Book Review Purpose
There are many purposes for writing elementary student book reviews. One purpose would be for a librarian or teacher to discreetly gather information on student likes and dislikes in reading materials so that they may increase these items in the library and classroom library.
Another would be to facilitate student self-expression and evaluation and critiquing skills.
Having to think about what they have read enough to describe it, summarize it and then determine its value will also help foster comprehension and retention skills. Reading books they like will encourage them to read more, and telling their friends about the books they like will encourage their friends to read more which ultimately leads to an increase in vocabulary and other valuable tools.
Before the Review
Before writing, the children must be exposed to different literary genres so that they know what they are looking for when reading. If the book is non-fiction, for example, the student would need to look for evidence of citations and sources for factual information. A book that doesn’t have this, might not be a very reliable book for information, which would need to be noted in their review.
Fiction books on the other hand, would lead to more flexibility and creativity. Students would look for whether or not they could follow the plot and if it maintained their interest throughout. They would need to ask themselves whether they would read it again, if they would read the next book in the series or recommend it to a friend.
Students should be able to briefly summarize the book in their review without revealing an ending that would spoil it for the next reader. The purpose of the review is not to give the ending away, but to encourage or discourage someone else to read it. They will need to know persuasive writing techniques and justify their opinions, possibly connecting the book to their own lives. They should also discuss the purposes the book might serve such as helping children understand how it feels to be different, or how to practice safety when having an adventure.
Teachers will need to set up the purpose of the student book reviews and help the students come up with a class rating system that they will all understand. They can use the four star technique or create their own, but their review must match their rating of the book. Most of all, they must be told that a book review is an expression of their opinion, not fact. Their opinion will only be valued if it can be justified, and can only be justified if they have given it real thought. They can only give it real thought if they have really read the book. Their opinions have power if they know how to use them.