The Voice Method of Book Talking

The “Where Are The Books for 8th Graders?” panel at NCTE was packed. Who knew that educators were so hungry for books catered to their middle school readers?

We did. Authors knew.

One of the suggestions was a new way to Book Talk, specifically with 8th graders in mind. But, of course, this can be used for any age group.


The Voice method of Book Talking

Cite: Paula Chase, Author

Presented during NCTE – November 23, 2019

“Where Are The Books for 8th Graders?”

Panelists: Rebecca Ansari, Paula Chase, Jerry Craft, Laurel Snyder, Alicia Williams


Encourage middle school readers – especially 7th and 8th graders – to access the middle grade books available specifically for and to them.


Increase the number of middle school readers reading Upper MG/Lower YA


Believing that middle grade books are stylistically more elementary, most 13 and 14-year-old readers have moved on to Young Adult books. Even when the book has a 13-year-old main character, the covers tend to skew much younger in appeal.


Help readers find what appeals to them, in the book, without judging its cover.

The popular show, The Voice, took singing competitions in a new direction when it eliminated how a singer looks out of the equation. No more – you have a great voice but not the “look” for Pop music.

Judges competing for a singer, based purely on their singing ability or style, put the power of choice back in the Artist’s hand. Now, educators and librarians can do the same for reading.

Here’s how:

Identify books that you’d like to highlight. Remove their covers or replace them with plain paper.

Have a few students up as contestants “Judges” competing for the pleasure of reading each book, based solely on 3-4 elements about the book, including its genre. Have them turn their backs to you, only “turning their chair” for the book they’d like to read. Or have buzzers or a bell.

Read one element at a time, giving students a chance to decide if any one element appeals to them. If the book is lucky it’ll have more than one student who wants to read it.

Examples of pulling story elements from the book using So Done and Dough Boys.

So Done

  • Contemporary Realistic
  • Frenemy drama
  • Dance auditions
  • Terrible secrets between friends

Dough Boys

  • Contemporary Realistic
  • Friendship at a crossroads
  • Basketball action
  • Two friends caught up in hustling

There are plenty of variations on this. You could have the entire class compete at once, raising their hands for the books that sound interesting to them. Have fun with it.

Below is the handout provided at the NCTE workshop on November 23 – a partial list of books for middle school readers perfect to try out within the exercise (let’s help it grow):



Please share this far and wide. The creatives who were a part of this discussion, development of the list and ideas care about getting books into the hands of the readers. We only ask that you correctly cite the origin of the material you use. Please, and thank you.


One thought on “The Voice Method of Book Talking

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *