Do you remember writing book reports as a kid? I do.
Do you remember what books you wrote about? I don’t.
Why is that?
Let’s be perfectly honest: A book report is boring with a capital B. They are boring to write, and I can assure you from a teacher’s point of view, they are boring to read. It’s really a shame, too, because more often than not, the books are wonderful!
Because a great book deserves a great project, we need alternatives to traditional book reports.
I remember squealing with joy as a new English teacher when I discovered this idea of outside-the-box book reports. My students did, too. Each time I gave an alternative book report assignment, excitement grew in the classroom with calls of “I’m going to choose this one!” and “I can’t choose. They are all so good!”
Over the years, I ate food that represented symbols, listened to monologues, watched skits, poured over diaries, and repeatedly saw students engaging, analyzing, and enjoying literature.
Now, as a homeschooling mom, I get to experience those same experiences and joy with my own children. Each time my daughter finishes a book from her BookShark Reading with History curriculum, she completes an alternative to a book report.
These creative projects allow her to deep dive a little more deeply into the novel and continue to build on all sorts of skills — all while having a lot of fun.
Sharing and discussing projects is one of the most important aspects of these alternate book reports. So encourage your student to talk about what they created, telling why and how it’s relevant to the novel they read. This might look like an informal presentation around the kitchen table or a more formal speech. Videotaping projects can also be a lot of fun and a great way for students to practice public speaking. (Try the You Should Read This! Book Chat project in spring 2021 as an example.)
I’ve also found children and teens relish being able to choose which project they do, so give them a list like the seven options below, and let them take the lead.
1. Write a New Ending or Fan Fiction
Does the book leave you hanging or wishing things worked out differently? Does it inspire you to write your own story?
Write an alternative ending to the novel you read. Make sure to include details from the original telling and change it in a way that makes sense.
You can also use the author’s style and writing to inspire your writing. Write a retelling of the story or create a spin-off from the perspective of a particular character's point of view.
2. Create a Game
Use the setting, conflicts, and characters to create a game. Using a favorite board or card game as inspiration, design the game board, questions, and even the game pieces to show your understanding of the novel and help others learn all about it.
3. Cook or Bake
There are many ways to go about creating a food project. Answer any of the following questions to get started.
If the main character were a food, what food would they be and why?
What do foods in the novel symbolize?
What recipes are important to the characters or culture?
You can also create an edible scene that's integral to the story. After you present it, you can eat it.
4. Pack a Suitcase
If a character from the novel was going on a trip, what would they take with them? Collect objects from around the house and put them in a suitcase. You can also make miniature versions or draw items on slips of paper and make a small suitcase.
These items might be things someone would truly put in a suitcase, like a favorite shirt, book, or journal, or they could be more figurative like the ocean, a pet, or a particular dream.
5. Interview a Character
The main character of a book has a lot to share. Secondary characters do too.
Choose a favorite character in the novel and interview them like one might for a magazine or news show. Write out questions and answers that show your understanding of the character.
6. Create a Graphic Novel or Comic Strip
Turn an important scene, your favorite part, or the entire novel (condensed) into a graphic novel or comic strip. Use artistic license and details from the text to create the characters, setting, and important details.
7. Create a Social Media Page or Profile
If a character in your novel had a Twitter or Instagram profile...
What would they post?
What types of things would they share?
Who would be their friends or followers?
What might their profile look like and say.
What hashtags would they use?
Create a social media profile (either digitally or on paper) for your character, using details from the novel to stay true to who they are.
Use these book-based project ideas to inspire your own alternatives to book reports. I bet your children can come up with brilliant project ideas on their own. The sky's the limit, and each book lends itself to different projects.
The books we read deserve projects that reflect the same delight we had when reading the intriguing characters, detailed settings, and twisting plot lines. You don’t have to settle for another dull book report!
SPRING 2021: Join the You Should Read This! Book Chats
Feb. 21, 2021 through April 3, 2021
The #youshouldreadhthis #bookshark book chats are another alternative to book reports that you can use in your homeschool. Read all about this online activity here and join in today. You and your child can both win prizes!
About the Author
Kelly left teaching middle and high school English to homeschool her children and reclaim how she and her family spent their time. Followers of interest-led learning, her family's days rarely look the same, but they tend to include a lot of books, art supplies, and time outside.
Kelly facilitates local writing circles for women and children and blogs about nurturing the love of learning on her blog, Curiosity Encouraged. She loves to journal, read memoirs, hike, and travel. She seeks quiet mornings and good coffee daily.