In a past life, I taught elementary language arts. One of the dreaded writing prompts that came up every year was, "How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich."
Of course it's a fairly ridiculous prompt. A toddler could practically make a PBJ. But the idea was that the kids could write the steps more clearly if they knew the task at hand well.
Looking back, I probably didn't make the why of the assignment clear. "She thinks we don't know how to make a peanut butter sandwich? Sheesh."
I'm hoping I won't insult your intelligence in a similar manner by writing the steps to reading a review. If you are an old hand at this, feel free to skip the rest of this post. If you are a new librarian, and a few time-saving steps to reading reviews may be helpful, read on!
How to read a review journal...
1. Begin by finding the section of the journal with reviews applicable to the grade levels or ages that you serve. For this example, let's say you're a middle school librarian with grades 6-7-8 at your campus.
2. First flip through the entire review section, glancing at the grade designations as you go.
3. Place an X through any review that doesn't include grade 6, 7, or 8. If the review is for grades 4-6, leave it for now. Ditto for a review of grades 8-up.
4. Go back to the first review without an X.
5. Read only the last line of this review. If it's a negative review, stop reading and put an X over it. You're not likely to order a book that's negatively reviewed, so this will save time. If you feel like this is slacking off, be my guest and read the negative reviews as well!
6. Move on to the next review, still reading only the last line.
7. Proceed in this fashion until only positive reviews for the grades at your campus are left.
8. Start at the first of these positive reviews and read the entire review carefully.
9. Circle the review if it sounds like a book that your students would enjoy or if it would be useful for the curriculum. You may need to be picky if your budget is tight. If so, pay particular attention to starred reviews.
10. Highlight the review and come back to it if you're not sure about the book. Sometimes it's helpful to seek out another review for these books on the bubble. OR your selection policy/guidelines may specify that you need more than one positive review before ordering a book.
11. Know the difference between selection and censorship (Not sure? Your gut or a trusted colleague can probably tell you).
12. Use the front cover of the journal to jot down the page number for the books you want to order.
13. Proceed until you've finished the journal.
14. Use the page numbers on the front of the journal for quick reference, and add these titles into your online ordering tool once you're sure of your selections.
15. Start over with the next journal in the same manner.
16. Transmit your online order when you've reached the desired dollar amount and you have a P.O. number. Remember to over order to account for fill rates.
17. Revel in the great new books when your order comes in.
18. Read, read, read.
19. Match the right book to the reader.
20. Realize that you'll make mistakes and order klunkers sometimes. The selection process will get easier as you go!
Disclaimer #1: Yes, I realize this method is not very techy. But I like working out of print journals in this way because they're so portable, and you can read a bit in line at the grocery store or at soccer practice.
Disclaimer #2: There are tons of ways to read a journal, but this happens to work for me. Other ideas? Share them here!