Book Review: Book Love by Penny Kittle

Book Love, Penny Kittle’s most recent publication, is inspired by her established Book Love Foundation. In it she shares shares her true gift  in reaching our adolescent readers.  Embedded largely with workshop philosophy, Kittle addresses real management and engagement strategies to ensure all students read, and work in a way to continue developing themselves as a reader regardless of ability or emotional connection to the work itself.  So many of the ideas shared are an integral part establishing our reading workshops at the beginning of the year.  Below are a few of my favorites.

On building stamina:

Once students are paired with several “just right” texts, they choose on and track the number of pages they read in ten minutes. Once they have identified the number of pages they multiply that by six to determine how many pages they can read in an hour.  For example, a student who reads 9 pages in ten minutes would be able to read 54 pages in an hour.  Students then take that number and double it to get their reading goal for the week, assuming your weekly reading expectation is two hours a week.  Therefore, this student should read 108 page per week.  At the beginning of the year you will likely have students that only have the stamina to read for ten minutes at a time, and that is okay.  Their goal is to gradually increase to an 30 minutes or more in one setting.  Students will step up to the challenge of learning strategies for building stamina when their goals are set in such a way that they can see their growth through pages read per week.  This goal is personalized and meeting this student’s reading needs in this specific text.  Once the goal is met, of course, they will set a new one.  When they pick up a new text they will need to go through this practice each time.  In the beginning you may work on doing this together in a conference, but it should not take long for our intermediate students to be able to do this independently.

The form below is what Kittle uses to manage and track student reading goals.  She suggests passing it around during silent reading time, but she also teaches high school.  At the elementary level, I might have it posted somewhere for students to fill in each day when they come in or even check in with you to fill it in outside of workshop time.  I just know how crunched our time is in there and if students are getting distracted with passing it around it interferes with that precious reading time.

Reading Goal Tracking

“Weekly goals help me convince my students that they can improve with practice, but the goals don’t turn them into readers.  The wonder, the magic, the heart-stopping joy of books is the only consistently effective tool for that.”

On creating a balanced reading life for students throughout the year:

  1.  Reading and studying literature (whole texts)
  2. Reading short mentor texts (in all genres) to understand writer’s craft and create a vision for what our students will write.
  3. Developing students to have an independent reading life.

Do you have all three of these components in place for the year?  What are your strategies and management tools to achieve this?

On book talks: 

Teachers need to be “book talking” books every day with their students.  This is a great way for teachers to model and share their reading life with students, while also staying current with the titles your students will be checking out.  More importantly, students need to be “book talking” with each other.  Great power lies within peers sharing books they love with other peers.  What better way to ignite that intrinsic fire and passion to read?

  1. Hold the book.
  2. Know the book: try to have read it, but if you haven’t don’t bluff.  Be honest with the kids and tell them why it’s one you are wanting to pick up.  What intrigues or excites you about it?  Summarize its theme, central conflict, or other “hooking” details in a minute or so. Try to connect it to other books in your library if you can.
  3. Read a short passage: try to find a place with beautiful language, heated action, or strong voice that will engage the potential reader instantly.
  4. Keep records: Keep a public list of books that have had a book talk that are also in your library, so students know which ones they have quick access to.
  5. Accept help: don’t take all the responsibility on yourself.  Also ask parents, fellow teachers, librarians, book store owners, even your administrator if they would come to your room to do a book talk.  The more people students see as readers in their community, the more excited they are going to become to be a part of it.
  6. Remember how important you are: your passion is contagious.  How you show your love for reading will directly reflect how much your students will fall in love with it, too.

On conferences:

It’s important to remember that all conferences are not necessarily content related, especially at the beginning of the year when we are trying to learn more about the readers in our room and the behaviors they exhibit.

You may have conferences that focus on monitoring their reading life: What are you reading?  How did you choose it?  How do you find good books? What’s on your “To Read Next” list? Who are your favorite authors?  Do you consider yourself a reader?

Or conferences that teach a reading strategy: What questions are at the heart of this book? What questions might the author be trying to answer through the struggles of this character?  Is this book easy or hard?  How do you know? How is this book different from the last one you read?

Or conferences that challenge students to read complexity and challenge:  What else have you read by this author? What other books have you read as difficult as this one?  What books on your next list are challenging?  How are you considering to push yourself as a reader? Which genres have you read?  Which ones might you like to transition into?

“But how we talk to students is larger than the standards we post in the classroom each morning. We either confirm what they believe as nonreaders or give them hope that the trajectory of their reading life can change.  I’m not sure there is anything more worth getting up for each day.”

On responding to reading:

We know that the heart of a good response starts with a great question.  Here’s a few you might try:


  1. Tell me about the narrator of your book.  Is he or she believable?
  2. How has the author taken a flat portrait of a character and added flesh and bones?
  3. Discuss the pace of the book.
  4. Trace the changes in the central character.


  1. Does the author present enough evidence to support the main ideas of this book?
  2. Talk about the effectiveness of the organization of the ideas in this book.
  3. What are things you’ve learned in your reading that still have you thinking.

“I want my students to trust in their own incomplete understandings and thus develop a belief in discovery writing and their thinking about books.”

On assessment:

A few examples that honor workshop and value a reader’s reading life:

  1.  A student’s reading list with his or her own reflections in writing, including a video of that student reading a text and discussing it.
  2. A portfolio of student examples across genre and text complexity, with samples of writing the demonstrate skill and understanding.
  3. Plans and suggestions passed on for each student to their teacher for the next year, which would ideally include time at the beginning of that following year to review their reading and writing portfolios.

I have provided so much and there is still a multitude of information you can gain from reading her book.  I encourage all to get it in their hands!  It is a quick read with lasting power to ultimately transform your classroom, if you let it.

The most important condition is my classroom is my relationship with students.  My students are not moving through a system that guarantees they’ll read; I am moving them through a system that help me manage the large number of students I teach.  The magic formula is the relationship we form and my ability to meet them where they are, accept where they are, and then put books in their hands that will ignite their own intrinsic motivation to read.”

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