By Ceil Carey

A wonderful way to promote interest in books in your library is to book talk them. What is a booktalk, you might ask? A simple quote by Margaret Edwards gives you a basic idea:

The book talk is a sample of a book-a little piece of pie so good that it tempts one to consume the whole concoction.”

Here are some SPECIFICS that might help:

-a short summary of a book, told as a character or as an observer, with the purpose of interesting others in reading it

-a come-on or sales pitch which leaves your listeners wanting more and hopefully interested enough to read the book

-it is NOT a review where you may or may not like the book – a booktalk begins with the premise that you like the book and want to share your enthusiasm for it

-it is also NOT a summary of the entire book – the ending must remain untold or you have lost the impact of the booktalk and you become a storyteller instead

-it is a personal approach to books that does not evaluate or critique but rather entices you to try the book’s contents

-since most readers, particularly young people, are more

-it is a halfway point that falls between storytelling and book


-through booktalking one hopes to expand the interests of readers in the audience and open up the world of reading to those that would consider themselves non-readers

-to demonstrate that reading can be fun

And here are ideas in the PREPARATION of your booktalk.

-choose a book that you like and one that you have read

only choose a book you are genuinely enthusiastic about

-decide what type of booktalk you are going to do

l) one in which you are an observer; tell about action

2) one in which you become a character, tell about action as if you are part of it or it is part of your life – obviously not

appropriate for non-fiction (whatever the format, the purpose of the booktalk is to encourage the listener to read!)

-reread or review book if there¹s been a lapse in time since you

originally read it

-become thoroughly familiar with the books that you will be booktalking

-choose a come-on sentence, a hook, a statement to grab your reader’s interest; this will also establish rapport with your audience immediately

-be honest in what you say and let the book sell itself

-outline or write out what you want to say – either a particular scene or the beginning of the book up to a certain point

-NEVER give the ending or outcome – takes away the reason for your listeners to read the book – you’ve told them a nice story and now it¹s all finished

-leave your listeners hanging at a crucial point – so they have to know what happens next

-always have a copy of the book with you – show it at the beginning and ending of your booktalk, giving title and author at that time

-use a phrase at the end, such as, “if you want to know what happened to ________________, you’ll have to read____________________”

-practice your booktalk aloud and time it (2-3 minutes is an average time); use a video camera (great for critiquing), a mirror (to see facial expressions, stance, etc.) or give your talk for a family member or friend-this will help particularly with timing and emphasis

-booktalking masters (i.e. Joni Bodart, etc.) do not recommend

memorizing but first person booktalks lend themselves more to memorizing than if you are an observer to the action- but do memorize the sequence of events; if you lose your place, the sequence will help you get back on track more easily

-watch mannerisms that will be distracting –if you are going to use an accent or dialect, only do so if you feel very comfortable with it and can do it well

-use props, again, only if you feel comfortable doing so – i.e.

costumes, hats, background music

-be sure you use correct punctuation – look it up if you are not


-if you read a passage, make it a short one that will keep your

listeners’ interest or you will BORE your audience

-take notes as you read a book, if you are planning to booktalk it

-use rhetorical questions, particularly in the “hook”

-have note cards to refer to but not to read from entirely

-experiment with different formats for props: video clips, poetry, music

-you can add “inside” information, i.e. information on the author (not plain old biographical data but something unusual or interesting) or how the book came to be written (the Internet is great for this)

-the center of a booktalk is action – what is happening and to whom

-begin with action – details and/or explanation can come later

-the first sentence is the hardest to write – read jacket blurbs or an annotation for ideas (amazon is great for this)

-eye contact is essential

-think about what will convince people to read this particular book

-non-fiction can be exciting and interesting to booktalk

-catch the attention of your audience and use inflection in your voice – speak with enthusiasm; use volume or softness accordingly

-maintain good eye contact; don’t speak too quickly

-be organized

-smile and enjoy yourself

-pan the audience slowly with illustrations

-booktalking in pairs can be fun, too, if you have a willing partner, alternating between each of you – added interest with different personalities and feedback on your own performance from your partner


-lost your place: go back and elaborate until you do remember; -use note cards

-forgot a name or number: don’t make one up-you might have someone catch you up on it

-blanked out completely: admit you’ve gone blank and just tell your audience that they’ll have to read the book, make a joke of it, be casual, laugh about it

-know your booktalk well enough that it’s not memorized but a story you know well

-a few moments of silence is not the end of the world

-don’t panic – stay calm

-play it by ear and try to make the best of the situation

-preparation does help avoid some problems but not all

-go on as if nothing happened

-cover up and don’t let one mistake ruin your entire performance

About Ceil Carey

The Evangelical Church Library Association, founded in 1970, is a fellowship of Christian churches, schools, and individuals.

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