Kids as Reviewers

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During their library visits, I usually encourage students to check out whatever book they want.  That’s the fun of visiting the school library, right? But…every so often I call on their expertise — the kids are excellent book reviewers. The way it works is that I select new books based on good reviews from my “go to” sources – School Library Journal, Kirkus and the Horn Book. When books arrive, I read all of the picture books, look through all of the nonfiction books (unless it includes close-ups of bats), and only about 1/3 of the novels. I can’t possibly read every novel we order – unless I quit my job. I know they’re “good” books – many of them may have won a prize. But….before they go on the shelf, I invite a member of the book’s target audience to help me out.

We are coming up on a spring vacation so I have a few 5th and 6th grade students ready to read. Their reviews help me to determine what’s included on the summer reading list, and their comments guide my thinking about other students who would enjoy the book.  Here are few of the books I’ve put aside for the student review team.

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Younger students are also encouraged to share their views. This afternoon, for example, I’m expecting a class of 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade students. Many of them are under the mistaken impression that they are “too old” for picture books. Once they’ve begun reading Magic Tree House and Clementine books, it’s hard to convince them that some of the best picture books being published are best appreciated by a seven-year-old! To support my point, I regularly display new picture books and ask the kids to select one of them – along with their “chapter book.” This morning a 2nd grade student stopped by the library to ask for a “hard book.” I know what she meant, but it’s sometimes frustrating that many students equate number of pages with level of difficulty. We were able to compromise. She checked out a hardcover copy of Judy Moody, and I coaxed her into checking out The Moose and Me by Oliver Jeffers. Of course, what usually happens is that the student returns the following week raving about the picture book!

Have a good weekeend…

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