Blogger Maria Trivisonno

Readers’ Advisory Review

A coworker commented to me that we’ve recently had a slew of kids asking us for book recommendations, which is perhaps not surprising coinciding with the new school year.  Therefore, it might be time for a Readers’ Advisory tune up.

I am always interested in how other librarians approach book recommendations and am happy to share my own ideas.  I try to talk to the actual child if they are present, even if their adult is a little pushy and/or the child is shy.  I usually ask what grade they are in, and what books they have enjoyed in the past.  At this point, reluctant readers will typically shrug.  I then ask what they like outside of reading—are they into sports?  Video games?

Some thick encyclopedias stacked together on top of each other against a very intense red background. The books have different sizes and most of them have black hardcovers. They are casting a soft shadow behind them.

Stranger Things?  Other shows or movies?  What do they watch on YouTube? Do they like animals?  The more I know about children, the better chance to pair them with a book they will enjoy.

Parents frequently ask for a “second grade book” or a “fifth grade book,” and are often dismayed when I explain that the library is not “set up” quite like that.  And honestly—the range of readers in second grade can be enormous!  For caregivers of newer readers, I often explain the “Five Finger Rule.”  If a child must stop and ask questions about five or more words on a page, the book is too difficult and will be frustrating.  If less than five, the book is at an appropriate level and may even be stretching the reader’s skills.

Finally, nothing beats preparation when it comes to readers’ advisory.  Read frequently.  Read widely.  Read diversely.  Read reviews so you’ve heard of books you haven’t read yet.  Join a book club (or, uh, four like me, though that might be a bit much).

Something to think about—my library system tries to leverage our catalog by tagging titles.  One of my staff members started tagging picture books years ago, and it’s so handy when a teacher needs a theme.  We’ve created genre lists of children’s and teen fiction too, which are helpful when doing a display or seeing what is in stock currently at your branch.

What readers’ advisory advice do you have?


This post covers the Core Competencies of Knowledge, Curation and Management of Materials, as well as that of Commitment to Client Group.


  1. Pat Tea

    ACL Membership has been a great resource for Readers’ Advisory

  2. Jessica F (Storytime in the Stacks)

    I stumbled across a successful strategy for reluctant readers quite by accident! I was helping a child who just was just NOT liking any of the books I suggested. I tried the things you mentioned – asking about other interests, movies, etc. – and kept getting mostly one word responses. When I mentioned one recent movie in particular, the child roller her eyes and said, “Ugh, that movie sucked.” I followed up with, “It sounds like you really didn’t like that movie! What was so terrible about it?” and we ended up having a very lively discussion about all the things she DIDN’T like – which in the end helped us find some good books. Go figure! I’ve tried this backwards approach a few times with reluctant readers since and it works like a charm.

    One thing the trainers at my library do in our levels class is encourage us to talk with parents about the importance of varied reading experiences – reading for/with/by. Each experience is valuable for kids. Reading “easy” independent books builds their confidence and fluency, for example. Kids listening to “too hard” titles gives them a chance to see their caregiver model being a reader and exposes them to new and interesting vocabulary they might not hear otherwise.

  3. Maria Trivisonno

    I will have to try the backwards approach! Thanks for the fun idea!

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