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Serving Teens Through Readers’ Advisory by Heather Booth

November 28, 2007

cover of Serving Teens Through Readers' Advisory by Heather BoothEven if your library doesn’t have a formal readers’ advisory program, Serving Teens Through Readers’ Advisory by Heather Booth is still well worth reading. Because you want to encourage teens to read, right? And because I can’t be the only one who’s never quite sure what to recommend when parents come in without their teens and ask for books, or when teens come in asking for a fiction book—any fiction book, they don’t care what, they just want a book—about a particular subject for one of their classes. Because their teacher has only told them to read a book, and didn’t give them a suggested reading list or tell their friendly nearby YA librarian about the assignment ahead of time.

So, thanks Heather Booth!

If you’re unfamiliar with readers’ advisory, it’s defined in the glossary as “The process and skill of aiding patrons in finding suitable recreational reading by detecting their reading interest, finding books to match that interest, and articulating the books’ appeal.” In other words, recommending books a patron will find appealing, and knowing which books to recommend and how to recommend them.

You don’t need experience with readers’ advisory to find Serving Teens Through Readers’ Advisory useful. Beginning with an overview of the importance of teen reading and a brief summary of the traditional readers’ advisory process that’s done with adults, Booth then highlights how teen readers differ from adults and what we need to do to adjust our approach. She introduces the concepts of readers’ advisory service (appeal factors, how to conduct a readers’ advisory interview, etc.) and gives numerous examples of questions to ask to ascertain the type of book that would most appeal to a teen patron. There is also an entire section devoted to special circumstances, which includes chapters on readers’ advisory for homework assignments and how to do readers’ advisory when the teen in question is not present.

In each chapter, key concepts and questions to ask patrons are clearly presented, making the book easy to browse through if you’re pressed for time or in need of a quick refresher. But you should still read the rest of the book! Booth writes clearly and concisely, making the readers’ advisory process understandable and simple. She notes that good readers’ advisory takes effort and practice, but presents us with the tools to start doing it. A glossary and appendices of popular authors, titles, and awards are included. My one complaint is that the book is very much focused on fiction. Non-fiction is mentioned in passing several times, but I would have liked a chapter, or at least part of a chapter, about non-fiction readers’ advisory.* All in all, I highly recommend this book to librarians serving teens.

* And if anyone can recommend non-fiction titles about people who survived genocide or slavery (at least, that’s what they think they were supposed to read about, because they left the assignment in the car), I won’t have to spend half an hour scrambling to find something if this assignment comes up again.

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