A book report is an objective essay that informs readers of the story, characters and ideas of a particular title. While it might seem like a simple assignment, a book report can take numerous forms to fulfill high school English goals, such as reading and responding to writing, writing in different genres and evaluating different titles. Some potential forms for high school book reports include informative essays, reviews, character analyses and multi-genre projects such as newspapers.
In elementary and middle school, many teachers give students worksheets to fill out answering questions about a book. However, the traditional book report can be amended for the high school level by adding an audience analysis to these basic elements. According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab, academic book reports typically describe the audiences who would benefit most from reading it. Students can consider this same question as part of their informative essay. For example, a book report on "The Catcher in the Rye" might recommend it to teens who are struggling with moving on to a new challenge or stage in life.
A book review is an evaluation of a book's merits and weaknesses. Unlike a book report, a book review incorporates persuasion and analysis to show why someone should read the book, using specific examples to illustrate their points. High school book reviews can incorporate a brief summary of the book, as well as descriptions of its strengths and weak points. The conclusion can present an overall appraisal of the book. Because most college writing will involve analytical elements, evaluative assignments can prepare high school students for these future literary challenges.
Another book report approach is to zero in on characterization. For a character analysis report, students can choose a character from the book and identify three characteristics that demonstrate his importance to the story. This will let students focus on a single character while still fulfilling the informative element of a book report. For example, a report on "To Kill a Mockingbird" might state that Tom Robinson is important to the story because he is a major source of conflict, illustrates the consequences of racism and teaches Scout a valuable lesson about acceptance.
A book report ultimately doesn't have to be a single essay to meet its objectives. According to Miami University of Ohio professor Tom Romano, multi-genre projects help students see how one larger project can be composed of smaller pieces that function on their own. For their book reports, students can design a newspaper depicting the book. The paper can include elements like a front-page story describing a major event in the book, a feature article about an important character, an opinion piece that illustrates theme and other smaller pieces like classifieds and help wanted ads.