Margin Notes

Creating Space and Time for Book Talk


While visiting literacy classrooms this year we have noticed that students have an intense desire to talk about their reading lives. As literacy teachers we understand the importance of knowing our students as readers and the importance of peer talk around reading, so we love that Megan Young-Jones intentionally builds this time to talk when planning her literacy classes.

MYJ3This week Megan hosted a Book Café for the readers in her classroom. Students brought their books and food (and even blankets!) to the student lounge and formed groups in which they could share their reading. Because this was their first round of talking about their reading in small groups, Megan set them up for success in the following ways:

  • Students were involved in the creation of an anchor chart on what good listening looks like.
  • Teachers from various subject areas were invited to the class to model authentic reader to reader conversations and how you can join a conversation about a book you haven’t read.
  • Pulling lessons on what they might choose to include in their small group conversations from Jennifer Serravallo’s Reading Strategies Book (titles, themes, plot, etc).
  • Providing prompts on cue cards that could be used if needed to facilitate the conversation because this was their first meeting in small groups.

MYJ1As the groups discussed their reading, Megan circulated and gathered assessment on reading and speaking and listening using two checklists she had made using the curriculum outcomes and Provincial Achievement Standards (Formative Assessment Tools are available – login at and then click here .). After reviewing these checklists, she made a list of students she didn’t have the chance to hear talk and plans on conferring with these readers during their next class. Additionally, Megan provided time for students to reflect and provide feedback on this experience in order to inform future reading talk.

The Social Side of Engaged Reading for Adolescents  by Gay Ivey reveals what happens when the space and time is intentionally created for students to talk about the books they are reading. Here are a few of the many points explored in this article:

  • “Because there is collective expertise around books and reading, students come to view each other as resources.”
  • “…(students) often recruited peers to read a book they want to continue thinking about, and students agreed to read the same book so they could talk about it.”
  • “Students even reported making new friends over books. What is more, they begin to see themselves collectively as ‘smarter’.”

Both research and practice are telling us that promoting talk among readers leads to further engagement which then leads to an increase in the volume of reading. It is this volume of reading that improves student achievement. So we urge you all to create the time and space for this to happen.



Leave a Reply