Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Book Reports

3 Steps to Better Book Reports


How to write book reports are not as hard as they seem; it’s like following a roadmap that teaches children to think analytically.

We receive frequent questions about book reports because many children do not like writing book reports.

One main reason is that most children are handwriting their book reports and, when it is necessary to make changes or corrections, they don’t like rewriting the whole report.

Handwrite the Outline

Students might be happier if they handwrite only their outline.

The outline should be the most serious part of the book report because the student needs to think about what main points he wants to make, and which examples will prove the main points.

In the first two quarters in the elementary levels, we give the students the main topics for the middle paragraphs, so the student needs only to find the examples to prove the main topic for each paragraph.

In the third and fourth quarters, the students need to produce their own main topics for each paragraph. These main topics should be the result of discussion with their mom or dad.

Prove Your Topic

Once the student has determined his main topics, then he must list the most important points or examples to prove his topic.

It is only after the student has worked with pencil or pen on paper to finalize the main topics that the student should then move to express his thoughts on the computer.

It is basic for any book report that it should be written and re-written at least three times. Great writers usually rewrite an article eight or nine times.

Because of the absolutely necessary rewriting process, this should be done on the computer. Students are more likely to correct and improve their report if it can be done on the computer.

The purpose of these book reports, besides reading good literature, is to help students analyze and come to conclusions about what they have read.

Seton provides topic sentences for the first two quarter book reports; we are convinced that this is the best way to help the students.

For the third and fourth quarter books, with the help of their parents, students can choose their own topic sentences.

In the first two book reports, students need to keep in mind the topics while they are reading, and mark the pages which show a conversation or an event that helps prove the point of the topics.

If the student has not understood the topics, or if the student is not marking the pages relating to the topics, parents need to help the student to go back and discuss the topics.

Discussion Is Essential

It is essential for parents to have a discussion with the student before the student begins the report, during the writing of the report, and again before the final report is sent to Seton.

The student should be able to explain in his own words the events in the book, and the reasons for his choices of examples for the main topics.

Children in the elementary grade levels usually cannot come to conclusions or recognize examples for their topics unless they are engaged in conversation, thus developing their thinking and reasoning skills with encouragement from their parents, or other adults.

A child learns more about his topics if he has discussed the points before he begins writing. He should be looking for points to prove the topics as he reads. He should discuss the points again with his parents after reading the book.

One way to help children develop their thinking and analysis skills is to discuss events in their daily lives or to discuss events that happen in the community.

Encourage your children to think about why things happen in relation to the baby, in relation to Dad and his work habits, in relation to grandparents and, for example, their visits to the doctor, and so on.

Encourage your children to think about and to explain why they have come to a particular conclusion.

Each day as your family reads the brief paragraph or explanation of the saint for the day, discuss the virtues of the saint and ask your children to give examples of how the saint “proved” that he exhibited certain virtues.

Help your child to understand that a book report is not supposed to be a listing of events but rather conclusions reached based on proofs that come from the thoughts, words, and actions of the characters in relation to events that happen in their lives.

Strengthening the Faith

This kind of higher level thinking becomes more important at the junior and senior high school grade levels, but it needs to be started in the very early years.

If a child attends a non-Catholic college, or works in a non-Catholic workplace, this kind of analytical thinking will be essential to keep their Catholic Faith intact and to keep practicing their Faith in spite of the secular chaos of the American culture.

In order to maintain sanity and clear thinking, to keep clear Catholic truths and values in spite of being surrounded by dishonesty and corruption, our children need to be taught not only Catholic values, but also clear thinking, great analytical skills, and expert writing skills.

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