Nancy Pearl, the queen of reader’s advisory, was in Saratoga County last week for SALS’s 50th Anniversary. I caught her at Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library Wednesday night, where she enthralled children’s, youth services, and teen librarians with reader’s advisory tips especially for us. Of course, it all holds true for grown ups too; so if you went to that grown up workshop, you probably got the same information.
For those of you not lucky enough to be there, there are two rules to being a good Reader’s Advisor:
Rule 1: Remember that it’s not about YOU and what YOU like to read (oh yes, Sue, you especially should remember this!), but it’s about the person, however old or young, that is standing before you and what THEY like to read.
Corollary A: Kids look to adults for validation as a reader. So, if they ask if you liked a book, and you didn’t, tell them. It’s ok to not like a book, and to let kids know that you did not like a certain book, because…
Corollary B: Everyone reads a book differently
And Corollary C: NP’s definition of a good book is any book YOU want to read.
Rule 2: Is to read outside your comfort zone. If you read only one book a month that you normally would not read, that’s twelve books a year. Read outside your comfort zone to find out why someone else would like and enjoy that book. (Personally, I fulfill this rule by listening: either to books or to others talking about those books I can’t get into or don’t have time to get into!)
Then when the advisee comes asking, ask them “Tell me about a book you liked”, which makes it immaterial if you’ve read the book. You’re finding out how they are talking about the book, which tells you what they liked, and what drew them through which doorway into the book.
Because you see, every book of narrative fiction and non-fiction fits at least one of Nancy Pearl’s four potential doorways through which readers enter a book:
Doorway # 1 is Story
This doorway is the largest – if someone says “I couldn’t put it down” or “I couldn’t wait to see what happens”, they are looking for story. Most books for kids fit in the Story Doorway. Other hints are books with lots of white space and dialogue are story driven. Think Harry Potter; Among the Hidden; 13 Reasons Why; and Hatchet. Most chapter books for grades 3-7 are entered through story, although many have more doorways.
Doorway # 2 is Character
When someone talks about liking three dimensional characters, fully developed characters, they enter books through Doorway #2. Clues are books with the character’s name or a description of the character in the titles, such as Clementine; Saffy’s Angel; Maniac Magee; and chick lit titles.
Doorway # 3 is Setting
Setting can be thought of as another character. If someone says they felt like they were in that place in a book, that’s setting. Historical fiction and science fiction and fantasy, all have very strong elements of the setting doorway. Think Peter and the Starcatchers; White Darkness; Peak.
Doorway # 4 is Language
Books with language as the biggest doorway are usually the award winners. In general, they are books that move at a slower pace, where “voice” is often talked about. The Newbery Award winners are generally in the language doorway; as are authors such as Karen Hesse; Natalie Babbitt; Donna Jo Napoli. When someone says “I wish I had written that,” suggest books with a language doorway.
Remember that books can be entered through more than one doorway. Probably a book that is entered through more doorways is going to be more enduring, because more people will enjoy it. As you’re reading, think about the doorway appeal. The majority of readers enter through the story doorway.
Finally, instead of “recommending” a book, “suggest” a book. Well, three books. Suggesting books says that you’ve heard what the advisee is asking for. In fact, use Nancy Pearl’s Nordstrom Theory of Reader’s Advisory, based on the Nordstrom’s Shoe Sales Strategy (customer asks for certain shoe style; salesperson brings out three shoe styles: the one customer asks for; another very similar, and a third that has something in common with the original style.)
Give three book options to the advisee:
One very similar book to the book they enjoyed
One very close to that book
And take them to another part of the library and find a third that is related.
Nancy Pearl said if you remember what doorway you liked in a book, it will help you to suggest books to others. Questions? Call or email Sue.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about recent children’s, tween and teen reading I’ve done, and which doorways I think they fit into.