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How to Write the Best Book Report - With Examples
Specific tips for writing effective book reports.
Write better book reports using the tips, examples, and outlines presented here. This resource covers three types of effective book reports: plot summaries, character analyses, and theme analyses. It also features many specific examples of how to structure each type of report.
Writing a Book Report
Book reviews can take on many different forms. Three types of effective book reports are plot summaries, character analyses, and theme analyses . Writing a book review helps you practice giving your opinion about different aspects of a book, such as an author's use of description or dialogue. You can write book reports of any type, from fiction to non-fiction research papers, or essay writing; however, there are a few basic elements you need to include in order to convey why the book you read was interesting when writing a good book report.
Looking for printable book report outlines?
Our printable guide to writing a book report includes outlines, examples, tips, and all the elements your students need to write great book reports.
Always include the following elements in any book report:
The type of book report you are writing
The book's title
The author of the book
The time when the story takes place
The location where the story takes place
The names and a brief description of each of the characters you will be discussing
Many quotations and examples from the book to support your opinions
A thesis statement
The point of view of the narrator
Summary of the book
The main points or themes discussed in the work of fiction or non-fiction
The first paragraph (introductory paragraph), body paragraphs, and final paragraph
The writing styles of the author
A critical analysis of the fiction or non-fiction book
Three Types of Book Report Formats
A plot summary.
When you are writing a plot summary for your book report you don't want to simply summarize the story. You need to explain what your opinion is of the story and why you feel the plot is so compelling, unrealistic, or sappy. It is the way you analyze the plot that will make this a good report. Make sure that you use plenty of examples from the book to support your opinions. Try starting the report with a sentence similar to the following:
Try starting the report with a sentence similar to the following:
- The plot of I Married a Sea Captain , by Monica Hubbard, is interesting because it gives the reader a realistic sense of what it was like to be the wife of a whaling captain and live on Nantucket during the 19th century.
A Character Analysis
If you choose to write a character analysis, you can explore the physical and personality traits of different characters and the way their actions affect the plot of the book.
- Explore the way a character dresses and what impression that leaves with the reader.
- What positive characteristics does the character possess?
- Does the character have a "fatal flaw" that gets him/her into trouble frequently?
- Try taking examples of dialogue and analyzing the way a character speaks. Discuss the words he/she chooses and the way his/her words affect other characters.
- Finally, tie all of your observations together by explaining the way the characters make the plot move forward.
EXAMPLE Try starting the report with a sentence similar to the following:
- In the novel Charlotte's Web , by E. B. White, Templeton the rat may seem like an unnecessary character but his constant quest for food moves the plot forward in many ways.
Exploring the themes (or big ideas that run throughout the story) in a book can be a great way to write a book report because picking a theme that you care about can make the report easier to write. Try bringing some of your thoughts and feelings as a reader into the report as a way to show the power of a theme. Before you discuss your own thoughts, however, be sure to establish what the theme is and how it appears in the story.
- Explain exactly what theme you will be exploring in your book report.
- Use as many examples and quotations from the book as possible to prove that the theme is important to the story.
- Make sure that you talk about each example or quotation you've included. Make a direct connection between the theme and the example from the book.
- After you have established the theme and thoroughly examined the way it affects the book, include a few sentences about the impact the theme had upon you and why it made the book more or less enjoyable to read.
- In the novel Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry , by Mildred Taylor, the theme of racial prejudice is a major catalyst in the story.
No matter what type of book report you decide to write, ensure it includes basic information about the main characters, and make sure that your writing is clear and expressive so that it’s easy for audiences in middle school, high school, college-level, or any grade level to understand. Also, include examples from the book to support your opinions. Afterward, conduct thorough proofreading to complete the writing process. Book reports may seem disconnected from your other schoolwork, but they help you learn to summarize, compare and contrast, make predictions and connections, and consider different perspectives & skills you'll need throughout your life.
Looking for more writing resources? You can find them in our creative writing center .
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How to Write a Book Report
Use the links below to jump directly to any section of this guide:
Book Report Fundamentals
Preparing to write, an overview of the book report format, how to write the main body of a book report, how to write a conclusion to a book report, reading comprehension and book reports, book report resources for teachers .
Book reports remain a key educational assessment tool from elementary school through college. Sitting down to close read and critique texts for their content and form is a lifelong skill, one that benefits all of us well beyond our school years. With the help of this guide, you’ll develop your reading comprehension and note-taking skills. You’ll also find resources to guide you through the process of writing a book report, step-by-step, from choosing a book and reading actively to revising your work. Resources for teachers are also included, from creative assignment ideas to sample rubrics.
Book reports follow general rules for composition, yet are distinct from other types of writing assignments. Central to book reports are plot summaries, analyses of characters and themes, and concluding opinions. This format differs from an argumentative essay or critical research paper, in which impartiality and objectivity is encouraged. Differences also exist between book reports and book reviews, who do not share the same intent and audience. Here, you’ll learn the basics of what a book report is and is not.
What Is a Book Report?
"Book Report" ( ThoughtCo )
This article, written by a professor emeritus of rhetoric and English, describes the defining characteristics of book reports and offers observations on how they are composed.
"Writing a Book Report" (Purdue OWL)
Purdue’s Online Writing Lab outlines the steps in writing a book report, from keeping track of major characters as you read to providing adequate summary material.
"How to Write a Book Report" ( Your Dictionary )
This article provides another helpful guide to writing a book report, offering suggestions on taking notes and writing an outline before drafting.
"How to Write a Successful Book Report" ( ThoughtCo )
Another post from ThoughtCo., this article highlights the ten steps for book report success. It was written by an academic advisor and college enrollment counselor.
What’s the Difference Between a Book Report and an Essay?
"Differences Between a Book Report & Essay Writing" ( Classroom)
In this article from the education resource Classroom, you'll learn the differences and similarities between book reports and essay writing.
"Differences Between a Book Report and Essay Writing" (SeattlePi.com)
In this post from a Seattle newspaper's website, memoirist Christopher Cascio highlights how book report and essay writing differ.
"The Difference Between Essays and Reports" (Solent Online Learning)
This PDF from Southampton Solent University includes a chart demonstrating the differences between essays and reports. Though it is geared toward university students, it will help students of all levels understand the differing purposes of reports and analytical essays.
What’s the Difference Between a Book Report and a Book Review?
"How to Write a Book Review and a Book Report" (Concordia Univ.)
The library at Concordia University offers this helpful guide to writing book report and book reviews. It defines differences between the two, then presents components that both forms share.
"Book Reviews" (Univ. of North Carolina)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s writing guide shows the step-by-step process of writing book reviews, offering a contrast to the composition of book reports.
Active reading and thoughtful preparation before you begin your book report are necessary components of crafting a successful piece of writing. Here, you’ll find tips and resources to help you learn how to select the right book, decide which format is best for your report, and outline your main points.
Selecting and Finding a Book
"30 Best Books for Elementary Readers" (Education.com)
This article from Education.com lists 30 engaging books for students from kindergarten through fifth grade. It was written by Esme Raji Codell, a teacher, author, and children's literature specialist.
"How to Choose a Good Book for a Report (Middle School)" (WikiHow)
This WikiHow article offers suggestions for middle schoolers on how to choose the right book for a report, from getting started early on the search process to making sure you understand the assignment's requirements.
"Best Book-Report Books for Middle Schoolers" (Common Sense Media)
Common Sense Media has compiled this list of 25 of the best books for middle school book reports. For younger students, the article suggests you check out the site's "50 Books All Kids Should Read Before They're 12."
"50 Books to Read in High School" (Lexington Public Library)
The Lexington, Kentucky Public Library has prepared this list to inspire high school students to choose the right book. It includes both classics and more modern favorites.
The Online Computer Library Center's catalogue helps you locate books in libraries near you, having itemized the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries.
Formats of Book Reports
"Format for Writing a Book Report" ( Your Dictionary )
Here, Your Dictionary supplies guidelines for the basic book report format. It describes what you'll want to include in the heading, and what information to include in the introductory paragraph. Be sure to check these guidelines against your teacher's requirements.
"The Good Old Book Report" (Scholastic)
Nancy Barile’s blog post for Scholastic lists the questions students from middle through high school should address in their book reports.
How to Write an Outline
"Writer’s Web: Creating Outlines" (Univ. of Richmond)
The University of Richmond’s Writing Center shows how you can make use of micro and macro outlines to organize your argument.
"Why and How to Create a Useful Outline" (Purdue OWL)
Purdue’s Online Writing Lab demonstrates how outlines can help you organize your report, then teaches you how to create outlines.
"Creating an Outline" (EasyBib)
EasyBib, a website that generates bibliographies, offers sample outlines and tips for creating your own. The article encourages you to think about transitions and grouping your notes.
"How to Write an Outline: 4 Ways to Organize Your Thoughts" (Grammarly)
This blog post from a professional writer explains the advantages of using an outline, and presents different ways to gather your thoughts before writing.
In this section, you’ll find resources that offer an overview of how to write a book report, including first steps in preparing the introduction. A good book report's introduction hooks the reader with strong opening sentences and provides a preview of where the report is going.
"Step-by-Step Outline for a Book Report" ( Classroom )
This article from Classroom furnishes students with a guide to the stages of writing a book report, from writing the rough draft to revising.
"Your Roadmap to a Better Book Report" ( Time4Writing )
Time4Writing offers tips for outlining your book report, and describes all of the information that the introduction, body, and conclusion should include.
"How to Start a Book Report" ( ThoughtCo)
This ThoughtCo. post, another by academic advisor and college enrollment counselor Grace Fleming, demonstrates how to write a pithy introduction to your book report.
"How to Write an Introduction for a Book Report" ( Classroom )
This brief but helpful post from Classroom details what makes a good book report introduction, down to the level of individual sentences.
The body paragraphs of your book report accomplish several goals: they describe the plot, delve more deeply into the characters and themes that make the book unique, and include quotations and examples from the book. Below are some resources to help you succeed in summarizing and analyzing your chosen text.
Plot Summary and Description
"How Do You Write a Plot Summary?" ( Reference )
This short article presents the goals of writing a plot summary, and suggests a word limit. It emphasizes that you should stick to the main points and avoid including too many specific details, such as what a particular character wears.
"How to Write a Plot for a Book Report" ( The Pen & The Pad )
In this article from a resource website for writers, Patricia Harrelson outlines what information to include in a plot summary for a book report.
"How to Write a Book Summary" (WikiHow)
Using Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as an example, this WikiHow article demonstrates how to write a plot summary one step at a time.
Analyzing Characters and Themes
"How to Write a Character Analysis Book Report" ( The Pen & The Pad )
Kristine Tucker shows how to write a book report focusing on character. You can take her suggestions as they are, or consider incorporating them into the more traditional book report format.
"How to Write a Character Analysis" (YouTube)
The SixMinuteScholar Channel utilizes analysis of the film Finding Nemo to show you how to delve deeply into character, prioritizing inference over judgment.
"How to Define Theme" ( The Editor's Blog )
Fiction editor Beth Hill contributes an extended definition of theme. She also provides examples of common themes, such as "life is fragile."
"How to Find the Theme of a Book or Short Story" ( ThoughtCo )
This blog post from ThoughtCo. clarifies the definition of theme in relation to symbolism, plot, and moral. It also offers examples of themes in literature, such as love, death, and good vs. evil.
Selecting and Integrating Quotations
"How to Choose and Use Quotations" (Santa Barbara City College)
This guide from a college writing center will help you choose which quotations to use in your book report, and how to blend quotations with your own words.
"Guidelines for Incorporating Quotes" (Ashford Univ.)
This PDF from Ashford University's Writing Center introduces the ICE method for incorporating quotations: introduce, cite, explain.
"Quote Integration" (YouTube)
This video from The Write Way YouTube channel illustrates how to integrate quotations into writing, and also explains how to cite those quotations.
"Using Literary Quotations" (Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison)
This guide from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writing Center helps you emphasize your analysis of a quotation, and explains how to incorporate quotations into your text.
Conclusions to any type of paper are notoriously tricky to write. Here, you’ll learn some creative ways to tie up loose ends in your report and express your own opinion of the book you read. This open space for sharing opinions that are not grounded in critical research is an element that often distinguishes book reports from other types of writing.
"How to Write a Conclusion for a Book Report" ( Classroom )
This brief article from the education resource Classroom illustrates the essential points you should make in a book report conclusion.
"Conclusions" (Univ. of North Carolina)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center lays out strategies for writing effective conclusions. Though the article is geared toward analytical essay conclusions, the tips offered here will also help you write a strong book report.
"Ending the Essay: Conclusions" (Harvard College Writing Center)
Pat Bellanca’s article for Harvard University’s Writing Center presents ways to conclude essays, along with tips. Again, these are suggestions for concluding analytical essays that can also be used to tie up a book report's loose ends.
Reading closely and in an engaged manner is the strong foundation upon which all good book reports are built. The resources below will give you a picture of what active reading looks like, and offer strategies to assess and improve your reading comprehension. Further, you’ll learn how to take notes—or “annotate” your text—making it easier to find important information as you write.
How to Be an Active Reader
"Active Reading Strategies: Remember and Analyze What You Read" (Princeton Univ.)
Princeton University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning recommends ten strategies for active reading, and includes sample diagrams.
"Active Reading" (Open Univ.)
The Open University offers these techniques for reading actively alongside video examples. The author emphasizes that you should read for comprehension—not simply to finish the book as quickly as possible.
"7 Active Reading Strategies for Students" ( ThoughtCo )
In this post, Grace Fleming outlines seven methods for active reading. Her suggestions include identifying unfamiliar words and finding the main idea.
"5 Active Reading Strategies for Textbook Assignments" (YouTube)
Thomas Frank’s seven-minute video demonstrates how you can retain the most important information from long and dense reading material.
Assessing Your Reading Comprehension
"Macmillan Readers Level Test" (MacMillan)
Take this online, interactive test from a publishing company to find out your reading level. You'll be asked a number of questions related to grammar and vocabulary.
"Reading Comprehension Practice Test" (ACCUPLACER)
ACCUPLACER is a placement test from The College Board. This 20-question practice test will help you see what information you retain after reading short passages.
"Reading Comprehension" ( English Maven )
The English Maven site has aggregated exercises and tests at various reading levels so you can quiz your reading comprehension skills.
How to Improve Your Reading Comprehension
"5 Tips for Improving Reading Comprehension" ( ThoughtCo )
ThoughtCo. recommends five tips to increase your reading comprehension ability, including reading with tools such as highlighters, and developing new vocabulary.
"How to Improve Reading Comprehension: 8 Expert Tips" (PrepScholar)
This blog post from PrepScholar provides ideas for improving your reading comprehension, from expanding your vocabulary to discussing texts with friends.
CrashCourse video: "Reading Assignments" (YouTube)
This CrashCourse video equips you with tools to read more effectively. It will help you determine how much material you need to read, and what strategies you can use to absorb what you read.
"Improving Reading Comprehension" ( Education Corner )
From a pre-reading survey through post-reading review, Education Corner walks you through steps to improve reading comprehension.
Methods of In-text Annotation
"The Writing Process: Annotating a Text" (Hunter College)
This article from Hunter College’s Rockowitz Writing Center outlines how to take notes on a text and provides samples of annotation.
"How To Annotate Text While Reading" (YouTube)
This video from the SchoolHabits YouTube channel presents eleven annotation techniques you can use for better reading comprehension.
"5 Ways To Annotate Your Books" ( Book Riot )
This article from the Book Riot blog highlights five efficient annotation methods that will save you time and protect your books from becoming cluttered with unnecessary markings.
"How Do You Annotate Your Books?" ( Epic Reads )
This post from Epic Reads highlights how different annotation methods work for different people, and showcases classic methods from sticky notes to keeping a reading notebook.
Students at every grade level can benefit from writing book reports, which sharpen critical reading skills. Here, we've aggregated sources to help you plan book report assignments and develop rubrics for written and oral book reports. You’ll also find alternative book report assessment ideas that move beyond the traditional formats.
Teaching Elementary School Students How to Write Book Reports
"Book Reports" ( Unique Teaching Resources )
These reading templates courtesy of Unique Teaching Resources make great visual aids for elementary school students writing their first book reports.
"Elementary Level Book Report Template" ( Teach Beside Me )
This printable book report template from a teacher-turned-homeschooler is simple, classic, and effective. It asks basic questions, such as "who are the main characters?" and "how did you feel about the main characters?"
"Book Reports" ( ABC Teach )
ABC Teach ’s resource directory includes printables for book reports on various subjects at different grade levels, such as a middle school biography book report form and a "retelling a story" elementary book report template.
"Reading Worksheets" ( Busy Teacher's Cafe )
This page from Busy Teachers’ Cafe contains book report templates alongside reading comprehension and other language arts worksheets.
Teaching Middle School and High School Students How to Write Book Reports
"How to Write a Book Report: Middle and High School Level" ( Fact Monster)
Fact Monster ’s Homework Center discusses each section of a book report, and explains how to evaluate and analyze books based on genre for students in middle and high school.
"Middle School Outline Template for Book Report" (Trinity Catholic School)
This PDF outline template breaks the book report down into manageable sections for seventh and eighth graders by asking for specific information in each paragraph.
"Forms for Writing a Book Report for High School" ( Classroom )
In this article for Classroom, Elizabeth Thomas describes what content high schoolers should focus on when writing their book reports.
"Forms for Writing a Book Report for High School" ( The Pen & The Pad )
Kori Morgan outlines techniques for adapting the book report assignment to the high school level in this post for The Pen & The Pad .
"High School Book Lists and Report Guidelines" (Highland Hall Waldorf School)
These sample report formats, grading paradigms, and tips are collected by Highland Hall Waldorf School. Attached are book lists by high school grade level.
"Book Review Rubric Editable" (Teachers Pay Teachers)
This free resource from Teachers Pay Teachers allows you to edit your book report rubric to the specifications of your assignment and the grade level you teach.
"Book Review Rubric" (Winton Woods)
This PDF rubric from a city school district includes directions to take the assignment long-term, with follow-up exercises through school quarters.
"Multimedia Book Report Rubric" ( Midlink Magazine )
Perfect for oral book reports, this PDF rubric from North Carolina State University's Midlink Magazine will help you evaluate your students’ spoken presentations.
Creative Book Report Assignments
"25 Book Report Alternatives" (Scholastic)
This article from the Scholastic website lists creative alternatives to the standard book report for pre-kindergarteners through high schoolers.
"Fresh Ideas for Creative Book Reports" ( Education World )
Education World offers nearly 50 alternative book report ideas in this article, from a book report sandwich to a character trait diagram.
"A Dozen Ways to Make Amazingly Creative Book Reports" ( We Are Teachers )
This post from We Are Teachers puts the spotlight on integrating visual arts into literary study through multimedia book report ideas.
"More Ideas Than You’ll Ever Use for Book Reports" (Teachnet.com)
This list from Teachnet.com includes over 300 ideas for book report assignments, from "interviewing" a character to preparing a travel brochure to the location in which the book is set.
"Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report" (National Council of Teachers of English)
In this PDF resource from the NCTE's English Journal, Diana Mitchell offers assignment ideas ranging from character astrology signs to a character alphabet.
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Writing a Book Report
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This resource discusses book reports and how to write them.
Book reports are informative reports that discuss a book from an objective stance. They are similar to book reviews but focus more on a summary of the work than an evaluation of it. Book reports commonly describe what happens in a work; their focus is primarily on giving an account of the major plot, characters, thesis, and/or main idea of the work. Most often, book reports are a K-12 assignment and range from 250 to 500 words.
Book reviews are most often a college assignment, but they also appear in many professional works: magazines, newspapers, and academic journals. If you are looking to write a book review instead of a book report, please see the OWL resource, Writing a Book Review .
Before You Read
Before you begin to read, consider what types of things you will need to write your book report. First, you will need to get some basic information from the book:
- Publisher location, name of publisher, year published
- Number of Pages
You can either begin your report with some sort of citation, or you can incorporate some of these items into the report itself.
Next, try to answer the following questions to get you started thinking about the book:
- Author: Who is the author? Have you read any other works by this author?
- Genre: What type of book is this: fiction, nonfiction, biography, etc.? What types of people would like to read this kind of book? Do you typically read these kinds of books? Do you like them?
- Title: What does the title do for you? Does it spark your interest? Does it fit well with the text of the book?
- Pictures/Book Jacket/Cover/Printing: What does the book jacket or book cover say? Is it accurate? Were you excited to read this book because of it? Are there pictures? What kinds are there? Are they interesting?
As You Read
While reading a work of fiction, keep track of the major characters. You can also do the same with biographies. When reading nonfiction works, however, look for the main ideas and be ready to talk about them.
- Characters: Who are the main characters? What happens to them? Did you like them? Were there good and bad characters?
- Main Ideas: What is the main idea of the book? What happens? What did you learn that you did not know before?
- Quotes: What parts did you like best? Are there parts that you could quote to make your report more enjoyable?
When You Are Ready to Write
Announce the book and author. Then, summarize what you have learned from the book. Explain what happens in the book, and discuss the elements you liked, did not like, would have changed, or if you would recommend this book to others and why. Consider the following items as well:
- Principles/characters: What elements did you like best? Which characters did you like best and why? How does the author unfold the story or the main idea of the book?
- Organize: Make sure that most of your paper summarizes the work. Then you may analyze the characters or themes of the work.
- Your Evaluation: Choose one or a few points to discuss about the book. What worked well for you? How does this work compare with others by the same author or other books in the same genre? What major themes, motifs, or terms does the book introduce, and how effective are they? Did the book appeal to you on an emotional or logical way?
- Recommend: Would you recommend this book to others? Why? What would you tell them before they read it? What would you talk about after you read it?
Do a quick double check of your paper:
- Double-check the spelling of the author name(s), character names, special terms, and publisher.
- Check the punctuation and grammar slowly.
- Make sure you provide enough summary so that your reader or instructor can tell you read the book.
- Consider adding some interesting quotes from the reading.
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How to Write a Book Report
Last Updated: August 13, 2023 References
This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 1,394,202 times.
Writing a book report may not seem fun at first, but it gives you a great chance to really understand a work and its author. Unlike a book review, a book report requires that you give a straightforward summary of the text. Your first step is to pick up the book and start reading. Take detailed notes and annotations as you go along. These will help you to build a solid outline, which will make the writing process much easier.  X Research source
Researching and Outlining Your Report
- For example, you’ll need to find out if your teacher wants you to include citations, such as page numbers from the book, in your paper.
- It’s also a good idea to ask your teacher how much of your paper you should devote to summary versus analysis. Most book reports are direct summaries with only a few opinions mixed in. In contrast, a book review or commentary is more opinion-driven.
- Read in stretches with breaks in between to keep your attention sharp. Try to find a pace that is comfortable for you. If you get distracted after 15 minutes, read in 15-minute intervals. If you can go an hour, read for an hour at a time.
- Make sure to give yourself enough time to get through the entire book. It’s very difficult to write a book report if you’ve just skimmed over everything.
- Don’t trust online book summaries. You can’t guarantee that they are accurate or true to the text.
- For example, look for a sentence that clearly describes a main setting in the book, such as, “the castle was gloomy and made out of large black stones.”
- When you are finished with your outline, go back through it to see if it makes sense. If the paragraphs don’t flow into one another, move them around or add/delete new ones until they do. Also, check to see if your outline covers all of the major elements of the book, such as the plot, characters, and setting.
- Outlining does take a bit of time, but it will save you time in the editing stage.
- Some people prefer to outline with pen and paper, while others just type up a list on the computer. Choose the method that works the best for you.
- Be careful not to overuse quotes. If it seems like every other line is a quote, try to dial back. Aim to include a maximum of one quotation per paragraph. Quotes and examples should still take a backseat your summary.
- For example, you’ll likely need to focus primarily on discussing the most important characters or the characters that appear most frequently in the text.
Writing the Body of Your Report
- For example, a sentence summary might state, “This book is about the main character’s journey to Africa and what she learned on her travels.”
- Don’t take up too much space with your introduction. In general, an introduction should be 3-6 sentences long, though in rare cases they may be shorter or longer.
- Use vivid language when you can and plenty of details. For example, you might write, “The farm was surrounded by rolling hills.”
- For instance, if the main character moves to Africa, you might describe what happens before the move, how the move goes, and how they settle in once they arrive.
- For example, you might write that the main character of the book is, “a middle-aged woman who enjoys the finer things in life, such as designer clothes.” Then, you could connect this to your plot summary by describing how her views change after her travels, if they do.
- Character introduction will likely happen in the same sentences and paragraphs as plot introduction.
- For example, you might write, “The author argues that travel gives you a new perspective. That is why her main characters all seem happier and more grounded after visiting new places.”
- For a fiction work, watch to see if the author is using the story to pass along a certain moral or lesson. For example, a book about a fictional underdog athlete could be used to encourage readers to take chances to pursue their dreams.
- For example, an author who uses lots of slang terms is probably going for a more hip, approachable style.
Finishing Up Your Report
- Some teachers require, or strongly suggest, that you include the author’s name and title in your concluding paragraph.
- Don’t introduce any new thoughts in this final paragraph. Save the space for your recap.
- Before you submit your paper, make sure that you’ve spelled the author’s name and any character names correctly.
- Don’t trust your computer’s spell check to catch any errors for you.
- For example, you might say, “It would be great if you could go over my report and make sure that it reads smoothly.”  X Research source
- For example, double-check that you are using the correct font, font size, and margins.
Sample Book Report and Summaries
- Even though your book report is your own work, avoid using “I” too much. It can make your writing feel choppy. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- It might be tempting to watch the movie or read the online notes, instead of reading the book. Resist this urge! Your teacher will be able to tell the difference. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Stealing or using another person’s work is considered plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Make sure that the your that you submit is all your own. Thanks Helpful 27 Not Helpful 4
- Give yourself plenty of time to write your report. Don’t wait until the last minute or you may feel rushed.  X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/703/1/
- ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 24 July 2020.
- ↑ https://www.time4writing.com/writing-resources/writing-a-book-report/
- ↑ https://takelessons.com/blog/steps-to-writing-a-book-report
- ↑ https://www.teachervision.com/writing/writing-book-report
- ↑ https://www.infoplease.com/homework-help/homework-center-writing-book-report
- ↑ https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-write-a-great-book-report-1857643
- ↑ http://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/style_purpose_strategy/book_reports.html
About This Article
To write a book report, start by introducing the author and the name of the book and then briefly summarizing the story. Next, discuss the main themes and point out what you think the author is trying to suggest to the reader. Finally, write about the author’s style of writing, paying particular attention to word choice and the overall tone of the book. For tips on editing and polishing your paper before turning it in, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Book reports may be a staple of elementary and middle school education, but they are far less frequently assigned in the higher grades. High school ELA teacher Nancy Barile thinks that should change. Students in 6th grade and above can learn a lot when they are challenged to use higher order thinking skills to understand and interpret the literature they read via a good old-fashioned high school book report template.
To start, Barile recommends that students choose the books they want to write about themselves—with teacher approval, of course. See the book list at the end of this article for engaging young adult titles and book report ideas, including books with thematic elements that are particularly appealing to older readers.
Writing the Report
To structure the book reports, Barile recommends eight sections of analysis that will “require students to provide evidence of their choices and reasoning, which helps them think more deeply about what they have read.” For each section, students should give examples from the book to back up their analysis. The below book report template can help.
If your students need to review the elements of fiction before beginning this assignment, Teaching Powerful Writing is a great resource. This collection of personal narratives and writing activities highlights different writing techniques and covers literary elements such as voice, using flashback, and point of view.
Book Report Breakdown
Students should identify the setting of the novel and explain why the setting is important.
- How are the time and place significant to the events of the story?
- How does the setting contribute to the overall meaning of the novel?
Beginning with the protagonist and then moving on to the supporting characters, students should discuss the characterizations in their novel.
- Is the character well-developed, or are they a stock or stereotypical character?
- Is the character static (unchanging throughout the story) or dynamic (changes by the end of the novel)?
- What personality traits does the character possess, and how does this affect the outcome of the novel?
- Do the character's inner thoughts and feelings reflect their outward actions? Explain.
3. POINT OF VIEW
Students should identify the novel’s point of view and why it is significant.
- What advantages does telling the story in (first person/second person/third person) have? Why?
- Why do you think the author chose this point of view?
What is the primary conflict in the novel? Is it human vs. human, human vs. nature, human vs. society, or human vs. themselves? Your students should delve into conflict much more deeply than they may have in the past. If their story has more than one major conflict, they should detail the additional conflicts as well.
- Explain the conflict and how the protagonist deals with it.
- Does the protagonist overcome the conflict? Or do they succumb to it?
Students should identify the theme of the novel and the specific meaning of the book they chose. They should avoid stock themes such as “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and think more critically on their author’s message.
- What was the author’s purpose in writing the book?
What are the symbols in the novel and how are they significant?
- How do the symbols help develop the story and contribute to the overall meaning of the book?
Students should identify the foreshadowing in their novel and give examples from the text.
- Did you know what was going to come? Why?
- Were there any hints as to what might occur?
- Why do you think the author chose to use or not use foreshadowing?
Finally, students should evaluate the ending of the book.
- Was the ending justified? (Was the ending viable and believable?)
- Was it a satisfactory ending that fit the rest of the novel?
- Was there a catharsis of some kind? Explain.
If your students follow this structure in their book report, it will help them explore each of the elements of fiction in a very specific way. As Barile discovered in her decades of teaching: “Students who explain, interpret, and synthesize what they have read gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of literature.”
Shop great classroom titles for book reports below! You can find all books and activities at The Teacher Store .
Book Report: Definition, Guidelines, and Advice
Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms
- An Introduction to Punctuation
- Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
- M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
- B.A., English, State University of New York
A book report is a written composition or oral presentation that describes, summarizes , and (often, but not always) evaluates a work of fiction or nonfiction .
As Sharon Kingen points out below, a book report is primarily a school exercise, "a means of determining whether or not a student has read a book" ( Teaching Language Arts in Middle Schools , 2000).
Characteristics of a Book Report
Book reports generally follow a basic format that includes the following information:
- the title of the book and its year of publication
- the name of the author
- the genre (type or category) of the book (for example, biography , autobiography , or fiction)
- the main subject, plot , or theme of the book
- a brief summary of the key points or ideas treated in the book
- the reader's response to the book, identifying its apparent strengths and weaknesses
- brief quotations from the book to support general observations
Examples and Observations
- "A book report is a way for you to let others know about a book you have read. A good book report will help others decide whether they want to read the book or not." (Ann McCallum, William Strong, and Tina Thoburn, Language Arts Today . McGraw-Hill, 1998)
- Contrasting Views on Book Reports - "Keep in mind always that a book report is a hybrid, part fact and part fancy. It gives hard information about the book, yet it is your own creation, giving your opinion and judgment of it." (Elvin Ables, Basic Knowledge and Modern Technology . Varsity, 1987) - "Your instructor may occasionally assign a book report . A book report is to be sharply distinguished from a research paper , for it deals with one book in its entirety—not with certain aspects of several books and documents . . .. The book report is also to be clearly distinguished from a book review or a critical essay , for it merely reports on a book without undertaking to compare it with other books or to pass judgment on its value." (Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, Modern Rhetoric . Harcourt, 1972) - "A book report is a summary of the contents, plot , or thesis of a particular book, . . . preceded by a full bibliographical citation . The writer of a book report is not required to evaluate the author, although he oftentimes does so." (Donald V. Gawronski, History: Meaning and Method . Sernoll, 1967)
- Quick Tips "I'll give you some tips on how to write a good book report right now. "Tell the name of the book. Tell the name of the author. The Wizard of Oz was written by L. Frank Baum. "Tell if you think he's a good writer. Tell the names of all the characters in the book. Tell what they did. Tell where they went. Tell who they were looking for. Tell what they finally found. Tell how they treated each other. Tell about their feelings. "Tell that you read some to your sister. Tell that she liked it. "Read some to a friend. Then you can even tell that your friend liked it." (Mindy Warshaw Skolsky, Love From Your Friend, Hannah . HarperCollins, 1999)
- Problems Associated With Book Reports "Typically a book report is a means of determining whether or not a student has read a book. Some teachers also consider these reports as a major part of their composition program. However, there are several problems associated with book reports. First, students can generally find out enough about a book to write a report without actually reading it. Second, book reports tend to be boring to write and boring to read. The writing is usually uninspired because students have no ownership of the task and no commitment to it. Furthermore, book reports are not real-world writing tasks. Only students write book reports." (Sharon Kingen, Teaching Language Arts in Middle Schools: Connecting and Communicating . Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000)
- The Lighter Side of Book Reports "I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia." (Woody Allen)
- How to Write a Great Book Report
- The Definition of a Review in Composition
- What Is a Synopsis and How Do You Write One?
- Hispanic and Latino Heritage Books for Kids and Teens
- 50 General Book Club Questions for Study and Discussion
- 10 Steps to Writing a Successful Book Report
- The Difference Between an Article and an Essay
- What Is Prose?
- Genres in Literature
- A Review of Accelerated Reader
- How to Design a Book Cover
- How to Write a Critical Essay
- 20 Book Activities to Try With Grades 3-5
- How to Find Trustworthy Sources
- Recommend a Good Book to Me
- Creative Nonfiction
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A panoply of teaching resources.
How to Write a Book Report
Book reports in the esl class.
Asking ESL students to read a book, write a report and present it as part of a small group discussion is a good way to incorporate multiple strands of language learning into an activity. Here’s one way to structure a book report lesson.
Step 1. Introduce the Assignment
A book report lesson has several stages. Steps 1 and 2 need to be completed in class several weeks before the due date.
What will the students do?
Each student will choose a level-appropriate book. They will read it and write a 1 to 2 page report. Then they will discuss the book in a small group. In small groups, students will listen and, hopefully, ask lots of questions to learn more or clarify points.
Reading level-appropriate books is a good way to improve English language skills. It builds vocabulary and helps students learn new ideas. If students read a lot, they will learn to read faster as well.
The activities in this lesson also touch on the four strands of language learning popularized by Paul Nation:
- Fluency development: reading an easy graded reader
- Meaning focused input: reading a book, listening to a short presentation
- Meaning focused output: writing a report, giving a short presentation
- Language focused learning: memorizing parts of the book report before giving a presentation
What book should the student choose?
There are two rules.
- The book should be interesting to the student. It should be a fun and enjoyable experience. Reading shouldn’t feel like work.
- The book should match the student’s reading level. Don’t try to read a book that is too hard to understand.
Graded readers are usually a good choice for ESL students. They are not too long and it is easy to find a subject and level that matches the student’s interests and needs.
How to find a book that matches my level?
Graded readers usually have a number which shows their level. But, different companies have different ways to rank a book. So, it’s hard to make sense of the level just by looking at the number on the cover.
Here’s an easy solution.
Pick a book that looks interesting and open it up to a page, say page 12. Read the page. If you understand 95% of the words without a dictionary, that level is probably good for you.
Is this for a grade?
In my class, the book report assignment is 10% of the final grade. My grading system is rudimentary. Some teachers may prefer a more developed rubric.
5% – written report
- 4-5: Good text that covers all of the book report items with reasonably good passages, evidence of proofreading
- 3-4: Looks promising but seems rushed and incomplete, looks like it was written the night before with no editing
- 0-2: poor effort, incomplete, less than a page, hard to understand, gibberish
5% – oral presentation and participation in group discussion
- 4-5: speaks well, at least 2 to 4 minutes, good eye contact with others, knows the book and can speak about it without reading notes, asks thoughtful questions to other speakers
- 3-4: basic outline of book, some reading of written text, unable to answer questions in detail, not active in discussions
- 0-2: incomplete, no evidence the person actually read the book, short presentation, minimal participation in group discussion
Step 2. Book Report Structure
A book report will have these basic parts.
- Introduction. Tell us the title of the book and the author’s name.
- Summarize the characters and setting.
- Describe the plot. This is where the action is.
- The end. What happened?
- What is the tone of the book? Is it funny, creepy, an adventure, or a mystery?
- What are the book’s good and bad points?
- What do you think? Did you like the book? Why or why not?
Are you reading a book of fiction?
- Tell us who is telling the story. Is it first person or third person?
- Give us some details about the main characters, plot and setting. What do the main characters want? Do they have a problem? What do they do? Don’t need to talk about every small detail, just include the most important information.
Are you reading a non-fiction book?
- What is the writer’s main idea?
- Don’t summarize each chapter. Just talk about the main points.
Step 3. Collect Book Names
After the lesson introduction, give students a week to find a book. Then ask students to bring the book to class. Write down each student’s name and book title. This is a small step, but a deadline helps motivate students to take action.
Be sure to set a firm deadline to complete the written book report. Three to six weeks after introducing the assignment should be sufficient for most students.
Step 4. Book Discussion Day
Break class into small groups. (e.g. 3 to 4 students per group).
In turns, each student will present his/her book report. The others listen and ask questions. Encourage students not to read from their written report (it’s too boring for the others).
As students present, the teacher moves through the room listening to the presentations.
Make notes about the quality of each student’s presentation, level preparation and participation in group discussions.
At the end of class, students hand in their written reports. One week later, hand back reports with feedback.
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Writing a Book Report
Our Writing a Book Report lesson plan teaches students how to more effectively write book reports. It teaches students to analyze literature and condense its themes and major points into a cohesive and clear report.
Our Writing a Book Report lesson plan combines multiple skills needed for effective written communication and provide reading and comprehension practice for young students. Writing a book reports allows students to summarize, state opinions, and identify key information in written format from what they’ve read. During this lesson, students are asked to work with a partner to write a book report on an assigned book, using guided questions to figure out what information they need to include. Students are also asked to reiterate the 5 steps to writing a book report learned in this lesson.
At the end of the lesson, students will have learned the steps to independently write a book report, including format, summarizing key points, and explaining why they enjoyed the book.
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This is a really fun Introduction to Book Reports.
I have been looking for resources to introduce book reports to my kids. I am so glad that I found this lesson. The story that is read by Al Gore is interesting even for older children. And the entire lesson plan is engaging and interesting. I really appreciate how the lesson breaks down the main points of a book report into steps that are easy to learn for the students. I really enjoyed this lesson, and my kids did as well.
It is a very useful supplement to my son's writing.
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Book Report Writing
Book Report Writing Guide - Outline, Format, & Topics
16 min read
Published on: Jul 16, 2019
Last updated on: Dec 19, 2022
On This Page On This Page
A book report is a specific kind of report that the student writes after reading a book. It is different from a book review and is less detailed than it. It is a short explanation or summary of the content of a book and informs the readers about the main theme and central storyline of the chosen book.
Unlike a book review that is longer and more detailed, the purpose of writing a book report is to summarize what happened in the story. It should contain an overview of why you chose this specific novel, along with your thoughts about how it might have been improved or changed if given different circumstances.
However, no matter how simple it may seem, students often find it difficult when it comes to writing a report. Keep on reading the blog to know how to come up with a strong and effective report.
A book report is an informative piece of writing that summarizes the book and presents some brief analysis of its main elements like plot, setting, characters, tone, and background of the story.
This could be either fiction books or nonfiction, so there are many ways of presenting this information depending on your personal preferences.
Some course instructors may ask students to add relevant themes of the book and plot elements into their reports. But on a very basic level, a book report is an extremely simple form of a book review.
How does book report writing benefit you? Writing reports help students to improve their analytical and communication skills. Besides, they also practice expressing their thoughts and ideas about the different aspects of the book they read.
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Book Report vs. Book Review - How do they Differ from Each Other?
‘How is a book report different from a book review?’
Book reports and book reviews look similar. However, a book review requires in-depth analysis as compared to a report.
Both of them share some common traits, but we will discuss them later. We will discuss the differences before moving to the similarities. Since many students are confused between these two, it is important to discuss the differences first.
Here are some key factors that make them different from each other.
A book report is similar to a summary and can be used interchangeably. In contrast, a review requires you to analyze the contents of the material in order for your readership to know about it better.
You will need to examine its contents, understand what's going on with the plotline or main message of this piece--whether or not if the author has managed to communicate his thoughts well enough.
You will analyze both strong and weak points before giving an opinionated conclusion.
What are the SImilarities between Book Report and Book Review?
Here are the things that are added in both a book report and a book review.
- Bibliographic details
- Background of the author
- The recommended audience for the book
- The main subject of the book or work
- Summary of the work and the only difference is that in the review, a critical analysis is also added
Due to the similarities, many students think that both of these are the same. It is wrong and could cost you your grade.
How to Write a Book Report?
You should take care of some important things when writing a book report. If the essay is not what your instructor wanted, then it will get you no good grades. It will be no more than a waste of time.
Planning ahead from the beginning can help ensure success. Therefore, make sure that you plan your report before you start writing it.
Here are the pre-writing steps that are essential for a successful report.
How to Start a Book Report?
Starting a writing or other project is more important than completing it. After all, how will you be able to complete and submit a good book report without starting one? The steps involved at the beginning of your paper are different from those needed for formatting the essay later on.
The preliminary steps help keep you focused so that even if your motivation starts waning near the end, you will know what's left undone.
Below are the steps involved in starting your book report:
1. Pick the Book Carefully
Picking the right book is a crucial part of your writing process. Some teachers assign you books, and there's nothing you can do about it. However, if given a choice to pick out any type of novel for yourself, choose the one that suits your interests the best.
Everyone has different preferences regarding what types of novels they like reading, so make sure you choose the one that interests you.
2. Read the Book Properly
You cannot write a good and A-grade worthy report without reading it. Many students think that reading the summary, notes, and details online is enough, but this is not the right way of doing it.
Reading is important because otherwise, you will not be able to get to the depth of the story, which is necessary for writing the report.
3. Note Down Important Points
When reading the book, note down all the important points and incidences in your notebook. No other method is as useful as the good old paper and pen method. Make notes and keep them with you for quick reference.
4. Gather the Important and Relevant Quotes
Relevant and strong quotations from the book will add weightage to your book report and help you give your point of view in a better manner. Gather the quotes that are relevant to your report’s theme and idea.
These will also help you when you write your personal evaluation, as you could add them to prove your point and analysis.
5. Create the Outline for your Book Report
An outline is important for a good and strong book report. When making the outline, make sure that you add all the important points to it. An outline helps the writer stay organized and focused on the points and content that he is working on.
6. Write your Book Report
After you have completed all the steps above, start writing your book report. Stay focused on the points and quotes that you have gathered and follow the outline closely. Usually, it includes both basic information of the book and its complete analysis.
How to write a report for college and high school levels? Follow the same steps because the outline and format stay the same; only the book and the added details will be different.
Book Report Format
A book report format is different from a book review, and when writing one, as a writer, you should make sure that you follow the right format.
Studying the format and working according to it is important if you do not want to waste your time and effort.
Follow the steps below to learn the basic book report format and how to draw an outline according to it.
A general book report format looks like this.
- Add the title of the book, the author of the book, and the number of pages.
- Identify and mention the type of book. For example, modern realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, folktale, fantasy, etc.
- 2-3 sentences about each.
- Both of their physical and personality traits.
- Discuss the book's setting and mood.
- Goals of the character.
- Conflict or conflicts in the story?
- Type of conflicts and their results.
- Theme and message of the book.
- What did you like and disliked about the book? Explain everything here.
Following this format will make sure that you write a great report every time and earn an ‘A’ grade easily.
How to Write a Book Report Outline?
A book report outline includes everything from the introduction to details of different main aspects and opinions of the book. An outline is an important part of the writing process. It shapes your work and helps you stay focused.
Here are the things you must consider and take care of when making the outline for your book report.
‘How to write a book report introduction?’
The introductory paragraph should be about what you found interesting about the book. It could be facts that are not common knowledge, which is why you chose to read it.
Here are some examples that you can use to make your book report’s introduction interesting.
- Was the book a bestseller?
- Did someone well-known write the book?
- Are there unusual facts or circumstances that might interest people in your writing?
Since book reports could be personal also, it is okay to state any personal reasons you have for choosing the book.
- The Main Body
In the body of your report, tell what the book is about. This shows that you have read and understood it perfectly. Here are the things that you should add in the body paragraphs.
- Summary - Begin by explaining the overview of the book. This includes the setting, the time period, main characters, and plot of the story. Is it a thriller or a horror story? Tell your reader about it.
- Character Details - Discuss the major and minor characters here and explain the major conflicts they are dealing with.
- Plot Analysis - Instead of telling everything, focus on the main points that helped to shape the storyline. Discuss the main highlights, strengths, and weaknesses of the plot and explain the literary devices also.
- Conclusion & Personal Evaluation
Your final paragraph is the perfect opportunity to express your thoughts about the book. It's time for you, as an avid reader and critic of literature, to give your honest opinion of this work.
In what ways does it succeed? What are its weaknesses? Does it provoke any thoughts or emotions in you - did reading this make you laugh or cry while also teaching something new that expands your understanding?
Your readers want to know if they should read this book or not, give them the right reasons.
- Revision and Editing
Always revise your report before handing it in. You have a chance to fix the things such as getting the quotes right or making sure that the statements are clear. After formatting as per your instructor's guidelines, make any necessary changes before handing in your work.
Creating a book report outline before writing the report is necessary and important. It helps you in staying organized and completing your report on time.
How to Write a Book Report for High School?
Follow these steps to write a book report for high school:
- Read the book thoroughly and with purpose.
- Make an outline before writing the report as a pre-writing step.
- Follow the guidelines and the given format to create the title page for your report.
- Add basic details in the introduction of your book report.
- Analyze the major and minor characters of the story and the role they play in the progress of the story.
- Analyze the major and significant plot, events, and themes. Describe the story and arguments and focus on important details.
- Conclude by adding a summary of the main elements, characters, symbols, and themes.
How to Write a Book Report for College Level?
Here is a college book report template that will help you format and write your report.
- Know the assignment and book details and make sure that you follow them properly.
- Read the book properly and note down important details about the plot, characters, and theme.
Example: “The book “The Big Sleep” written by Raymond Chandler and published in 1988 (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) is a detective book. It talks about the deteriorating morals of the society, as a side effect of capitalism or consumer culture.”
Example: The narrative is set in the 1930s, when LA was a dark and treacherous city full of rain-soaked crime. Detective Philip Marlowe becomes connected to a wealthy family who has been keeping some pretty big secrets from him. He meets the Sternwood sisters and uncovers the dark secrets of the family.
Example: Marlowe's adventures with the Sternwood family start when he is invited to solve Vivian and Carmen’s case. Marlowe realizes that it was actually Carmen who killed her missing relative, while Vivian covered up her crime. Her attempt on his life fails miserably due to an expertly anticipated move by Marlowe.
- The concluding part is the final part of the report. Here, you will summarize the story and mention the weak and strong points. Unlike a review, a book report is simple and includes a summary only.
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How to Write a Nonfiction Book Report?
Writing a book report on a work of fiction is easier than writing one on a nonfiction book. But what if you have to write a report on a nonfiction book? You can do some simple things that will help you write the report and maybe even make it fun.
Here are the important steps to write an engaging nonfiction book report.
- Carefully read the book you have chosen or been assigned. It is a good idea to mark pieces of information that you can use in your report. This will help you write a better report.
- The introduction should have the author's name, year of publication, and reason for writing the report. The first sentence should be interesting and the main theme of the novel should be summarized in a few sentences.
- Ideally, the body section includes 3 paragraphs. Instead of adding all the details, it is better to stick to important details and include those in the report.
- Conclude the book with your personal opinion, if you have managed to come up with any. Would you recommend it? Mention the reasons here.
Writing a nonfiction book report could be challenging. You will have to stick to factual details and will have less freedom to express your views. Following these steps will help you do it easily.
How to Write a Book Report without Reading the Book?
No time to read the book? Here are the steps to write a book report without reading the entire book.
1. Consult a Summary Website - A number of websites do the reading for you. You can check and consult some of those websites and read the summaries and text analyses given by them.
2. Stick to Significant Details Only - Instead of trying to add everything in your report, stick to important details only. Choose 2 to 3 important details and talk about them.
3. Work with a Writing Service - Working with a writing service is a smart and effective way of submitting your report on time. Choose a professional writing service and work with it.
4. Try to Discuss a Different Angle - Try to find out what your peers are working on and discuss a different angle. How will you stand out if you have discussed the same things as your classmates? Be unique and add an extraordinary angle to your report.
Though writing a book report without reading the book is hard, you can do it by following the above steps.
Book Report Templates for Different Grades
Students studying at different levels have different skills and ability levels. Here is how they can write book reports for their respective academic levels.
How to Write a Book Report for an Elementary School?
The following are some book report templates that you can use for your primary or elementary school.
How to Write a Book Report for Middle School
Here are the templates that you can use to write your middle school book report.
Book Report Examples
Before heading towards the writing process of your book report, it is a good idea to have a look at some of the book report examples.
Book Report of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Book Report of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Book Report Ideas
Basic ideas include presenting your narrative and analysis in simple written and file form, while more creative ideas include a fun element.
Here are some creative and artistic book report ideas you can choose from.
- Clothes Hanger Book Report
- Paper Bag Book Report
- Cereal Boxes
- Triorama Book Report
- File Folding Book Report
- Watercolor and Rainbow Book Report
- Character Enactment Book Report
- Small Tin Boxes Book Report
- Interview the Characters Type Book Report
- Pumpkin Book Report
Some notable books to choose from for your book report writing assignment are mentioned below:
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
- James and the Giant Peach
- The Silent Patient
- Sons and Lovers
- Cry Silent Tears
- The Hunger Games
- The White Tiger
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist
- The Mueller Report
- The Minority Report
Good and well-written book reports introduce the book and explain its main themes and points briefly. There is a fine line between giving just enough details and giving away the entire book, and a good report maintains this distinction.
Working with a top essay writer service will help you understand this difference and compose a great report easily. If you are still not sure about how to write a book report that will help you earn an A, then you should consider taking help from a professional essay writer.
Order now from the top essay writing service and get your book report before the deadline.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the parts of a book report.
A book report often contains different sections that describe the setting, main characters, and key themes of the story. A common type is an expository one which details what happened in detail or discusses how people feel about it.
Is a report a summary?
No, a summary is more detailed than a book report. A book report is usually based on a short summary of the book, while a standalone summary is more detailed and could have headings, subheadings, and supporting quotes.
How many paragraphs should be included in a book report?
The book report is a typical assignment in middle and high school, usually with one introduction, three body, and one conclusion paragraph.
The number of paragraphs could vary depending on the academic level, with an expert or professional book report having more than three body paragraphs.
How long is a book report?
It should not exceed two double-spaced pages, be between 600 and 800 words in length. Your book report is a written reflection on the content of a novel or work of nonfiction.
How do you end a book report?
Sum up your thesis statement and remind the readers of the important points, one final time. Do not add any new ideas or themes here and try to leave a lasting impression on the reader.
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Dr. Barbara is a highly experienced writer and author who holds a Ph.D. degree in public health from an Ivy League school. She has worked in the medical field for many years, conducting extensive research on various health topics. Her writing has been featured in several top-tier publications.
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How to Write a Book Report in English – The Best Step by Step Guide
For most college students, writing a book report is not an easy job. It always scares them when students are asked to write a book report as an assignment. Because it requires them to concentrate for long enough and think deeply and analytically about what they have read in the book. But you do not need to worry because if you follow a proper step-by-step guide, you will soon learn how to write a book report easily.
What is a Book Report?
A book report is a certain kind of assignment that students are asked to write after reading a book. It is a piece of writing that summarizes any book and tells about the theme, characters, plot, and background of the book briefly. So, you can write a book report for both fiction or a non-fiction book. Besides, there are several ways you can present the information which totally depends upon your personal choice.
Moreover, writing a book report is helpful in improving student’s reading skills and their analytical skills. Besides, they can also learn how to present their point of view while writing a book report.
Book Report vs Book Review
Even though a book report and book review may sound the same, they are very different pieces of writing. A book review is more of an in-depth analysis of a book than a book report. So, book reports are usually less detailed. The important differences between a book report and a book review are:
- A book report is usually 200 to 250 words long while a book review could be 1000+ words long. Besides, the length of a book review depends upon the difficulty of the literature of the book.
- A book report is usually an assignment for lower academic level students such as K-12. On the other hand, a book review is usually assigned to college students.
- A book report features the book’s main details such as the theme, the key characters, and plot. But a book review has more details such as the writer’s personal opinions too.
- However, the format and the structure of both of them do not differ a lot. They both include the setting, the plot, the author, main characters, publication, theme, and genre.
How to Write a Book Report
Now that you know what a book report is and what are the differences between a book review and a report, you are good to start learning how to write a book report. So, follow the steps below to learn how to write a book report.
Step 1: Read Carefully and Take Notes
The first thing you do is select a book you want to write a report on. In most cases, the teacher assigns the book to you. Otherwise, choose a book that interests you. Next, start reading the book carefully, highlight key ideas and take notes. You can note down all the important points, ideas, and quotes on a piece of paper. This will be very helpful once you start writing your book report.
Moreover, writing down important quotes and points will make your book report more vivid. Besides, this will also help you share your point of view easily and in a better way.
Step 2: Create an Outline
Creating an outline is extremely important for writing an impressive book report. And it helps you to stay organized while writing your book report. Thus, after you have read your book and taken notes, you are ready to start writing your book report. But first, you should create the outline. An easy and simple outline for a book report is given below.
- Introductory paragraph
- Character details
- Plot details
- Conclusion and personal evaluation
Step 3: Write Your Book Report
Once you have successfully read your book, took notes, and created an outline, you should start making the first draft of your book report. Meanwhile writing concentrate on the points and notes that you have taken. Besides, it is okay if you make spelling mistakes or there are any syntax errors.
The first paragraph of a book report includes all the basic information such as the book title, the author name, the genre, the publication, the year it was published, and much more. This paragraph is also essential as it can help you to build the interest of the reader. Therefore, try to include any interesting or unusual facts about the book or the author if there are any. For instance, the reader would want to know if the book was a bestseller or if the writer has any specialty in the subject.
Moreover, you can also add your personal view about why you chose to read this particular book because book reports are personal too.
What is the Book about?
Next, it is time to tell the reader that you have read the book and have been able to understand it well enough. In the body of your book report, you will explain whatever you have read in the book but briefly. This is where your notes will be most helpful. Because they will give you a roadmap as to what to include and what is essential to include in the book report. The body of a boo report includes:
- character details
- plot details
You begin writing the body of a book report by giving an overview of the book. It includes the plot of the story, setting, time period, and the main character of the book. Besides, you also tell your reader the tone of the story in the summary; whether it is an adventure, science fiction, or thriller.
Next, you should tell your reader who are the characters of the book and what issues or problems they have faced in the story. And you can also describe the characters by telling your reader their main strengths and weaknesses you have learned while reading the book.
Meanwhile writing your plot details, do not write everything. You just need to include plots and events that are essential to mention. Otherwise, a background to the story would also be enough. So, focus on the main events that take place in the story. Moreover, do not forget to explain the literary devices as well.
Conclusion and Personal Evaluation
The last paragraph is quite fun to write. Because it is where you include your personal views and thoughts. Here you can add your personal critic including the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Moreover, you can also detail such as what are your takeaways from the book, did the book provoke any certain emotions in you (in the case of fiction), and much more.
Step 4: Finally, Review and Edit
Lastly, this is where you refine your draft. Reread and check your book report for errors and gaps that you need to fill. You can check if you have correctly quoted the quotes or if the details are correct or not. You can also ask your friends to help you in this process. They can read your draft and give their feedback. So, that you can fill the gaps in your draft before you hand in your book report to your teacher.
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Her students reported her for a lesson on race. Can she trust them again?
Mary wood’s school reprimanded her for teaching a book by ta-nehisi coates. now she hopes her bond with students can survive south carolina’s politics..
CHAPIN, S.C. — As gold sunlight filtered into her kitchen, English teacher Mary Wood shouldered a worn leather bag packed with first-day-of-school items: Three lesson-planning notebooks. Two peanut butter granola bars. An extra pair of socks, just in case.
Everything was ready, but Wood didn’t leave. For the first time since she started teaching 14 years ago, she was scared to go back to school.
Six months earlier, two of Wood’s Advanced Placement English Language and Composition (AP Lang) students had reported her to the school board for teaching about race. Wood had assigned her all-White class readings from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” a book that dissects what it means to be Black in America.
The students wrote in emails that the book — and accompanying videos that Wood, 47, played about systemic racism — made them ashamed to be White, violating a South Carolina proviso that forbids teachers from making students “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress” on account of their race.
Reading Coates’s book felt like “reading hate propaganda towards white people,” one student wrote.
At least two parents complained, too. Within days, school administrators ordered Wood to stop teaching the lesson. They placed a formal letter of reprimand in her file. It instructed her to keep teaching “without discussing this issue with your students.”
Wood finished out the spring semester feeling defeated and betrayed — not only by her students, but by the school system that raised her. The high school Wood teaches at is the same one she attended.
It had been a long summer since. Wood’s predicament, when it became public in a local newspaper, divided her town. At school board meetings, and in online Facebook groups, the citizens of wealthy, White and conservative Chapin debated whether Wood should be fired. Republican state representatives showed up to a June meeting to blast her as a lawbreaker. The next month, a county NAACP leader declared her an “advocate for the education of all students.” The county GOP party formally censured the school board chair for failing to discipline Wood.
Wood’s case drew national, polarizing attention. Conservative outlets and commentators decried Wood’s “ race-shaming against White people .” Left-leaning media declared her a martyr to “ cancel culture ,” the latest casualty of raging debates over how to teach race, racism and history that have engulfed the country since the coronavirus pandemic.
South Carolina is one of 18 states to restrict education on race since 2021, according to an Education Week tally . And at least half the country has passed laws that limit instruction on race, history, sex or gender identity, per a Washington Post analysis . Wood is not the first teacher to get caught in the crossfire: The Post previously reported that at least 160 educators have lost their positions since the pandemic due to political debates. Among them was a Tennessee teacher who was terminated for telling White students that White privilege is a fact. A Texas principal who lost his job for allegedly promoting critical race theory. And a Wisconsin teacher who was dismissed after criticizing her district’s decision to ban the song “Rainbowland,” which lauds inclusivity.
The months Wood had hoped to spend hiking, doing yoga and vacationing carefree on the beach turned into a summer spent avoiding people’s gazes at the grocery store and the gas station.
Now she had to go back to school. Which meant confronting the conundrum she had avoided all summer.
Wood believes trust is fundamental to the classroom. She has to trust her students. They and their parents have to trust her. But trust, she believes, is impossible without authenticity. And for Wood, teaching authentically means assigning writers like Coates — voices unfamiliar, even disconcerting, to students in her lakeside town. Because of what happened last year, though, Wood now worried anything, from the most provocative essay to the least interesting comment about her weekend, might be resisted, recorded and reported by the children she was supposed to be teaching.
And if she couldn’t trust them, how was she supposed to make them trust her?
“I should probably head out,” Wood said to her husband, Ryan Satterwhite, glancing at the time on her oven’s digital clock: 7:38 a.m. But she didn’t move. “I just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“It’ll be fine,” Satterwhite told her, setting his mug down and crossing the room.
She looked up at him and placed a hand on his chest. They stood framed in the front window for a moment. He bent down to kiss her.
“Hopefully,” she said. Her mouth quirked into a half-smile, half-frown.
She readjusted her bag, gripped her car keys and walked out the door.
The first complaint didn’t alarm Wood.
It was early February. A day after she gave out copies of “Between the World and Me,” a mother emailed asking to speak about “an assignment.” Wood didn’t see it as different from the parental objections she was used to fielding in Lexington-Richland School District 5, which serves roughly 17,000 students and is about two-thirds White . In interviews, several teachers recalled dealing with opinionated Chapin parents who pushed back against lessons or for better grades.
Wood emailed, phoned and left a voice mail with the mom. “Please call me back,” she remembers saying. She figured they would chat and that would be the end of it.
Wood thought she was on safe ground. She had taught Coates’s book — and accompanying YouTube videos titled “ Systemic Racism Explained ” and “ The Unequal Opportunity Race ” — the year prior. No one complained.
She also counted on the fact AP Lang is supposed to be a high-level class. The College Board curriculum says it can address “issues that might, from particular social, historical, or cultural viewpoints, be considered controversial, including references to … races.” Wood’s supervisor, English department chair Tess Pratt, had signed off on Coates’s book. Plus, Wood had required AP Lang students to read a speech from former president Donald Trump , a balancing conservative voice.
And Wood believed the school district had come to accept her — respecting her students’ 80-plus percent AP exam passage rates year after year, above the national average — even if not everyone liked her methods. Chapin was her hometown. Chapin High School had been her school, the place she began to question the conservative, Christian views espoused by her classmates, friends and family.
No teacher ever assigned her someone like Coates, Wood said, but her father Mike Satterfield, a teacher and later principal at Chapin, encouraged her to pursue whatever outside reading she found interesting. That led her to left-leaning authors. By the time she graduated from University of North Carolina Wilmington, she was a self-professed liberal.
Satterfield capped his long career in education by winning a seat on the school board in November 2022 — and that made Wood feel safe, too. (Satterfield declined to comment beyond writing in an email that said: “I love my daughter very much and respect her for the person that she is.”)
She knew most students leaned right and guessed that many of her colleagues did, too, based on their social media presence and offhand remarks. The popular circles at school are red, current and former students said.
But amid a red sea, Chapin’s English department was a blue island. And Wood was known as the bluest of the bunch — conspicuous for decorating her classroom with posters of Malcolm X, Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes and LGBTQ pride stickers.
“She had that granola-crunchy vibe,” said a former Chapin teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional and personal retaliation. “It wouldn’t be difficult to guess how she votes walking into her room. I think that’s what made her a sort of lightning rod.”
Aubrey Hume, a recent Chapin graduate, recalls seeing the Malcolm X poster and immediately clocking that Wood thought differently from most people in town. She also taught Black, female and queer voices that most students never heard in other classrooms nor at home — which Hume said she liked. But other students didn’t.
“It was like, ‘Oh, I got Miss Wood, and now I have to scoff and roll my eyes because she’s going to teach me things I don’t want to learn,’” Hume, 18, recalled. “A lot of kids did not like her.”
Elizabeth Jordan, now 20, was one of those students. Raised in a conservative, Christian household, Jordan was unhappy to learn Wood would be her AP English teacher back in 2019, Jordan’s junior year.
At first, Jordan found Wood’s lessons unsettling — especially the classes focused on mass shootings or transgender rights, during which Wood held up left-leaning viewpoints for students’ inspection. Jordan could not understand why Wood was asking high-schoolers to discuss controversial current events.
“All I was thinking was, ‘This isn’t allowed, this just isn’t allowed,’” Jordan said. “Just because it was a complete 180 from anything I had known.” (South Carolina had not yet passed its legal restrictions on what teachers can say on these topics.)
Over the course of the year, though, Jordan’s opinion shifted. She noticed how students seemed to pay more attention in Wood’s class. She noticed that Wood never pushed students to adopt viewpoints but challenged them to account for their convictions. Now a junior in college, Jordan still remembers the debate that followed after a popular boy, the student body president, said transgender athletes should not be allowed to play sports.
“Okay,” Jordan recalls Wood saying, “can you explain that a little bit more?”
By 2023, when Wood assigned Coates, her strategy hadn’t changed: She still gave difficult texts about hot-button issues, convinced it was the best way to keep students’ attention — and teach them how to argue, an AP Lang exam requirement. She still demanded students consider novel perspectives, setting the essay question: “Explain Coates’ problem with America’s tradition of retelling history. Explain your support or disagreement with his position.”
For the two days Wood got to teach “Between the World and Me,” classroom discussions were lively and open, said Connor Bryant, 17, one of the students who took AP Lang last year. Bryant, whose father is a Chapin English teacher, said his peers debated systemic racism and what it’s like to be Black in America, agreeing and disagreeing with Coates, without Wood picking a side.
“She did a really good job of keeping things not boring,” Bryant said. “People spoke up and they had different opinions — I honestly didn’t hear a single complaint about the book from anyone.”
Still, Bryant did remember a handful of disengaged students in the back of the room. They whispered to each other during class.
As in years past, Wood’s style of teaching had left some students feeling uncomfortable. But this time, they didn’t come to respect her.
They reported her.
The student email arrived in school board member Elizabeth Barnhardt’s inbox at 8:51 p.m. on a Sunday, four days after Wood assigned “Between the World and Me.” The student thanked Barnhardt for “looking into this matter.”
“I understand in AP Lang we are learning to develop an argument and have evidence to support it, yet this topic is too heavy to discuss,” the student wrote, according to school records obtained by The Post. “ I actually felt ashamed to be Caucasian.”
Another student email followed at 9:35 p.m. “I feel, to an extent, betrayed by Mrs Woods,” the second student wrote. “I feel like she has built up this idea of expanding our mind through the introduction of controversial topics all year just to try to subtly indoctrinate our class.”
Especially troublesome, the student wrote, was one of Coates’s sentences stating: “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage.”
The student names were redacted from the emails obtained by Wood through a records request and provided to The Post. A parent who complained about Wood’s course to the school board did not answer a list of emailed questions. Barnhardt, who was endorsed by Moms for Liberty last year, did not respond to a request for comment.
“This topic is too heavy to discuss. I actually felt ashamed to be Caucasian.” — A student's email objecting to the teaching of Ta-Nehisi Coates's book “Between The World And Me.”
The following Monday afternoon, Wood had finished teaching and was preparing to leave school when she received a call from a school secretary. The woman told her she had an unscheduled meeting with Chapin’s assistant principal of instruction, Melissa Magee, and the district’s director of secondary instruction, Neshunda Walters, at 4 p.m.
The woman didn’t say what the meeting was about, but Wood guessed. She grabbed Pratt, the English department chair and one of her best friends, hoping for protection. And she pulled up the AP Lang course description on her laptop, figuring she might need it.
Wood and Pratt were kept waiting outside a conference room for over half an hour, they later recalled. Through a window in the door, Pratt said, she could see Magee and Walters sifting through pages of documents in a manila folder. Around 4:30, Wood and Pratt said, they were let into the room — but Walters dismissed Pratt over her protests, the department chair said. She kept waiting outside as Wood underwent what the English teacher later described as an interrogation.
A set of administrative talking points prepared ahead of the meeting, obtained through Wood’s records request and given to The Post, show that Magee and Walters were supposed to start by telling Wood her teaching had sparked “concerns.” They were supposed to mention the South Carolina policy against making students uncomfortable because of their race. They were supposed to remind her of school rules stipulating that “teachers will not attempt, directly or indirectly, to limit or control students’ judgment concerning any issue” — and that “the principal must approve supplementary materials” for classes.
They were supposed to “let her talk” about Coates’s book and her reason for assigning it. But the verdict was already determined: “This assignment could run in conflict with proviso and policies,” the talking points said. “We need to cease this assignment.” (It is unclear who wrote the talking points; the school did not answer a list of emailed questions about the document.)
Wood said the meeting proceeded almost exactly as the talking points laid out. She tried to defend herself. She cited the AP Lang course description, quoting the part that said it was okay for teachers to assign controversial texts. She said the purpose of the lesson was for students to hear a stimulating argument they could explore and critique.
Magee and Walters let her talk. After she finished, Wood recalls, Walters delivered a two-word order: “Pause instruction” related to Coates’s book. The district did not answer questions about the meeting nor make Magee or Walters available for interviews. Superintendent Akil E. Ross Sr. declined to discuss any aspect of Wood’s lesson or its fallout, noting the district does not comment on specific staff members or incidents.
Ross wrote in a statement that “we want our students to be critical thinkers with the ability to develop their own understanding of the world.” He added, “There will be times when students or parents disagree with issues discussed in class. The best way to resolve these matters is communication between the family and the teacher.”
The school gave Wood two days off teaching for “professional development,” she said, so she could come up with something to replace Coates’s book, which she was supposed to teach for the next three weeks. A substitute taught her classes in the meantime.
Wood struggled to figure out what to do. It was bad enough that she was supposed to overhaul a whole unit in two days. Worse, Wood said, Magee and Walters had revealed the complaints came directly from students — not parents, as was more usual. They wouldn’t say who, Wood said. They wouldn’t provide copies, not even anonymous ones.
Wood agonized over how to face her classroom again. She wasn’t angry with her students, she said. She expected high-schoolers to get upset about some of the things she taught. But before, teenagers and their parents had always brought their complaints to her. And she had always defused the situation.
What frustrated her now was that she’d been skipped over: The students had gone directly to the school board. And school officials were listening to the teens, not her.
“Taking the word of a couple of students over the professional integrity of a seasoned educator is damaging to the relationship between all parties involved,” she wrote in an email to her principal and the superintendent on February 8.
But most of all, she was scared.
“I didn’t know who did it,” Wood said. “And I — I didn’t know how to talk after that.”
“Taking the word of a couple of students over the professional integrity of a seasoned educator is damaging to the relationship between all parties involved.” — AP English teacher Mary Wood, in an email to her school authorities
She decided the safest course was to teach examples of old AP exam questions for the rest of the semester. She wouldn’t allow debate anymore. She wouldn’t so much as mention “Between the World and Me,” a decision reinforced by the letter of reprimand, which arrived in early March.
But her students still had copies of Coates’s book.
So, on her first day back, five other English teachers — including Pratt — walked with her to first period, AP Lang, which all of them had free. At a regular English department meeting that morning, Wood’s colleagues had decided to gather the books on her behalf. They also wanted to collect the titles as speedily and professionally as possible, Pratt recalled, to minimize stress and awkwardness for Wood and her students. They figured more teachers would pick up the books more quickly. The five teachers lined up near the door as students filed in. Wood sat behind her desk.
Once the last teen had sat down, Wood delivered three stilted sentences, screened and scrutinized by most of the English department in advance. Stripped of all possible controversy.
“We will no longer be reading this book,” she said, according to six people in the room and a contemporary, written account of the day’s events provided by Pratt. “We will be collecting it now. Please look at the Smart Board so that I can direct you to today’s lesson.”
The five teachers walked up the five aisles between students’ desks. They lifted copies of “Between the World and Me” from desks as they walked. Some students began rereading underlined or favorite passages as teachers approached, said Bryant, the AP Lang student.
A boy sitting next to Bryant had plastered his copy with what looked like five sticky notes per page. A teacher, Pratt, stood and waited until the boy had pulled out each note. It took almost half a minute.
“Looks like you wrote a lot,” Pratt remembers telling him.
A teacher placed the collected copies of the books on a shelf in the classroom. They remained there, untouched, until the last day of school.
On a steamy Monday afternoon in late June, Wood pulled up the live stream link for that month’s school board meeting. Her golden lab mix, Saint, and Yorkie poo, Happy, jumped onto the couch as she cast the meeting onto the television screen.
News of Wood’s canceled lesson had broken two weeks earlier in regional newspaper the State . She had mostly stayed inside the house since. She figured the board meeting, with its opportunity for public comment, was one way to take the temperature of the town.
The first speaker was a woman in a white striped dress, her blonde hair piled into a bun. She said South Carolina was making the news for the wrong reasons: “We now know that there have been teachings in a school, here in this district, of systemic racism. … This is not only inappropriate and divisive, this is illegal.”
Then came another woman, who declared herself “surprised to learn that this teacher is still employed.” Still another, who said she was a grandmother in the district, began by thanking the board: “You opened this meeting with a prayer. That was awesome. I hope that means we’re all Christians.” She, too, called for Wood’s firing. Watching, Wood recognized none of the women.
(The district declined to answer questions about Wood’s employment, but board members have previously said the power to punish teachers rests with school-level administrators. Wood said she has received no discipline beyond the reprimand letter.)
The fifth speaker was South Carolina State House Rep. Robert J. “RJ” May III (R), who had driven 30 minutes from his home near South Congaree to reach Chapin. In an interview with The Post, he said worried parents and students, some of them in Wood’s class, contacted him asking him to speak at the meeting.
He was happy to do it because he thinks Wood broke state law and acted outside the parameters of her job by assigning Coates’s book — which May said presents the author’s biased views of history as fact. He said books that deal with systemic racism should be taught in social studies, government or politics courses. If they are taught at all.
“We should be a colorblind society,” May said that night.
On her sofa, Wood shouted at the screen. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
The front door banged open behind her, admitting Summit, her 16-year-old son and a student at Chapin High. Turning to greet him, Wood saw his lips pressed into a line.
“What happened?” she remembers asking.
“Mom, did you break the law?” he said, according to his and Wood’s recollection of that night. “My friends called you racist.”
Wood told him that, sometimes, good people get bad information from the wrong places — like Fox News, popular in Chapin. Summit nodded, face tight. He said he’d tackled one of the students who called her racist and didn’t want to be friends with those people anymore.
“Mom, did you break the law? My friends called you racist.” — Summit Wood, 16, son of teacher Mary Wood
Wood knew the friend group he was talking about. They were all boys she liked: They’d eaten lunch in her classroom many times the year prior. She swallowed the hurt and told her son what she knew she should say.
“You can be friends with them,” she said. “You just have to talk to them about it.”
Summit considered. “All right,” he said after a moment, and went upstairs to play video games.
The board meeting on TV stretched onward. Speaker after speaker denounced her.
Wood didn’t sleep well that night. Or most of the summer.
A bright spot was the next school board meeting, in mid-July. This time, a dozen teachers and residents spoke out in Wood’s favor. Coates himself traveled to Chapin to meet her. They went out to dinner. Coates came with her to the board meeting, sitting silently in the back. He signed her copy of “Between the World and Me.” He told her he appreciated her courage, she said. (Coates did not respond to an interview request.)
She went on vacation to Ocracoke Island, N.C., in late July, where she tried to sum up her feelings in a journal entry.
“Teachers are afraid,” she wrote. “Teachers are silent. Teachers cave.”
As Wood pulled into the Chapin High parking lot on Aug. 7, her stomach twisted.
She wouldn’t have to face her students. It was a “professional development” week: Time for teachers to knock out trainings, organize their classrooms, prepare their lessons. But she did have to see her colleagues, many for the first time since her debacle went public.
Seven minutes before the start of school, sitting in her car, Wood texted another English teacher: “Will you walk in with me? I’m scared.”
The day went okay. At a welcome-back teacher breakfast, Wood nibbled on casseroles as her English department friends shared details of their summers: playing pickle ball, hiking in the High Sierras. She joked in reply that her own summer had been “pretty boring.”
She would be teaching AP Lang again. Her son, Summit, would be taking the class. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that.
She saw two students had requested to switch out of another English class she was teaching without sharing why. She wondered if it was because of what happened. A few teachers who she knows disagree with her politically didn’t respond when she said “Hi” to them in the hallways. She wondered, again, if it was because of what happened.
A week later, on the day students returned to campus, her phone buzzed with a text during morning assembly: “I love you,” Summit wrote. Then a second message: “Thanks for always doing what is right.”
Wood’s AP Lang class met in the early afternoon. At 1:15 p.m., as the last students settled into their chairs, Wood rose and introduced herself. She looked out at the 25 teens, spotting her son, three of his good friends, two children she’d taught before and three others who went to preschool with Summit. She told the room she grew up in Chapin, too.
Wood pulled out a plastic sandwich bag filled with shell fragments she collected on the beach in during her Ocracoke vacation. She gave the bag to a student and asked him to pass it around the room. She told each teen to take one.
The shells had once been whole, she said. Like a promise kept. A trust fulfilled.
But they broke. Maybe in stormy waters, or when they were dragged across the bottom of the ocean, or because a beachgoer stepped on them.
Sometimes, “we start to feel broken,” she said, “tossed around kind of like those shells. We’re chipped away at … broken from each other.”
She watched her students plunge their hands into the bag and fish for shells.
“But the thing is,” Wood said, “that’s not true.”
She hoped she was right.
Story editing by Adam B. Kushner. Photo editing by Mark Miller. Copy editing by Jeremy Hester. Design by Jennifer C. Reed.
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