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We don't like Book Summary Reports @ The Young Readers' Club

Updated: 4 days ago

Here is why...

book reports
Book reports

I got introduced to Agatha Oddly thanks to a young reading companion. She spoke about how young Agatha is keen to solve a mystery at her school. Her rendition of her reading experience was so powerful that I got tempted to give this author a try. Although I did not find book 1 in the series, Secret Key, that she spoke about, I found another in the library. I am about to start the Agatha Oddly The Silver Serpent by Lena Jones.

Her sharing wasn't in the form of a book report or a summary. Instead it was a sharing of her reading experiences - she chose to pretend to be Agatha Oddly and narrated how she began solving mysteries. She was careful not to reveal too many details. She had picked the most important details that are likely to pique any reader's interest.

Book Summaries- Perhaps the most boring way for young readers to talk about a book that they have enjoyed.

The reason is simple. It feels like a test. The feeling that the adult who is listening in is on the look out for missing details or is trying to judge me is enough to put young readers off.

Worse, they don't know how to do it.

"What is your book about?"

A child who had read Julia Donaldson's The Gruffalo, started this way.

"It is about a mouse who imagined a scary creature. He told different animals about how scary this creature was. This creature was Gruffalo."

He then went on to read line by line from the book detailing all the descriptions that the author has used. That was easier than telling in his own words.

While he had understood the story, he needed help making inferences. The question of why the mouse made up these stories made him ponder a bit. He then answered that it made the mouse feel powerful by scaring his predators. Little did the mouse know, that the Gruffalo was real. When he saw the Gruffalo he used the same tactic and made the Gruffalo believe that he was a powerful mouse.

"Could the mouse have been terrified?" That needed some thought. "I think so" was the answer.

"What do you think about the mouse?"

There was a pause and the child was thinking. It seemed like he was trying to find the right word.

"Would you call him smart, intelligent? After all he managed to fool so many animals."

The child responded, "Yes."

This reader had read the story. He had understood the story but did not have the words to use for a summary that would entice listeners to get curious about the mouse. He hadn't been able to absorb the mouse's character. He had simply read the book.

A book summary report would involve a paraphrasing of the story. A blurb online could do the job.

What a blurb can't do and only readers can do?

Every young reader when encouraged to think about what they are reading, learn to appreciate books even more. It is no longer a test about whether they have read the book but a discussion about what they thought of the story, the characters and the way the book has been written.

Different writing styles and choice of words deliver on impact. Bring the attention of the reader to such aspects is the key to enable them enjoy the world of books in a collaborative setting.

There is more to a book than a mere book summary. Enabling young readers to discuss books rather than rattle out book summaries make it a more interesting to both the children as well as the adult who is listening in!

Where does the meaning lie? In the text or the reader?

A book summary emphasizes the text but on the other hand a discussion based on a book paves the way for each reader's experiences to come to the forefront. Louise Rosenblatt argued, that reading is a transaction between the reader and the written text. There is meaning only if the reader interacts with the text.

A text is merely ink on paper until the reader evokes meaning from it. - Louise Rosenblatt,1938,25

Louise Rosenblatt (1978) differentiates between two types of readers-

a) The one who reads for information- This kind of reader is likely to look for more information to supplement the story.

b) The reader who reads for an aesthetic experience- in other words this reader is keen to feel the emotions that the author has wanted to convey. This kind of reader is likely to emote very differently. The writing style for one needs to strike a chord with such a reader.

Both these kinds of readers are likely to react differently to the same book and hence a discussion would pave the way forward to the discovery of more than one perspective. This is an angle that a book summary simply cannot accomplish. Either because no one reads it or simply because it sounds boring.


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Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club for the 8-12 age group.

NEW!  Writing programs for the 8-12 age group- Young Writers' Club Jr.  

The Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.

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