According to Chelton (1976), a booktalk is “a formal or informal presentation about a book (or group of books) designed to entice the listener into reading it (them) (p. 39). A skilled booktalker provides just enough flavor of a book to lure the listener into wanting to read it.

A booktalk is different from storytelling, reviewing a book, or summarizing the plot. A booktalk doesn’t evaluate the book, instead it focuses on the content. When a booktalker traces the storyline of a book, he/she stops at a high point of interest. Although a booktalk may “advertise” a book, it should not mislead, according to Donelson and Nilsen (2004). A booktalk should tell the listener what to expect of the book, while pointing out is “basic and attractive elements” (Sutton, 1983). Book talk expert Joni Bodart (2005) suggests that a booktalk may also focus on a character, mood, or specific scene in a story instead of the storyline.

  Helpful hints (adapted from Chelton):
1. Keep the booktalk short—three to five minutes is long enough for a single book.
2. Don’t read from a script or notes. Be thoroughly prepared, but don’t memorize it. Feel comfortable enough with it to adlib.
3. State the title of the book and the author somewhere in your talk.
4. If you are going to show the book, make sure everyone can see it.
5. Remember the conventions of good public speaking: speak slowly and clearly, use expression, avoid distracting gestures, etc.
6. Use vocabulary appropriate to the level of your audience.
7. Avoid reading quotes from the book unless there is something that can best be presented by the author’s own words. Then, keep the quotes SHORT.
8. Be creative. Enhance the booktalk with a visual, a costume, a prop, sound effects, etc.
9. Consider your listeners. They represent a wide range of reading levels and interests. Build variety into your selection of books for booktalking over the long run.
10. Booktalk only books that you like yourself and are enthusiastic about. Your excitement for a title will help attract readers to it.

Remember: Booktalkers develop their own individual styles. Listener response is good feedback as booktalkers enhance their skills. “A great booktalker can convince anyone to read” (Bodart, 2005).

Suggested sources for information: Chelton, M. K. (1976).  “Booktalking: You can do it.”  School Library Journal, 22, 39-43.
Donelson, K. & Nilsen, A.P. (2004).  Literature for today’s young adults (7th ed.).  Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Sutton, R. (1983).  “Telling tales for YA’s.”  School LibraryJournal, 44.
“The booktalker: Joni Richards Bodart” (2005).  Retrieved from

© Log Cabin Librarian 2009