Can you feel it? Can you feel the exhilaration? Or is it dread? Or maybe that’s downright loathing? Or is it the feel of a new challenge?
Isn’t it interesting that two simple words put together can have such a significant impact on your emotions? Two words can bring up memories of your own school days and – if you’re not careful – those memories can impact how your children view this same task.
So what about you? Were you the person who always looked forward to a book report because it gave you a legitimate excuse to read a good book and call it “schoolwork”?
Or were you the person who ran screaming for the hills at the mere mention of reading and book reports?
Or maybe it was a blend: Maybe you liked the reading part, but only if you could pick the book yourself and no one told you what book you had to read.
What about the book report part? Did you enjoy a certain type? Did you loathe the ones where you had to stand up and give a presentation in front of the class, but love the ones where you could write about the book and turn in a paper? Did you like the book reports with more parameters or the ones with less parameters where you could be more creative?
Now, you may be wondering why I’m asking all these questions – especially if we’re supposed to be talking about giving book report assignments to your children, but making them creative! Here’s where I’m coming from: You need to first of all realize your thought process about book reports before you can objectively give book report assignments to your children. If you absolutely hate book reports, they are going to pick up on that when you give book reports to them! If you absolutely loved book reports, they will pick up on that, too. To be sure, their own personalities and preferences will come into play, but kids have this way of picking up on things when we don’t even say them out loud. It’s kinda cool, but kinda freaky all at the same time!!
Have you figured out where you stand on book reports personally? Great! Let’s dive into the foundation.
Book reports are a fantastic way to find out if your child is reading the material that you gave them. And not only that, but the reports help you find out if your child is retaining the information that they are reading. Remember, the goal of reading is not just to look at words on a page and know what they mean, you want those words to have an impact. The type of impact varies. It could be learning some new information (education), giving you an escape into the world of literature (entertainment), pushing you to learn more about yourself and change (inspiration), or leading you to realize things about yourself that you would have been hard-pressed to find out any other way (self-discovery).
It is essential that your children learn how to pull out elements of a story (plot line, main characters, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, scene, etc.) and how to clearly communicate them to other people.
Children need to be taught how to put together a book report that goes beyond simply retelling the book itself in a few paragraphs on a page.
Yet, these are the end goal, not the beginning steps. No one knows how to do these things without being taught how to do them. So, how do you move from getting your kids to pick up the book in the first place to writing fabulous multi-page book reports that encompass analysis of the characters and the plot line without simply regurgitating the book itself?
You guessed it….We start at the beginning…
Picking A Good Book
The first pice of the book report puzzle is picking a good book that interests your child. For example, if you have a child who is making progress in reading, yet still struggles, giving them a 100-page chapter book and telling them to read it in 2 weeks would probably discourage them to no end. Then the question becomes, would they even start that book?
Start by honestly assessing where your child is at with reading. Are they ready for a chapter book? Or would it be better to start with a Berenstain Bears book? How long should the book be? Are they ready for a 100-page book? 200-page chapter book? Or would a 50-page book that is still broken up into chapters give them confidence that they can read a chapter book without discouraging them in the length of the book?
What about the topic? Does your child love animals? Mysteries? Adventures? Start with where they are at and what they love! If you start introducing books that are all about topics they love, they will naturally want to read more and more about that topic. As they start going through books on their favorite topic, start introducing other books that have some of the same elements, but branch out into other areas.
For example, one of my daughters liked to read, but felt intimidated by chapter books. Yet, she absolutely loves koalas. I found a book by Bindi Irwin that was written at her level, did have chapters, had just under 100 pages, and was all about rescuing koalas (‘Bushfire!’ by Bindi Irwin). My daughter went nuts over this book! She couldn’t put it down! She fell in love with the style and the author. As the series went on, some mystery elements came into play as the characters in the books had to figure out different things that were happening. This introduced the element of mysteries and allowed me to introduce her to the A-Z Mystery series (by Ron Roy). Do you see how this can work?
Always remember, start with where they are at and what they love!
Creative Book Reports
Now that you have chosen the book, the next step (obviously) is to have your child read the book. But once they are done reading, what type of book report do you want them to create? Remember, the end goal is to get to that well-written, multi-page analysis of the book. (This type of book report should start to be taught in Middle School and perfected in High School. I highly recommend ‘Beyond the Book Report’ by Analytical Grammar to help walk you and your child through this process.)
So, what do you do now when they are in elementary school? Or maybe they’re starting to hit middle school but you’ve never started on book reports?
My answer: Let’s get creative!!
Book reports do not have to be boring! Say that with me: Book reports do not have to be boring!!
Book reports do not all have to be done with pen and paper. Did I just throw you off with that one? It’s true! Sometimes the best book reports (and the most memorable ones) are not created with pen and paper.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of creative things that you can do with a pen and paper (or colored pencils and paper) and I believe that those should be incorporated into your book reports, but you can mix it up a bit.
Can you think of anything yet?
Here are some suggestions:
- Write and illustrate another book in the series (this works well with Berenstain Bear-type books).
- Find a recipe for a meal or a specific food that is mentioned in the book and make it. While you’re cooking, have your child tell you about the book.
- Have your child pretend like they are a character in the book and have them write 5 journal entries telling about adventures that they had.
- Create a scene from the book diorama-style or make it out of Play-Doh or modeling clay.
- Pretend that one of the characters in the book is your child’s pen pal and have your child write them a letter.
- Look up how to play a game that is mentioned in the book and play it with your family. As you play the game, ask your child questions to have them tell you more about the book.
- Have your child write an amazon review about the book they just read to encourage others to read it. Consider posting the review on amazon (after you approve, of course!).
- Give them a guided page with questions or boxes to fill out about the book (main characters, plot, protagonist, antagonist, etc.).
Now, I know that this list is not complete and that some of them can be confusing, so I have something else for you: A Creative Book Reports Guide! It’s yours completely free, when you let me know where to send it just below. In this guide, I will expand on the suggestions above, give you more ideas, give you examples and templates for you to print and use, and give you a list of suggested books for each idea!
Do you remember at the top of this post where I said that book reports do not have to be boring? I know, it was a while ago! More than anything, I want you to remember this: Book reports do not have to be boring!
It is so easy to get caught up in the world of things that need to be done that the enjoyment of doing things is lost. Don’t allow reading and book reports to fall into that trap for your child. Be purposeful about finding fun, exciting, engaging books for them to read and then giving them creative book reports where they can show off their imagination and personality!
Are you ready for book reports to get fun, creative, and exciting? I know I am!
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- Roald Dahl: Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
- Liberty and Rush Revere
- Epic Travel Adventures for You to Enjoy: Travels with Gannon and Wyatt
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.