Tag Team Tech February 2012

Beyond the Book Talk

Sarah Ludwig

February 2012

This past fall, I worked with middle school teachers to promote pleasure reading before the Thanksgiving break. We scheduled every class to come into the library for two full days; I set up about thirty books and talked about the ones they requested. After the break, in their English classes, the students worked on a variety of products to share information about their books with their classmates. Some chose Glogs, others make book trailers, some wrote songs or raps, and some wrote “mash-up” stories about a character from one story meeting one from their classroom book.

All this activity was part of a new initiative to promote the library’s growing young adult collection and encourage more of our students to read. As I watched the students create their Glogs or book trailers, I started to think about other ways that I could promote reading beyond booktalking – which, of course, is the core of the program.

Recommended Reading and Book-finding Tools

The best way to connect teens with books is to have conversations with them, and those conversations usually center around teens’ interests, both reading-wise and otherwise. But that doesn’t just include booktalking to a group or having one-on-one conversations with teens. Teens can recommend books to each other; teens can find recommended reads on their own; and you can recommend books virtually.

Try creating a library pinboard using Pinterest, where they can share their favorite books with each other (this idea is courtesy of Linda Braun). If teens already have a Pinterest account, you can create a shared board for your library and publish the link. Then, logged-in teens can pin their favorite books to it and add mini-reviews or descriptions. Teens can then comment on each other’s books and re-pin books to their own personal boards.

You might also like to create a circle on Google+ for your teens to discuss books. If they already have Google or Gmail accounts, it would be easy to add them to circles – or, they can register for a free Google account. Once you have your circle, you can either facilitate a conversation about books or have the teens run the group themselves, posting every time they find a book they like.

Twitter would work just as well as a book-recommendation tool. Teens already on Twitter can decide on a specific hashtag (#hhcdsfavebooks, for example) and then tweet links to books on Amazon or review sites any time they want to recommend something. You can have book discussions this way, too.

There are numerous book-recommendation websites that teens can join and create groups. LibraryThing, Shelfari, and Goodreads are all free, online tools for finding books of interest, and all have a “group” functionality of some kind. On these sites, teens can rate, review, and recommend various titles, as well as carry on discussions about the books.

If you would like to provide passive book recommendation resources, there are numerous tools for doing so. Start a book review blog using WordPress or Tumblr. (Additionally, teens can contribute to these sites if you give them permission.) Use a visual site like scoop.it to curate a list of book reviews, book review websites, or booklists.


Glogster is a great way to have students create book recommendation pages, but having used Glogster extensively in the past year, I’m always interested in finding creative alternatives. Here are a few that I’m excited about.

Teens can make playlists related to their books. What would Katniss listen to if she had an iPod to get her pumped up before entering the arena? What would you add to Amy and Roger’s playlists? Sites like 8tracks and playlist.com make it easy to pull together collections of songs, and jamendo is an open-source music site where teens can download music and remix it to make their own book soundtracks.

In the same vein, Masher allows users to use images, music clips, and video clips to create short films. Teens can use their own media or the media that’s provided on the site.

Teens can make book trailers or short films about their books using animation tools like xtranormal, pencil (a free download), or Devolver. And because I must always talk about Scratch lately, teens can also use it, or Inanimate Alice (another programming tool for kids and teens) to make short films, music videos, or mash-ups (two characters meet, or one character finds themselves in the setting of another novel). In addition, while I’ve never tried it, I love the idea of creating stop motion movies – see this site for resources.


When you want to facilitate teens sharing their thoughts about books with other teens, many of the tools listed in the “Recommended Reading and Book-Finding Tools” will work. Here are a few more.

If you’d like to have teens publish their thoughts about books, consider using Issuu. This site makes it easy to create slick, professional looking online magazines. These can be review journals, creative writing magazines, or collections of images and photographs that relate to the books they’re reading.

The wide world of QR codes brings another layer to sharing information about books. Teens can create QR codes to connect other students to the digital products they’ve created via the “Programming” section above; they can create QR scavenger hunts around the web or the library, drawing their peers to new materials or books of interest; or you can link teens to supplementary materials like YouTube videos, authors’ Twitter streams or Facebook pages, related websites, and more. (To create QR codes, I recommend i-nigma).

Once you’ve got a collection of projects and creations, be sure to share them with your community using one of the sites listed above. This will not only generate buzz among fellow students or patrons, it will also show the community how your library is promoting reading, technology skills, collaboration, critical thinking, and more.

Sarah Ludwig  is the academic technology coordinator at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Hamden, Connecticut. Formerly she was the head of teen, technology, and reference services at the Darien (CT) Library, where she developed the library’s first teen program after serving as the head of library services at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in western Massachusetts for three years. She  is currently the chair of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week Committee. Her book, Starting from Scratch: Building a Teen Library Program, was published by ABC-CLIO in June 2011.



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