Teaching and Learning through Children's Literature: Writing and Publishing Book Reviews

By English, Robyn | Practical Literacy, October 2017 | Go to article overview

Teaching and Learning through Children's Literature: Writing and Publishing Book Reviews


English, Robyn, Practical Literacy


One of the biggest challenges for classroom teachers is motivating students to write when they know that the teacher is the only person who is going to read their work. Finding an audience for student writing is not always easy. How often do you see work samples displayed high up on a classroom wall, for too high for the writing to be read?

Writing a book review is a great way to provide a short, structured writing task that has real purpose. There are many ways that the review can then be accessed by other readers.

Where can students publish book reviews?

* Provide well proofed and published versions to local libraries for their shelf displays.

* Attach a published book review to the inside cover of a book on the school library shelves or attach an envelope and encourage students to insert their own reviews as they are written.

* Use the QR Code technology to create codes that link straight to reviews that have been placed on the school website.

* Keep an eye on local library websites for requests for submissions for student-written reviews.

* Select one student each week to prepare and read a book review to the class to encourage others to share the books that they have read and enjoyed.

A book review should not have too many words and should contain three basic paragraphs of information:

1. A synopsis of the storyline without giving away key information

2. Basic information about the author and illustrator that make links to their other works or books in similar genre or style

3. Key features that make the book different, interesting and recommended for others. The reviews provided in each issue of Practical

Literacy, the Early and Primary Years, are examples that students can use to get a feel for the style of writing that is usually used in a book review.

Book reviews can be written individually, as shown by the example here by Luke Exley, with a writing partner or even as a whole class activity. The other example given here is by teacher Kate Warner and her class of year six students who were very taken by a new book that was read as part of their Inquiry into micro-organisms.

A Monster Calls

Patrick Ness (2016)

London: Walker Books

This book, A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness, is a well thought-through book. Ness has the surreal ability to turn everyday concepts such as being bullied or teased into a fantasy of a bulbous monster who helps the not-yet-prodigised young Conor O'Malley. The monster, known as the Yew Tree, heals Conor via three life changing puzzles that are presented in the form of stories. Unknown to Conor, the wonderful Yew Tree does more than recall the stories from his imagination; he also creates a cast of characters who circulate around Conor. The actual message of the story is to neither fear life nor the truth. …

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