Taking a risk with a new book

My students are boys in Grades 3 through 6, the grades in the Lower School at Crescent School, Toronto. I love feeding their love of reading, and one of the things I do a great deal of daily is talk books with them when they drop by during our sustained silent reading time. The funny thing is, is that I know there is gold on my shelves, but sometimes I need to uncover it for my library visitors. As you will see, many of the books I have recommended in the list below have great covers that would appear to entice but for some reason might not attract a reader. They are often just so very new that I need to get some of my boys started on them and then the book will be traded and recommended by peers, and flying off the shelf.

Here is an example of how I might ‘sell’ a book. I have added capitals to show you what I seem to say often.

Ghetto Cowboy, by G. Neri
So, this is a book for you, SINCE YOU LIKE STORIES ABOUT horses/cities/real life/boys just your age. There’s this place, today, that really exists, where cowboys really live in the middle of Philadelphia. Instead of driving cars, they ride horses! CRAZY, ISN’T IT! Imagine the middle of Toronto being filled with horses and stables. This boy has a hard time at school, and his mother sends him to live with his dad, and he has to learn how to SURVIVE in this new place. [Turning to the back pages] And, see, here is a REAL PICTURE about a kid JUST YOUR AGE, who is a cowboy, standing next to his horse. I THINK YOU WOULD LIKE IT/THIS BOOK MADE ME THINK ABOUT HOW YOU wanted to read about horses just a while ago/how you like books about surviving hard situations/how you like realistic fiction about friends, school and sports.
PS. Thank you, Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List 2013-2014 for this find!

Other books that have recently had the same fate:

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, by Chris Grabenstein

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam, by Cynthia Kadohata

Ungifted, by Gordon Korman

False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielson

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

If you are a student of mine, these are some of the things you might hear:

  • I talk about new favourites and old favourites and just plain favourites quite a bit. The thing you should know, though, is that books I tell you about are actually books I enjoyed reading.
  • I know something about you and will connect a book to that for you: fantasy, series, basketball, rock-climbing, art, squash, cooking, mysteries, really silly humour. I will buy/recommend this book because I have already picked it out for you in my head.
  • You actually really like reading and you want to be the first to crack open the spine. I am RELYING on you to tell me about it. Sometimes, you can give the book a try even before it is covered in plastic. I am absolutely trusting you, because I know I can.
  • The cover does not seem to be at all like the Wimpy Kid book you know and trust? Try the first two pages. If you think you could handle the rest of the story, check it out.
  • If you take this book out and you hate it, return it. I am never offended by that but at least give it a try. And, if someone else loves it, you don’t mind that, do you?
  • This Grade 6 who you look up to totally loved this book when he was in Grade 3. Mr. So and So thinks it’s great too!
  • It’s sort of like a mixture of this well-known book and this other well-known book, but with cowboys and horses.
  • Oh, you’re looking for a good book? Go and speak to this boy about it, over there, he read it and could tell you more about why you should read it.

Ford’s Faves, over and out!

4 thoughts on “Taking a risk with a new book

  1. Great post, Elizabeth! A good reader’s advisory program is worth gold, and I’m always looking for tips. How to get kids to try a book, how to get kids to try another book if the first one didn’t do the trick, how to keep them coming back for more– it’s a skill that needs to be sharpened and refreshed, so thanks for the sage advice!

  2. Thank you. I am going to look for the titles you mention. I find some of the kids just look and look and not sure what to read.

    Your suggestions are helpful.

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