RA 101: Talking to Teens About Books – Just the Basics

RA 101 is a monthly series in which we’ll discuss techniques and tips for doing Readers Advisory for teens, their guardians, and friends. Today I will be sharing goals you should keep in mind while doing RA, and introductory strategies for successful RA with youth. 

No matter what type of library setting you’re in, you will inevitably encounter teens, pre-teens, and/or their parents/guardians looking for books. They may want something fun to read, or they may need books for a school project. Most of my RA guidelines and tips will cover recommending books to teens for enjoyment only – although these tips could be used for research RA, as well.

When doing RA for teens you always want to keep some goals in mind, and this will help you have a different RA strategy for teens than for adults or kids, and will keep those teens coming back to you for more books.

The Goals of the Reference Interview for Readers Advisory:

  1. Determining what kinds of books the teen enjoys to read.
  2. Finding those books in your collection.
  3. Getting those books to the teen.
  4. Conveying an enthusiasm for the books you recommend, whether you have read them or not.
    1. The more familiar you are with a book, the more excited you should be about it!
  5. Having the teen take at least one (preferably 2) books home.
  6. Developing a connection with the teen and/or parent/guardian, to facilitate future interactions.

The Basics of Readers Advisory for Teens & Their Guardians:

  • Be enthusiastic!
    • Your passion for a book says more to the teen than any book talk, summary, or review ever could.
  • Don’t judge!
    • Your judgment can turn a teen away from reading entirely.
    • Don’t make specific comments about a book a teen is reading, mentioned having read, or wants to read, unless you are praising it.
    • Even then, be generic in your praise of a book or series.
  • Practice, practice, practice!
    • Do as much RA as possible.
    • Recommend YA books to adults as well as teens.
  • Whenever possible, talk directly to the teen.
    • However, do not exclude the parent from the conversation.
      • Always ask the parent/guardian about any restrictions on the teens’ reading – sex, drugs, violence, length, etc.
  • Even while talking to a parent/guardian, maintain a connection with the teen.
    • Keep eye contact, ask questions, and maintain a comfortable physical proximity.
  • Whenever possible, hand the books directly to the teen.
  • Be excited! Your enthusiasm for books means a lot to the reader.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share for doing RA for teens? Share them in the comments or on our Facebook page!

And stay tuned for next month’s RA post, which will discuss specific strategies for talking to parents about teen books, especially without the teen present.



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