Readers’ Advisory is a tricky business. It isn’t about what YOU like or what your kid likes or what your neighbor likes, it is about what that child in front of you likes. And how do you put your finger on what that is exactly? Well, that is where those hard to pin down appeal factors come into play.
Appeal factors are the “why” of the readers’ advisory interview. The answer to “What was the last book that you read and liked?” is important, but the answer to “Why did you like that book?” is even more so.
A kid may have loved the Harry Potter books because of the friendships and the British boarding school and not care a bit about the fantasy part. Even a preschooler has specific factors that appeal to her. A child who likes Fancy Nancy may like the silly female character, the family relationships or simply the splashy, colorful cover.
A training created by NoveList identifies several appeal factors, among them are:
Fifth Grade Boy: I need a good book to read.
Librarian: Here is the latest in The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, I loved this, I know you will too! (JK – I threw that in there to see if you were still reading. Try this:) What was the last book that you read and liked?
FGB: I just read all of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, they were pretty good.
L: Can you tell me what you liked about them?
FGB: They were funny. [Appeal factor: Mood]
L: What was the funniest part?
FGB: The drawings, especially when Greg’s eyes get all big and stuff. And Greg is just funny and the book is all about him and he is always doing stuff wrong and his parents get mad and stuff. [Appeal factors: Format, Character, Relationships]
L: It sounds like you would like a funny book with illustrations that is about a kid with a big personality whose parents or teachers are in the story. Does that sound right?
FGB: (shrug) Yeah.
L: Would you like another book that is written like a diary or would you like a chapter book? [Appeal factor: Format]
FGB: A diary would be cool.
This librarian will pull funny books written in a journal or diary format that have light-hearted, humorous illustrations, are character driven, and have a strong adult/child relationship. Whew.
Or course you won’t use all of the appeal factors in every RA interview, you may use only one or two, but using appeal factors to categorize books will help you get at the “why” of the transaction. A book is more than its genre or subject.
For a great article on how a middle school librarian taught kids how to articulate appeal factors, check out: “It’s All About Text Appeal: Want readers’ advisory to make a difference? Teach your kids how to speak intelligently about books” by Olga Nesi in School Library Journal, August 2010. And for more on RA and appeal factors read: Readers’ Advisory Service in the Public Library by Joyce Saricks (ALA, 2005).