Trying to engage students in reading is always a complicated issue. Any book has to capture the students’ imagination. Science books are tough because the student usually comes in with their own preconceived notions about the topic. They are prone to saying that they won’t like a particular book because the topic is alien to them. Plus, the content has to be written at a level that students can grasp so that the content isn’t lost on them. It becomes our responsibility to overcome these issues and to sell the idea of the book to the student. One technique in our box of tricks is called a Book Talk.
Book talks are short presentations of books that are engaging and enthusiastic. The goal is to inspire others to read the book, almost like a movie trailer that you would view to decide if a particular movie is one that you really want to see.
The book talks never give away important information. They aren’t intended to be spoilers, so they never give away the ending. They do give enough information from the plot to hook the student on the topic so that they would pick up the book to read. Book talks aren’t like book reviews in the least. The book talker doesn’t judge the book at all, but assumes that the book is recommended. So, if you are planning on giving a book talk, make sure that the book is one that would work for that group of students. This is an important tool, especially with the Common Core shift to nonfiction and having all discipline-specific teachers responsible for teaching the students discipline-specific reading. We need to open those doors wide!
There are so many resources available now for book talks like http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/faq.htm. She has a wonderful database of book talks that are geared toward the middle school. The American Association for the Advancement of Science also has an awesome database of book talks that can be used at http://www.sbfonline.com/pages/booktalkshome.aspx