Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fostering Book Love

Day 19 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
"Do you know what a foster family is?" I'm holding up a copy of One for the Murphys, and my students are have their notebooks and mobile devices out, ready to add today's book talk title to their want-to-read lists.

"Is it like adoption?"
"I think it's like when someone's parents don't have enough money to take care of their kids."

As we figure out what foster care is, the students are already hooked.  This book isn't going to take a lot of selling, but it's easy to sell because I just finished it recently.  "I LOVED this book and I think you guys will too!  The narrator speaks with such an authentic teen voice: she is funny, spunky, and emotional..."

After a short introduction, I open up the book and start reading from an early chapter, where Carley has just recently come to live with the Murphys.  She doesn't trust them yet, doesn't believe she'll be staying long, and isn't very happy to be there.  In the page and a half that I read, she's snarky and sarcastic while also revealing the heart-tugging emotional depth the story is charged with.  No fidgeting, no whispering: all eyes are on me.  I stop and leave them hanging right where she lodges the basketball between the rim and backboard after asking God to swish it if her mom still loves her.  

"So if you'd like to see how she gets along with her foster family and find out with her if her mom really does love her... you might like to read One for the Murphys, by Linda Mullay Hunt!"  Fingers are tapping on Goodreads apps and scribbling in notebooks, and I remind them that it's now written on the Realistic Fiction book talk list.

lists of book talk books by genre, next to the bookshelves
If you'd come to my classroom at the beginning of class today, that's what you would have seen.  Any other day, you'd see the same thing with a different book... unless I'm showing a book trailer from YouTube instead!

However, if you would have come this fall, you might not have seen a book talk at all, because I didn't do them every day.  And if you saw one, it wouldn't have looked like that.  I wouldn't have read a passage from the book, because I didn't know how powerful that could be!  There wouldn't have been any book talk lists on the wall either.  

What changed?  Penny Kittle's Book Love convinced me of the importance of frequent book talks.  Even better, she gave a detailed breakdown of the components of an effective book talk so that even an ineffective salesman like myself could "sell" books!


(This is part 2 of my series about creating readers in my classroom, based on ideas from Penny Kittle's Book Love.  Yesterday, I shared a peek at how I've made changes to my classroom to encourage authentic reading.) 


  1. I think you are becoming a Book Whisperer too. I love how you tell how your thinking changed because of the professional book you read. So glad your kids are getting the reading bug.

    1. I'll only feel like a Book Whisperer when ALL of my kids have caught the bug, Elsie! However, they are catching it one-by-one, and I've certainly made a difference for those kids! I am so proud and happy when I think about them.

  2. I Love, Love, Love, One for the Murphys. A couple of my students have read it. I read Penny Kittle's book this summer too! (Another Love for that one). I am not good about doing regular book talks. You've inspired me. Yay for spring break next week. Tomorrow's SOL is all about my plans.


  3. Love it! I especially like how you've organized your book talk, book title sign up sheets. I want to know more about how that is working for you. We have a sign up sheet in the front of our class reading notebook, but I've been thinking about visibility (and wall space). We'll see. Enjoyed our initial Skype! Students loved connecting today.

    1. My students mostly look at me like I have 3 heads when I ask if anyone wants to do a book talk, so they're mostly my book talks. (At least for now.. . I'm hoping more students will start wanting to do them now that I've been modeling them for a while.) Usually, student book talks are more spontaneous -- someone says they want to do one and I squeeze it into the lesson! These lists are more for student reference when browsing books, which is why I wanted to have them right by the bookshelves. There wasn't any wall space there, but they work just fine on the cabinets! Sometimes students don't write down a book right away on their to-read list, but later they decide they want to branch out to a new genre, and this way they can see all the books we've booktalked from that genre.

  4. Thank you for sharing your personal journey and photos related to BOOK LOVE. I am really enjoying your posts.

  5. Love this, Jennifer (and I love that book!). I've given whole class book talks with about 50 books several times this year, one focusing on fiction of all genres and one just about non-fiction. It broadens the students' outlooks so very much, and gives new ideas. They really are poor browsers! You're giving the kids so much by doing this! I like all those lists too!

  6. Hey! I am honored that you have book talked One for the Murphys! Thank you!

    I've learned so much here about book talks by teachers--very cool. Love how you read an excerpt and structure the sign-up sheets. Will have to get myself a copy of Penny Kittle's Book Love!

    In case you're interested, there is a youtube trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBFUPBw7KLI
    and a comprehensive teacher's guide on the Murphys page of my site. Also, I'll be coming to Oxford, OH in September. Perhaps, I'll get to meet you. :-)

    Again, thanks so much for recommending Murphys to your students--I appreciate it. :-)


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