sci fi/fantasy)?

Funny? Happy, sad?

Long or short?

If you think of the perfect book for right now, what would be happening in it?

Even when a reader can name a favorite book and wants one like it, it's helpful to go deeper with questions. Two students who love the same novel (say, I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter) may like it for different reasons -- one may enjoy the action/adventure, and the other likes the characters and the touch of romance. In that case, the Gallagher Girls reader in it for the gadgets and adventure might like Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series or Jennifer Barnes' The Squad books, while the reader who loved the strong female characters and the romance might instead go for a Chloe & Levesque mystery, novels by Joan Bauer, or a fantasy like Graceling.

A recent article in School Library Journal has given me a handful of additional questions that I can use to really get at the heart of student reading preferences.
"Are the characters and plot quickly revealed or slowly unveiled?

Is there more dialogue or more description?

Is the story's focus on a single character or on several whose lives are intertwined?

Is the focus of the story more interior and psychological, or exterior and action oriented?"
The answers to these questions give me additional insights into what the student finds appealing in favorite books, so I can suggest books in different genres, fiction and non-fiction, that have similar qualities. Also, just asking the questions encourages students to think about the books they like, and why.

At least one junior high homebase class is planning to develop a group of "class librarians" to coordinate the class book collection and be able to recommend titles to their classmates. I'm looking forward to working with them, teaching them a tool kit of "appeal terms" to hone their Readers' Advisory skills.

No comments: