Book Diva Discoveries

Read Around the Text to Find a Good Book

Last month we began investigating Pre-Reading strategies, and I discussed the Read Around the Text strategy. I love this particular strategy so much that I turned it into 2 different bookmarks to help students self-select books. One bookmark is for fiction; the other is for non-fiction. I have used both of these in working with students in grades 6-12. The Finding a Good Book Bookmark for Fiction is especially entertaining with middle school students. You place a hard-back book for each student on the tables or desks where you will be working, then as a class, I model each step with my book, then ask students to do the same with theirs. We have all kinds of lively discussions this way, and at least one book gets checked out each hour!

student pulling book from bookshelf
Photo by Cleyder Duque from Pexels

For Step #1, I ask students to look at the cover of the book. Now, I tell them that we don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but it is a part of our decision making process about whether a book is a good choice for us or not. For example, are the colors dark and creepy looking, or are they bright and cheerful? If there is a person on the cover, what can we already learn about the possible character from the image? For Step #2, I ask students to now look at the title. What does this bring to mind? Am I expecting scary, fantastic, realistic, romance? For Step #3, I ask students to look at the author. Is this an author they know? If so, what do they expect? If not, I introduce them to the author description on the back flap of the book. (Pro tip: For the most creative author descriptions you have ever encountered, be sure to always include a book by Obert Skye and make sure it gets included in this step. Fabulous!)

For Step #4, I ask students to read the summary. These can be found in several interesting places. The first, and most obvious, is the back cover. Sometimes covers only feature reviews. If it is a hardback book, the only kind I use for this activity, I direct students to check out the front flap; however, my absolute favorite is the summary that is a part of CIP (Cataloging in Publication) on the back of the title page. Probably about 60% of books have this. It is my favorite summary, and most of my students never even knew it existed.

Then if students still aren’t sure if this book is a good choice for them, I invite them to do Steps #5 and 6. #5 suggests they read the first paragraph or the first page to see if that draws them in. #6 invites them to pique that curiosity. Based on every thing that we have learned about the book so far, ask questions! What do you expect? What do you think will happen? What do you hope doesn’t happen? What are you wondering?

These are all things that we, as adult readers, often do without even thinking. I broke the process down into digestible chunks and made them explicit for my students. Now that I have done this, I find myself very unsatisfied beginning a book, or an article, without applying these steps. Of course, when preparing for this activity, I have checked ahead of time to make sure each book has the features that I need, such as being a hard-back book with a front and back flap and CIP on the backside of the title page.

If you would like to see this particular strategy in action, here you go! Last year when it came time to do this lesson in the library, we were virtual, so I got out my handy-dandy little selfie tripod and recorded myself going through these six steps. Granted, I missed the interaction with my students and the creative ideas they come up with, but it was useful in reaching them when we couldn’t be in person. It is useful today in helping you see this particular activity in action! Enjoy! And until we see each other again, as I always tell my students, Happy Reading!


  • Colette Huxford-Kinnett is in her 26th year as School Librarian at Shenandoah School Corporation. She received her BA from Purdue University in Creative Writing and Secondary English Education in 1994. She then obtained her certification for Library Services from Ball State University, followed by her Masters of Secondary Education in 2000. For the past five years, Colette has been travelling the state presenting one day workshops on topics of interest to school librarians and teachers via the Indiana Educational Service Centers. Colette served as a co-chair of the Eliot Rosewater Committee for twelve years. She has had the privilege of having five works published: The Way I Want to Remember with Mellen Poetry Press in 1996, Daddy’s Girl with Author House in 2006, and Noelle, Courageously Cayleigh, and Lillian Frances with Create Space, in 2014, 2015, and 2016 respectively. Colette is the 2013 recipient of the Indiana Library Federation’s Peggy Pfeiffer Service Award.

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