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Let's Write Book Reports

© Beverley Paine

In her book, Trust the Children, Anna Kealoha urges us to try and avoid book reports. Seriously! She says they are "usually very boring for kids. Many, many children are turned off to reading by being forced to do book reports."

Anna encourages us to make book reports interesting on page 76 with a list of things you can do while your child is reading the book; such things as "make a prediction about what you think will happen next in the book" or "comment on the author's writing style".

I like Anna's list of Other Unusual Book Report Ideas, reprinted here with permission:

  • Make a time line to illustrate a book you've read.
  • Do author research for a writer whose books you admire.
  • Design a miniature newspaper that could have been written during the period in wich the book's story is set.
  • Write a new orginal adventure that stars the characters found in the book you have just read. Tryle to write in the style of the author.
  • Make a diorama of a scene from the book. (A diorama is a3-D scene of the book, usually constructd ina n old shoe box.)

General Guidelines for Writing Book Reports

There are four steps to follow for writing a book report: choosing your book, reading the book, creating an outline for your report, then the writing stage, which includes a first draft, editing, polishing and publishing the report.

When choosing a book to read make sure you pick a book that you will enjoy or you won't want to do the report! You'll probably end up writing a really negative report as well. One of the aims of writing a report is to identify personal and other bias and write objectively. This is an essential element of writing reports, not only for the world of literature but across every field of human endeavour.

Here are some links to book report pages on the Internet.

Reading a book that you know you have to write a book report on or collect information from is different from reading for pleasure. Find a quiet comfortable space that allows you to take notes as you read. Never mark or write in the book as this spoils the pleasure for the next reader. Keep a small notebook and pencil together with the book to record your thoughts and any quotes you think might illustrate any points you could make in your report. Dont' forget to include page numbers with your notes so that you can quickly refer back to the right section during your first draft writing stage.

It is best to read the book quickly, over a couple of days, rather than a week. Before you start, take a good look at the cover and the blurb and frame some questions you'd like answered by the book report. These could be literary questions, or questions about the main theme or topic of the book. You should only need to read the book once, but may need to refer to it several times when writing your report.

Once you have read your book you will need to organize what you are going to say about it in your report. The easiest way to do this is to write the basic elements down in an outline format. Start with a description of the book, including the setting (where the story takes place), when it is set, who the main characters are, what happens to them (the plot - be careful not to give away the ending!) and any themes that the author is writing about. If the book is a work of non-fiction, summarise the contnet and the various ideas presented by the author.

The final section of your outline should give a sense of the impression the book made upon you. Did you like/dislike the book? What was the main idea of the book? Did it answer all your questions or give the information it promised? Did the book hold your interest? Ask yourself what the author was trying to achieve and if he or she was successful. How did you feel about the author's style of writing, the setting, or the mood of the novel. Be honest and critical in your responses. And finally, what have you learned from reading the book?

The easiest way to learn how to write better book reports is by reading book reports written by others! Most online book stores have summaries (mini-book reports), although most of these will be biased as the point behind writing the summary is to sell you the book! You can find thousands of book reports and reviews on the internet. Pick a book title and Google it!

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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