Blogger Abby Johnson

15 Minutes for Booktalks

One of my goals for this school year is to strengthen the (public) library’s relationships with our schools. It’s not that we have a BAD relationship, but other than our annual Summer Reading Club promo visits and our teacher library cards, we haven’t had much of a relationship with them at all.

This year, I contacted the public school principals in July and asked if we might come to one of their faculty meetings to briefly present the ways that the public library can support and work with teachers this year. We were able to visit half our public schools (five out of ten) and we sent information to the rest of them via the principals. (Private schools are on my list and I plan to contact them this fall to see if we might attend any upcoming faculty meetings they might have.)

At those meetings we explained our School Collection program where teachers can get free library cards and have materials for their classrooms selected and delivered to their school. We let everyone know that we’re more than happy to bring a program or library card sign-up station to parent nights or other special events. And I really pushed booktalking.

Our wonderful State Library Youth Consultant, Suzanne Walker, told me that she’d gotten into the schools at her previous library job by sending each teacher a chocolate bar with her picture/contact info and telling them that if they had fifteen minutes to spare she could come and booktalk. That’s the angle I took and I made up a flyer that explained what booktalks are (I’ve found that some teachers don’t know!) and that if they could spare 15 minutes, we could come and talk about some great books. (Part 2 of this plan is to videotape some booktalks and get them on our website, but we haven’t gotten there yet.)

One of the fourth grade teachers immediately responded to the flyers I left in the teachers’ mailboxes and wanted to set up monthly booktalks for all three fourth grade classrooms. Victory!!!!

So, what do we do in 15 minutes?

One of my librarians and I visit the school. We aim for 5-6 books per month and so far we’ve booktalked the same books to each of the three classrooms (by the end of the visit we really have our patter down pat). We work together to decide in advance which books we’re bringing and we bring bookmarks with the book covers and library info on them to encourage kids to actually come down and check out the books.

One of the teachers wanted to set up a School Collection card and have the books available in her classroom, so we fill that box with multiple copies of the books we’re talking about (if available) and perhaps sequels to the books or other books by that author. The teachers has reported that the students love having the books available. We try to leave at least one copy on the library shelves for other students who may visit the library to ask about the books.

We spend 15 minutes in each classroom, so we spend about 45 minutes at the school and we end up seeing about 60 kids and 3 teachers. At our first visit we spent a couple of minutes telling the kids about the library and asking them what books they were into so that we’d have a better idea about what books we might want to bring for them.

Since we know that we’ll be doing this every month, T and I keep an eye out constantly for books we might want to booktalk. It’s been so long since I had a regular booktalking gig that I felt overwhelmed with choices at first, but I’ve been keeping some lists of books I might want to read or reread for booktalks and that’s helped me keep organized.

If you’re at a public library, do you have a great relationship with your schools? If you’re a school librarian, do you partner with your public librarians for anything? I’d love to know details in the comments!

— Abby Johnson, Children’s Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN


  1. Jo A Reed

    I love this idea. Do the children borrow the books from the teacher box ? Does the teacher record loans? I know that it would be a hit at my school!

    1. Abby Johnson

      We keep track of what the teachers have out on their cards and we leave it up to them whether they want to keep the books in the classroom or allow students to take them home. We don’t charge any overdue fees for our school collections, but teachers are responsible for any books that are truly lost. Teachers love this service!

  2. Edith Sutterlin

    I like your 15 min. booktalks approach. One thing I tried that was a bit different for partnering was with the high school drama dep’t. on behalf of the children. I asked for free tickets for the Sat matinee of the spring musical for 4th-6th graders who signed up in advance. Accompanying adults needed to pay for their own tickets. They agreed – I had asked for 10- they said as many as we wanted because attendance at that show was always low, and it would increase their audience / exposure. I had a program about the musical about three days ahead (for everyone, not just children or those signed up to attend, and kids could still sign up after that for the Sat. show.) I talked with them about musical theater in high school – the kinds of things critics look for or show range of opportunities — costumes, props, sets, sound and lighting, programs, etc., not just the key acting roles. I have them read one brief scene or section aloud, so I can introduce the basic plot and characters and show them any related books we have available (Beauty and the Beast was easy for one of the ones we attended; Little Shop of Horrors gave us chance to talk about “scary” stories and a mix of comedy). We met at the high school. Children must be accompanied by, or dropped off and picked up promptly by responsible adults and stay with the group at the school. It was a win-win situation, and no-budget program. Except I paid for my own ticket, figuring the high school in this case did need the income to offset expenses.

  3. Lisa

    I do a very similar program and it works beautifully! The teachers email me a list of their students and I make sure each student has a library card. If they don’t I email an application to the teacher. When I go into the classroom I circulate books directly to the students. I always give them two months (between testing, bad weather, illness I sometimes I miss a monthly visit). I also bring an array of books that I don’t booktalk so students can go through my suitcase. I always bring hot new fiction, which is what the school cannot always provide. So everybody wins!

  4. Amanda

    Would you be willing to share the Book Talk flyer you made for teachers?

    1. Abby

      Yes! I’ve emailed it to you!

      1. rena simmons

        Could you please e-mail me a copy of your flyer about 15 min book talks .

  5. Martha Sanders

    Thanks for sharing such a great idea. My relationship to our public schools is basically visiting the students in May to drum up interest in our Summer Reading Program. Book Talks sound like a great way to help students choose great reads, as well as build a stronger connection with the schools. Could I get you to email me a copy of the flyer you used? Thanks again!

  6. Vicki Kouchnerkavich

    My relationship with the public schools is awesome. That being said I use to work for the local PreSchool in the 90’s as the aide, so when I went full time at my rural library, I already had a relationship with the staff. Each week, I read to the kindergarten classes, 15 minutes each. Thank goodness our elementary buildings are consolidated with all the kindergarten classes in one building. This year each Thursday in the pm I will be reading to 4 classes one week, then 5 classes the next (this includes Young 5’s). I usually take a handout for each student for the 1st time visit. This way the children of our small community get to know Miss Vicki at the library. I have been doing this since 2002. I also partner with the schools for their monthly School Readiness Playgroup. It would be great to do something for the older elementary crowd too.

  7. Pingback: Boxes of Books for Teachers | ALSC Blog

  8. Rebecca

    Would you be willing to email me the letter you used? Although we have a good relationship with our public schools, I am starting from scratch in certain areas as the brand new librarian after a year without in the public library. The curriculum coordinator and I have discussed that booktalks are on the curriculum for middle schoolers (they have to do them or create something that acts like a booktalk i.e. book trailers/posters etc) and he thinks teachers would be interested in my modeling and doing mini-lessons with the kids but I’m looking for ideas on how to approach the teachers and this seems like a great match. Thanks for a great post!

  9. Alicia LaFrance

    Hi! I know this thread is over a year old but I was wondering if I could get a copy of your book talk flyer?

    1. Abby Johnson

      Hi Alicia, yes, absolutely! I will email it to you when I am in the office on Friday!

  10. Michelle Young

    Hi Abby, I’m also interested in seeing your booktalking flyer. Thanks.

  11. Susan Redmond


    I would also be interested in your booktalking flyer!



  12. Jennifer Needham

    Love your blog!! I know the post is old, but I’m getting ready to try and talk the schools into letting me booktalk, and I would love a copy of your letter/flyer! Thanks so much!

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