Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m terrible at Reader’s Advisory. After I’ve read a book, I’m lucky to remember the name, let alone the author or the plot, unless its one of those books which just grab you and change your life and allow you to transcend the mundane life you live. Which, lets face it, include very few books.
The best way for me to do reader’s advisory is to:
1. Conduct the reference/reader’s advisory interview like i’ve been trained, which are pretty standard.
patron: I need a book recommendation
me: okay. what grade are you in?
me: okay. and what kinds of books do you like to read? *patron gives me a blank stare* do you like fantasy? mystery? science fiction? *patron gives me a blank stare* okay. what was the last book you read and actually enjoyed?
patron: ummmmmmmm. i dunno.
me (in my head): you children kill me.
me (outward): have you read X or X or X and did you like them?
2. Walk Around
finally, once I get an idea of what the child likes (or at least doesn’t like) i have to figure out what the hell to give them. since I am terrible at remembering names of books, i can’t just pull stuff out of my useless brain, so I try walking around if I feel comfortable enough that I have in fact read something in my life that this child might like or I know of something but haven’t read it and it will come to me when I see it.
now, personally, i prefer the patron stays at the desk and lets me do my thing. patrons make me nervous when they’re being impatient and breathing down my neck and questioning how in the world I, the most useless person in the world (this is what I assume they’re thinking in their head), could possibly have a master’s degree.
but, most of the time, they follow me, which is fine. and I usually land upon one or two titles that I think are awesome. 50% of the time they take it and appreciate my attempt at an on-the-spot book talk for a book I read when I was their age or have never read and only know that kids who like what they like like it. The other 50% of the time they either have read it or think I’m an idiot and probably won’t take anything I give them anyways.
3. Give them something I have no clue about just to appease them and then feel terrible about it afterwards
For the other 50% of the time, I then go back to the computer (after exhausting a few more personal picks) and boot up novelist or do a catalog search for something that I’ve never read, never heard of, and the kid probably won’t like.
Now, that you know how my bad reader’s advisory interviews go, let me tell you how the good ones, that make me feel good and let me still have a job go.
patron: I need a book, please (for some reason, many children were raised in barns with no manners. anytime i am treated like a human being by an 8 year old, i rejoice)
me: okay. what grade are you in? (they answer) and what was the last book you read that you liked?
patron: i dunno.
me: that’s okay, what kinds of stories do you like? about boys and girls like you? about aliens or the future? about people who lived in the past?
and then they provide me with information and give me an idea of what they are interested in. it drives me crazy when all i get is “i dunno.” and i get it. they don’t want to read. they are being forced by a parent or teacher, who, in the past, has only given them boring stuff to read so they think that’s what I’m going to give them too.
And sometimes I do. When I was a kid, I was what you might call a “special reader”. I read above my grade level and I loved the award winners and classics. I also loved RL Stine and Christopher Pike though, so I like to think my reading was a little well-rounded. My main problem was that I kind of stopped reading once I hit 8th grade. At least for fun. And then then I hit high school I didn’t have time for pleasure reading between Honors and AP Classes, Sports, and being a social butterfly.
I read now, but there’s a lot of years to catch up on, and I’m a slow reader. And if I start a book that doesn’t grab my interest, I try to force myself to read it instead of just throwing it aside like I should and starting something new. So instead of finishing a book in a week, it takes me a week to decide to give it up, wasting 6 days of reading time and slowing down my average.
Some people suggest reviews to help with recommendations. But if I can’t remember much about a book i ACTUALLY read, how am I supposed to remember a 6 sentence blurb about a book I’ve never read and have no interest in? So that option is pretty much out. I seem to be okay enough at Reader’s Advisory to fool most of the patrons and my managers (shhhh don’t tell them) and I think that my reading base is wide enough that I’m fairly decent at it. But, I know that I can do better and I know that there’s a lot of stuff that I am missing out on recommending to kids. Maybe every librarian who participates in reader’s advisory feels this way, but, watching other librarians, I think I’m alone. Or maybe they’re just better at faking it than I am.