15 Jan 2020
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50 + Reader’s Notebook Examples for the Classroom

I was reading Austin Kleon’s post, “The Importance of Revisiting Notebooks” and something stuck with me. He talks about the process of writing and journaling and how many times it isn’t till step 4 or 5 that it becomes a blog post. Well, I think that is where I am now. For the past few years, I have been keeping and refining a reader’s notebook. In fact I think I am on my fifth Leuchtturm. It is difficult to have a tried and true process when you first start, but I can say with time and trial and error, I have finally come to one.

My Why

I would venture to say that many of us don’t do things without a good reason. I had my reasons as well. I think it was really a blend of not really remembering what I read and/or doing anything with it when I did read it. I would highlight books and put them back on the shelf but wouldn’t really absorb those lessons and ideas into my own practice.

My Process for Nonfiction Books

I originally wrote about my process in 2017 and detailed it here. It really hasn’t changed much since then for nonfiction:

  1. Read and Highlight: Read a book and highlight as I read.
  2. Tuck Away: Set book down for a few weeks. I find that by putting the book down for a bit, I tend to make better decisions about what highlights were really important a few weeks later and only include those.
  3. Title Page: Create a page that includes the title of the book and the author and the date I am transcribing the notes. I like to mimic the font and color of the book just for fun.
  4. Review Notes: Review the book’s highlights and begin adding info to your notes.
  5. Create a Color Hierarchy: Use only 2-3 colored pens. I try to match the color of the book or the theme. I tend to use one color for headers and one color for subheaders so it provides a nice visual hierarchy.
  6. Visualize with Icons: Icons tend to encompass a multitude of ideas and are easily recognizable. While I can’t conjure and draw these visuals from memory, I am able to look at icon sites and recreate similar visuals.
  7. Embellish Away: Embellish notes with washi tape, stickers, labels, ephemera, library cards, and mementos. Washi tape and labels also serve as a great way to create sections on a page or a visual hierarchy and/or divide.

At the time in 2017, I didn’t have that many examples of this, but now I can share my 7 faves!

My Process for Fiction and YA Books

Since I was writing my second book, Creatively Productive, I was reading more nonfiction books at the time. But then when it came out, I found myself indulging in all kinds of fiction and YA books which were AMAZING and that took my reader’s notebook to a whole new level. My process didn’t really change per se… just really tweaked #2, #6, and #7.

  • 2. Don’t Delay: With nonfiction professional development and industry books, you can typically set them down for a week or so and pick them right back up and still make sense of your highlights… because many times those highlights are a research study, tip, or idea. BUT when you read fiction and YA and try to return to the book a week or so later, sometimes you have forgotten important plot elements all together so I would say start the reader’s notebook process as soon as possible after finishing the book.
  • 6. and 7. Visualize and Embellish with Purpose and Symbolism: Usually, with nonfiction, it is more about gleaning facts and big ideas, but in fiction and YA, symbolism and plot devices are king so I like to choose certain symbols like the guitar in Maybe Someday, key words in Still Life with Tornado, a cassette tape in Eleanor & Park, or the lake in Verity which is similar to the Book Bento process. I also explore color psychology through mood and tone when working with fiction and YA – these two articles provide a great start Color Psychology and Words and Color Psychology and Mood.

I now have about 40 or so fiction and/or YA examples. Each example shows the book cover, a spread from the reader’s notebook, and explains the rationale for some of the visual and design choices.

I should mention that I don’t typically buy supplies specific to a book. I just have an arsenal of stickers, paper, odds and ends, washi, ephemera, etc… and I choose the ones that best fit the book I have in front of me. Otherwise, this process could get very costly.

But Wait… There’s More

As you know, I like to always leave you with OMT. If you are looking for more examples, ideas, supply lists, and student work, I have you covered:

And if you are looking for even more information about reader’s notebooks, Chapter 6 of Creatively Productive has you covered!


I should also mention that I have lots of FREE trackers and templates that could be printed and put in a reader’s notebook. They can be found in the Creatively Productive Digital Downloads Doc Locker. Just sign up using the form below and you will receive a link shortly with a secret link to the site and password to nab your freebies.

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