cream-colored background with light peach and green geometric elements - Title and explanation - Moving Beyond the Boring Book Reports

Raise your hand if you loved writing book reports in school! No one? But how many book reports were you required to write? Too many, would be my guess.

Raise your hand if you love grading book reports as a homeschooling parent! Hmmm. No enthusiasm here, either? I wonder why not? And what about your kids? Do you think they get excited about writing book reports? (No answers needed!)

Book reports can be boring to write, boring to read, and horrible to grade. So, why do we ever inflict them on our kids (and ourselves)?

I suppose book reports have a purpose besides just creating more student assignments. Let’s look at the reasoning behind book reports and see if we can accomplish the same objective in other ways.

Reasons for Book Reports

Hopefully, there is a good reason behind every school assignment. I know our kids might tend to disagree, but each task given to our children should have a purpose. So, what’s the purpose of book reports? Let me propose a few reasons.

  • To prove they have read the book
  • To demonstrate an understanding of the book
  • To portray knowledge of the characters and plot of the book
  • To show understanding of the message(s) of the book, what points the author is trying to make through the book.
  • To voice their opinions about the book

All these reasons for writing book reports are valid ones. Still, I think both students and teachers will benefit from other methods of displaying that knowledge and understanding in ways different from the standard book report.

Dark green with brightly-colored school supplies. Large arrow overlay with title - Instead of Book Reports
Try these ideas instead of book reports

Options for Avoiding Book Reports

So, what assignments can we give our children besides book reports? What creative ways can they demonstrate their understanding of the book, its characters, the plot, and the book’s message? How can they express their opinions or ideas about the book? Here are multiple suggestions to consider when avoiding the book report.

  • Act out a scene or two from the book.
  • Pretend to be a journalist and write a book review for a newspaper or magazine.
  • Write copy for a book publisher to promote the book.
  • Create a diorama of an important scene from the book.
  • Write a character study of one or more of the main characters from the book.
  • Write the script for a talk show interview with a character from the book.
  • Create and explain something from the book, like a craft, recipe, experiment, or project.
  • Write a newspaper article about a significant event involving one of the characters from the book.
  • Create a job resume for a character from the book. List the character’s strengths and weaknesses, life experiences, and other qualities relating to his job application.
  • Create a series of Twitter posts for a character from the book. Be sure to include responses from other characters.
  • Draw comic strip sequences from scenes in the book.
  • Create illustrations for the book, especially if none are included.
  • Construct an illustrated timeline of events from the book.
  • Make a diagram showing how the different characters in the book are connected. Use the concept of mind mapping to illustrate the connections between all the characters in the book.

Any of these ideas can be great options to use instead of book reports. And these ideas may help you think of additional options for your kids. Some will work better for older kids, and others may work for younger children. And sometimes, we must see different possibilities to inspire our creativity! Be unique, use your kids’ interests and abilities, and you may surprise yourself with your ideas!

Suggestions for Assigning Options Beyond Book Reports

So, you are now convinced to ditch the standard book report for a more exciting or creative assignment. But how do you implement that? How do you create one of these alternate book report assignments? Here are some simple steps to follow as you make your new literature-response assignments or assessments.

Be familiar with the book.

Be sure you know what the book is about, why you are having your child read the book, who the main characters are, and what the book’s purpose is. After all, if you are going to grade the assignment, you need to know the answers first! (Hint: the easiest way to do all this is to read the book!)

Understand your objectives.

In other words, why are you having your child read this book? Is the book a literature classic? What messages does the text convey? Are you focusing on the characters of this story? Why did you choose this book? And then, what do you want your kids to get from the book? The assignment you make should reflect your objectives.

Consider giving a few options for the assignment.

Your kids are different; they have unique skills, abilities, and interests. So, give them assignment options that correlate to those differences. After you decide on the assignment objectives, give your kids various options that use different skill sets or abilities. Then, your child can choose the format he prefers.

Make your assignments specific.

When you plan your assignment, be specific. Be specific about the objective of the project and its expectations. Choose assignment options that relate to your goals, and then see that your child knows the assignment’s purpose. If you are focusing on the story’s characters, for example, then assigning a diorama will not accomplish your objective. Instead, a character interview might be a more appropriate option. Be sure your child understands what is expected of him.

Establish a grading rubric for the assignment.

Designing a grading rubric as you write the assignment will help you and your child. The grading rubric will help you remember the purpose of the project. It will also help you be more objective when you grade the assignment. Did your child follow the instructions? Did he satisfy all the expectations of the project?

A grading rubric will also help your child understand more fully what is expected. He can see, upfront, how much neatness counts towards his grade. She will have a better understanding of the format and content that is required to do well.

If you aren’t familiar with grading rubrics, you can learn about them here: How to Use a Grading Rubric.

Set deadlines or due dates.

Kids can get bogged down with projects. Some projects seem to take forever. And that is often our fault; we never specified deadlines or due dates. So, set up some reasonable deadlines for your kids. Here are some examples:

  • Finish reading the book.
  • Finalize your project idea and discuss it with mom.
  • Review a rough draft or outline of the project.
  • Set a date for the completion of the project.
  • If applicable, determine a presentation date.

While deadlines or due dates can be modified if necessary, insisting on deadlines helps to teach your children valuable life lessons. Life is full of deadlines: project deadlines at work, tax deadlines, bill payment due dates, etc. And failing to meet those deadlines can result in drastic consequences. So, teaching your kids about deadlines is a valuable lesson!

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Literature Assignments, but no Book Reports

A Quick Summary

While book reports have some admirable goals, they can easily be boring for students and teachers. Let’s skip the boring and accomplish the same objectives using more creative assignments.

By setting specific objectives and insisting on project deadlines, these book report alternatives can help your children enjoy reading and literature assignments.

I’m sure I did not list all the creative ideas for literature assignments! What have you done to replace book reports? What creative projects have you used? Feel free to share your thoughts with the rest of us!

Carol Rhine Rhine Home School Services

For more info about teaching reading and literature, consider the following posts:

How to Use a Grading Rubric

Develop a Love of Reading

How to Teach your Child to Read

How to Develop Reading Comprehension Skills

Looking for some Great Books for your Kids?

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