6 Tips For Book Report Success & Beyond

When my son first entered middle school, one of the requirements in his language arts class was writing a monthly book report. While he enjoyed reading, inwardly I cringed at the thought of him struggling with this assignment – learning how to craft a book report can be a daunting task for any student, and if your child has an attention deficit as mine does, it can prove even more challenging. Reading through the book, keeping the sequence of events in order, identifying the main ideas and conflicts, even formulating opinions about the story can be a frustrating endeavor for a kid with executive function difficulties. Through the hazy fog of middle age, I reflected back to my school days and thought about the strategies that worked for me. So after some tears, trial and error, I put together this game plan for book report writing success. These tips can be helpful even if your child doesn’t have an attention deficit.

Select a properly leveled book to read

Pick a book that is not only engaging but also at the proper reading level for your child. A good rule of thumb that my son’s teacher follows is the “five-finger rule” – if there are more than five words on the page that your reader is unfamiliar with, perhaps the material is too difficult and another book should be chosen. Ask the teacher for guidance if you are unsure.

Read the book twice

If time allows, have your child read the book through twice. I know, your child may balk at this idea (mine certainly did), but if the material is interesting and fun to read, this might not be a problem.

Take notes 

While it’s fresh in his mind, encourage your child to take notes on the material he’s just read.  Have him jot down plot points, characters or events that captured his interest and discuss them with you.

Keep a dictionary handy

If your child does happen to come across a word he is unfamiliar with during reading, encourage him to look it up.  It could help reinforce a connection to the material that’s just been read, with the additional benefit of learning a new vocabulary word.

Read the book along with your child

I know this is adding yet another morsel to an already full plate, but if you can, try to familiarize yourself with the book as much as possible. Being able to discuss the book with your child can help him make connections and give you a sense of how much content your child is absorbing.

Rough drafting and editing

When it’s time to start writing, have your child do a rough draft first. This helps organize their thoughts and review for those pesky grammar gremlins, like punctuation and sentence fragments, who love to steal precious points from reports. Reviewing and revising a rough draft also provides an opportunity to ensure that the questions being answered are the ones the teacher has asked.

I’ll admit that my son was less than thrilled using these techniques at first. To him, it just seemed like a lot of extra work – and it was. But when the grade on his second book report increased by a full twenty points, he was so proud of himself, and that inspired him to continue using the techniques until they became second nature. The rough draft technique has also proven especially helpful in completing homework and answering essay questions in other subjects. As he ends his middle school years on the honor roll and enters high school in September, he’s come to terms with the fact that although he may have to work harder and it may take him longer, he’s certainly capable of being successful in school, and that the extra effort is well worth it.

What tips or strategies have you employed to help your child with book reports or homework?  What has worked for you?  Let me know in the comments!

18 thoughts on “6 Tips For Book Report Success & Beyond

  1. Oh you know what, my 5th grader is doing book reports for the first time this year and I’ve been having a hard time helping her. Your tip to read the book together is awesome. I’m kicking myself for not thinking of it myself.

  2. This is so timely, as my son will be entering middle school next school year. The most important skill I’m trying to demonstrate right now is looking up unfamiliar words in the dictionary; what seems so second-nature to me is really not as much for him. I’ve also read portions of his current books to help him with comprehension.

    Thanks for commenting on my Mom It Forward article at: http://momitforward.com/family-togetherness-3-ways-to-bring-your-family-closer-together

    • Thanks for commenting! I know what you mean regarding the hesitancy to look things up in the dictionary – sometimes I think I have the word “dictionary” tattooed on my forehead because I’m always the go-to when my son comes across an unfamiliar word. Maybe it’s a boy thing. . . 🙂

  3. Totally helpful! As a writer, I can’t help but put my sales hat on and think that you should pitch this to a magazine. It would make for a great article. Nice meeting you! I’ll be back!

    • Wow, thank you; I’m really flattered and glad you found it helpful. I am a complete newbie at this so how would one go about pitching an idea to a magazine? I’m amazed I can put pictures on my blog! 🙂

  4. oh my god… i love this post.. great ideas… even though my daughter is just 5 I’ll keep these pointers in mind…

    thnx for commenting on my “chanel nail polish” post… I’m also a mom but still try to keep remembering ME! XoXo Sayenne

  5. Pingback: Ten Book Reports in a Year: the Package | for Teaching Outside the Box

  6. Terrific advice for any writer, and for any child who struggles with reading and writing assignments in school. Thanks so much for sharing….

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