Friday, October 14, 2016

The where and how of picking the right book!

Recently I presented on my favorite topic- books! How to use them, share them, and get your students and teachers loving them too. I got some great feedback about wanting to know more about how to find books and then how to decide if it's the right book for you. So here are my tips on picking the right book for you:

Is it the right book for me?

* First, how will you use this book?  Who will your audience be?
Some books are great for classroom lessons, but some are better for small groups. For example, in class I need a book that would be engaging for all students and appropriate for a variety of levels. However, in small groups I can pick books that are more specific to that population. Also, for my ELL students or students on the spectrum I might need a book that's more straight forward and has a limited number of idioms or figurative language. So when I am reading the book I am always thinking who will I be reading this to?

*Next, think about the specific class you are reading to. just because a book is great for a grade level doesn't mean it's great for a class. All classes have their own unique personalities. I have some 5th graders that love Todd Parr and some that would boo when I pulled him out. So know your class and their maturity level. Worst case they do boo and then you know for the future. Also, have your students give you feedback. I am always asking my students to tell me what their favorite books where. I am also not afraid to ask them if we should read it again or if it would be better for a different grade level.

* Ask yourself what is your purpose? What are you trying to accomplish? Are you able to accomplish that by reading this book? Then look at your standards. So if I know I want to have students  in 1st learn how to take turns then I might pick and Elephant and Piggie book. Looking at my standards I know that I could have them do a readers theatre which is age appropriate and allows them to demonstrate they have mastered by goal.

*Check out the ending! I've picked up some amazing books that I thought would rock only to get to the end. For example, a lot of adorable picture books that involve bullying or friendship have "miracle endings" where everything is magically better or believe the problem is solved when one character gets eaten. So if my purpose is teaching my students how to apologize or solve an conflict with a friend I need to see that happen in the book. It's like how you never see anyone on sitcoms go clean toilets- you want it be realistic. That being said some times I love using books as just a fun introduction to a lesson. I use lots of silly, fun books to grab their attention. I've even asked my students to write their own ending for some books.  

*Look at the length! The best picture books are ones that are quick and short. Too many words and they get bored. Practice reading it and time yourself. Think about the attention span of your students and also the length of your lesson. I've picked up really awesome books before, but they were too wordy.  A great picture book is focused and fun.

Where to find a purchase your books:

I don't know about you but I get a ton of "counseling" catalogs with hundreds of titles. 
There are some I love like Free Spirit Publishing and NCYI, but don't limit yourself. Some of my favorite books came from the kids section at Barnes and Noble. Venture out of the self help and psychology section and just hit up the kids section. 

Favorite websites to search for good titles:

Purchasing the book with little or no money:

Beg and borrow from other counselors or the public library
Check out local used book stores- our local McKay's gives teachers $25 a year to spend

No money?
Watch books on Storylineonline, Bookflix, or
You Tube for book trailers or to watch it online.
You can always create your own book or read another counselor's awesome creation at

Need more information about the book? Want to know what others think?

Check out reviews on Goodreads and Common Sense Media

What are your tips on picking a good book?

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