Teachers ask for alternatives to traditional book reporting because they know that if there is anything worse than writing and reading a four paragraph text summary to a classroom full of your peers, it would be assuming the position of audience member AND evaluator. I know that there are more than a few WNY teachers in Florida this week, lounging by pools with stacks of papers next to them, waiting to be graded.

That’s one of the problems with traditional book reports (and most other assignments): the grade is the final stop on the journey, and when kids are simply asked to write for a grade, their work becomes passionless. Formulaic. Dull.

One of the easiest ways to inspire anyone to write well is to ask them to do so for a genuine audience. When it comes to creating book reviews, opportunities abound. Think about how we might begin inviting students and teachers to read, review, and connect around the books they love inside of these communities. Not for a grade. For real.

  • Shelfari, Goodreads, and Library Thing offer readers the opportunity to create virtual bookshelves, book reviews, and friendships around reading.
  • aNobbi is similar, and the funky name is derived from Anobium Punctatum (the scientific name for bookworms, of course).
  • BookTalk.org is less about reviews and more about discussion. Definitely worth a visit.
  • LitMinds is a celebration of words in print, independent bookstores, and a community where readers can connect to one another.
  • World Literature Forum focuses specifically on translated works and those who love them.
  • The Picnic Basket is just for grown-ups, but librarians and teachers love this place. Jump in, grab a free book, and offer up a review for the rest of us. I can see teachers using the reviews here as mentor texts in their work with kids around review writing. My friend Theresa shared this with me and speaks more about mentor text here.
  • Book Tour may be less about reviewing and reporting than it is about discovering which authors will be visiting your town next.

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