How to write a book review, Part 1

Have you ever wanted to sing the praises of a book or other homeschool product you absolutely love? You may have found that it’s easy to fill your friends’ ears when you gather at park day, but if someone asks you to write up a review for your support group newsletter, you may have no clue how to go about it.

Or suppose you want to post a review in your blog.

Or maybe you want to assign a book review to one of your teens as a writing project.

No matter who’s writing it, you’ll need a different approach to review curriculum than if you were to review, say, a novel. But it’s easy—and fun—when you have a little formula to follow!

I’ve seen three different kinds of curriculum or book reviews. You’ll choose the one that best fits your experience with the product:

  • Neutral review. Having never used the materials, will you simply explain the method and approach?
  • Positive review. Based on what you’ve learned, will you also give your opinion?
  • Personal review. Have you actually used the material? Can you review it based on your own experience?

Regardless of the type of review you write, make sure you include some basic information to familiarize readers with the product’s key features.

Describe the Book or Product

Start off with the basics. First, what is this product? What does this product cover? What’s included? Is it complete on its own, or will the parent need to purchase additional components to complete it?

Second, is it a book? Workbook? Is it hardback, soft cover, or spiral bound? E-book/download? Computer program? CD/Video? Game or manipulative?

Explain How the Product Works

Describe its purpose. Tell how the instructions say to use it. Or, if you’re reviewing a product you’ve actually worked with, describe how you’ve used it with your own child.

Next, tell who the product targets. What age or grade? What educational method(s) will it appeal to? What type of learner might benefit from this product? Is it created for homeschool use? If not, is it easily adaptable to the homeschooling environment?

Express Your Opinion

If you’re reviewing a product you have not used personally and plan to give an opinion, what appeals to you about it? What makes you excited? What do you think your children would enjoy?

And if you’ve actually used the product, how did it work in your homeschool? What did you enjoy or appreciate? Did your kids like it? Be honest but try not to gush.

Make a Recommendation

Again, if you want to give a personal opinion, use your closing sentences to let your readers know if you would recommend this product. Would you buy it were it not already in your hands? Offer a professional review, one that is honest but not overly enthusiastic. After all, this isn’t meant to be a sales pitch.

Finally, close by providing contact information, including company name, website, email address, and phone number.

This is a simple way to get started writing a review. As you can imagine, it’s always easier to evaluate a book or product you’ve personally used. But eventually, you can begin having fun reviewing products you’ve never seen before! And if you’re giving an assignment to a teen, perhaps requiring both kinds of reviews will help strengthen some of her writing skills as well.

Next week I’ll give more details about writing a neutral product review, along with some examples to follow.

Enter a Book Review Contest! [Contest has ended]

Successful-Homeschooling.com is sponsoring a contest with an opportunity to win FREE books! For every qualified product review that you submit by September 21, 2008, you’ll have various opportunities to win up to $100 in Usborne books!

So now that you have some tools in your belt for writing a great product review, what are you waiting for? Click here for contest information.

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2 comments ↓

#1 How to write a book review, Part 3 — In Our Write Minds on 09.22.08 at 12:10 am

[…] a homeschool curriculum or textbook is different from reviewing a novel. In Part 1 of this series, I shared four basic steps to writing a homeschool book review, and Part 2 looked […]

#2 Homeschool Curriculum Reviews on 11.21.10 at 10:40 am

[…] Writing a review is as easy as writing an e-mail to a friend about a product you love. For tips on writing outstanding product reviews, check out Kim Kautzer of WriteShop’s 4-part series entitled, How to Write a Book Review. […]

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