Anatomy of an 8th Grade Book Look


TVS 8th grade book browsers. Pink Out day supports community members touched by cancer.

I bet you have heard this before: “I don’t have time to come to the library.” In our Middle School, 5th and 6th graders have an Academic Flex period that becomes a class in 7th and 8th grade. This replaces a 45 minute period they previously had for keyboarding practice, library visits, free reading and study hall. Sports become more time-consuming for some students. Add in blooming hormones, “too cool for school” attitude and our school’s rich selection of extracurricular activities, and time is a precious commodity. We’ve been able to schedule “Book Looks” for the 8th grade about every 3-4 weeks (so far). Our book checkout period is three weeks, so that works out neatly. We also take a “pop up library” (similar to Alyssa Mandel’s idea) to a weekly study hall. This gives another opportunity for 7th and 8th graders to check out, turn in, browse a few titles and get help with their library account.

Book Selection in 10-15 Minutes

bookshelvesWe front fiction books with 8th graders in mind (usually we front with 5th/6th graders in mind.) We make two table displays, with (what we hope are) tempting books for 8th graders. This prep work means teachers can bring students for  part of a period, with the realistic expectation that most students will quickly be intrigued by something. As much as I want to stand by and discuss, I think many students are like birds at a bird feeder: they scatter at the sight of an approaching adult. When we have the “right” books displayed, I will hear the most effective recommendation: a peer leaning in to say “I read that. It’s great!”

What’s Been Popular With TVS 8th Graders?


8th grade girls Pink Out (and browse books)

Who knows what draws a reader? Great cover? Check. Made into a movie lately? Check. Seen others reading it? Check. None of the above? All of the Above? I have yet to pin down the X factor of title popularity. Our general policy is buying a single copy of a title, so when we are pulling books for display, we keep a backup stash of books close at hand, to fill gaps. We don’t want any person to feel that someone else got the only good book. These are some books that our 8th graders were excited about (in no particular order:)

  • Rollergirl (graphic novel) by Victoria Jamieson
  • The Bordon Murders by Sarah Elizabeth Miller
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne
  • Ashes (and Chains and Forge) by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Great White Shark Scientist, The Octopus Scientists  (Scientists in the Field series generally)
  • Books by Nicholas Sparks (the sadder the better)
  • One Crow Alone by S. D. Crockett
  • Booked and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • Untwine: A Novel by Edwidge Danticet
  • Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
  • Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  • In the After by Demitria Lunetta
  • Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children; Hollow City; Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
  • books by Cassandra Clare
  • When by Victoria Laurie

I’d love to hear what’s worked for you, in attracting teen and ‘tween readers!




5 thoughts on “Anatomy of an 8th Grade Book Look

  1. Thanks for this, Maggie! I am SO NOT a good readers’ advisory librarian (YET…as Carol Dweck would recommend I state) and can’t book talk my way out of a paper sack so I love seeing how others connect kids with books that isn’t book talking. This is SO helpful!

  2. If you can get classes to come in for 30 minutes or longer, book speed dating is always great fun! Set up stacks of books at your tables (or if you want to be true to speed dating, one book at each seat), and have students spend 2-3 minutes “getting to know” about 5-10 books, depending on time – look at the cover, read the back cover/inside flap, read a page or two. My 8th graders used to enjoy this quite a bit, and most left checking out at least one book.

  3. We just started having seventh graders come in for library every other week for 35 minutes and I am book pushing my heart out! I have also been using statistics and ideas shared by Neil Gaiman, Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher to highlight the infinite ways that reading makes us better. One new idea we’re trying this year is bringing in guest speakers, parents and faculty members, to talk to the middle school library classes about the ways that reading has guided and affected them professionally and personally. Next week one of our coaches is coming in and a parent/attorney. They’ll each talk for about 15 minutes about particular books or reading experiences that have impacted them, and the prevalence of reading in the work place.

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