Kathleen Baxter

The Joys of Nonfiction Booktalking

adapted from the introduction of Gotcha: Nonfiction Booktalks to Get Kids Excited About Reading, by Kathleen Baxter and Marcia Agness Kochel, Libraries Unlimited

I discovered the joys of nonfiction booktalking almost by accident. For a visit to a classroom of second graders, I had with me some newer books of all sorts to attract their attention and interest. The title that clinched it was a book about the Titanic (this was years before the movie came out). One of the little boys was agog with questions. Soon everyone was asking question after question. Did sharks eat the passengers on the Titanic? How come there weren't enough lifeboats? How come nobody came to help? How come men were not supposed to get on the lifeboats? I could make stabs at, and even answer some questions, but the answers to others were beyond my ken.

I vowed that this would never happen to me again. I checked out three adult books about the Titanic, read them all, and went into my next classroom armed with a wealth of information and prepared for any question. I learned that the Titanic is about as good a booktalk topic as any I can think of. Everybody loves the story, and books on this subject are available for all ages. One thing I really like about booktalking nonfiction is the wide range of reading levels of books available on an interesting subject. Find a subject that fascinates, and a lot of your work is done for you. Pull together a group of books and make them available to your audience.

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