Your Roadmap to a Better Book Report
Why do book reports strike terror in the hearts of most students? Simply, writing a book report is not easy. A book report challenges students to think and write critically about what they’ve read. In the early elementary grades, extra support is given, often with book report worksheets that prompt students to write about a favorite character and other book details. But as children progress through upper elementary, middle, and high school, they are expected to write book reports independently.
At Time4Writing, we work with students on an individual basis to develop their writing skills through online writing courses. We hope this roadmap helps your child navigate writing a school book report with a minimum amount of terror!
How to Write a Good Book Report
Before you write, read. There’s no substitute for reading the book. Choose a book you’ll enjoy—reading should be fun, not a chore! Read with a pen and paper at your side. Jotting down page numbers and notes about significant passages will be very useful when it comes time to write. The next steps are to use a book report outline to organize what you’re going to say and then move into the introduction, body, and conclusion of your report.
Use a Book Report Outline
After reading the book, you are ready to start the writing process. When writing a book report, or when answering any writing prompt, you’ll find writing easier if you follow the proven steps of the writing process: prewriting, writing, revising, editing, and publishing.
In the first step, prewriting, you’ll plan what you want to say. An outline is a great prewriting tool for book reports. Start your book report outline with the following five ideas. Each idea should correspond to a paragraph:
2. Summary of Book
3. Book Details: Characters
4. Book Details: Plot
5. Evaluation and Conclusion
In organizing your thoughts, jot down a few ideas for each of these paragraphs. Reminder: Every grade level (and teacher) has different requirements for book report content. Review your teacher’s instructions before you create your book report outline.
Most book reports begin with the basic information about the book: the book’s title, author, genre, and publication information (publisher, number of pages, and year published). The opening paragraph is also your opportunity to build interest by mentioning any unusual facts or circumstances about the writing of the book or noteworthy credentials of the author. Was the book a bestseller? Is the author a well-known authority on the subject? Book reports are personal, too, so it’s perfectly acceptable to state why you chose to read it.
What’s the Book About?
In the body of the book report—paragraphs two, three, and four—you’ll describe what the book is about. This is your chance to show you’ve read and understood the book. Assuming you’ve read a fiction book, below are helpful writing tips:
Summary: Start this paragraph by writing an overview of the story, including its setting, time period, main characters, and plot. Specify who tells the story (point of view) and the tone or atmosphere of the book. Is it a creepy tale of suspense or a lighthearted adventure?
Character Details: In this paragraph, describe the main characters and identify the major conflict or problem the main characters are trying to solve. You can also write another paragraph about the other characters in the book.
Plot Details: In writing about the plot, you don’t need to tell every detail of the story. Instead, focus on the main sequence of events. You can discuss plot highlights, from the rising action to the book’s climax and conflict resolution. Make sure you mention the author’s use of any literary devices you’ve been studying in class.
Book Reports on Non-fiction
If you are writing a book report on a biography or other factual text, you’ll want to devote the body of your book report to a description of the book’s subject and the author’s points of view. Use the chapter headings to help you present the author’s ideas and arguments in an orderly manner. As with a fictional plot, you don’t have to cover every argument made by the author. Instead, choose the main ideas and the ones most interesting to you. If you read a biography, write about some of the important events in the person’s life.
Personal Evaluation and Conclusion
You’ll like writing the final paragraph because it is here that you’ll be able to offer your own critique of the book. What are the book’s strengths and weaknesses? Did the book hold your interest? What did you learn from the book? If you read a work of fiction, how did the book affect you? If you read non-fiction, were you swayed by the author’s arguments? Try to be balanced in your opinions, and support your statements with examples from the book. Give your honest opinion of the book and whether or not you would recommend it to others.
Revising, Editing, and Publishing
After you’ve drafted your book report, you’re ready to follow the next three steps of the writing process: revising, editing, and publishing. Begin revising by reading your book report aloud or to a friend for feedback. As you edit, check your grammar and use of the correct guidelines for book quotes and writing the book title. Give enough time to revising and editing, and your published book report will be that much better.
Book Reports: A Type of Expository Essay
A book report is usually written as an expository essay, although it can be written in other forms. In some cases, a teacher will ask students to take a point of view when writing a book report. Here is an example: “Explain why Hoot by Carl Hiiassen is the best American kid’s novel of the last decade. Please use examples.” This type of writing prompt requires a persuasive style of writing. Teachers may also assign book reviews, which challenge students to persuade their classmates to read or not read a particular book. If writing a book review, don’t reveal the ending!
Rely on Your Writing Training to Write Book Reports
Time4Writing’s online writing classes and one-to-one, teacher-led instruction help in building students’ writing skills. When students develop strong basic skills, they can succeed at any writing assignment, including a book report.
Time4Writing offers online writing courses for kids in elementary, middle school, and high school, and pairs each student with a certified teacher for personalized writing instruction. Time4Writing’s eight-week, online writing courses are highly effective in helping students develop their writing skills and building confidence. Find out how Time4Writing’s online writing classes can make a real difference in your child’s writing.
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