A good title can do a lot of work for both the reader and the writer. Of course the title conveys the subject of the book but it has many more jobs to do. It conveys the tone of the book. It gives clues to the scope of the book. Most importantly, it must hook a reader. All of that in just 1-5 words (and sometimes a subtitle).
Our STEM Tuesday book lists are a great place to study what titles can do. Take a look at just the titles of this month’s STEM in sports books:
Sports Science & Technology in the Real World
Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up
The 12 Biggest Breakthroughs in Sports Technology
STEM in Sports: Engineering
Learning STEM From Baseball: How Does A Curveball Curve? And Other Amazing Answers for Kids!
STEM In Sports
Science Behind Sports
The Secret Science of Sports: The Math, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering Behind Every Grand Slam, Triple Axel, and Penalty Kick
STEM Jobs in Sports
Sports Medicine: Science, Technology, Engineering
The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science: 54 All-Star Experiments
Start asking questions: Why were those specific words chosen? The word “sport” is used frequently but in different positions. How does word placement matter? Who chooses the titles? Surprisingly, in many cases the title/subtitle are developed by the marketing team, not the author. Why might that be?
Here are a few ways you can look at what titles can do. In the nonfiction area of the library, sit down in front of one shelf. Find a section of 5-10 books that are all on a closely related topic. (For this exercise it is best to not use a series of books). Write down all of the titles and subtitles in a list.
A Reader’s Reaction
- Which titles draw you in? Why? Is it the subject or some other element?
- Looking at your title list, are there any particular words that hook you?
- Skim the books. For each book ask: Did the title/subtitle give you an accurate idea of what was inside the cover?
More than The Subject
Search for how the titles subtly or not-so-subtly convey more than the basic subject. Consider these elements (and add your own):
- Subtopic: Does the book focus on one specific topic within the subject?
- Angle: Has the author selected a unique angle from which to approach the topic? Can you determine that from the title?
- Tone: Is this book humorous? Academic? Lyrical? Does the title convey that?
Make it Visual
Upload your title list into a word cloud generator and see what other discoveries you can make.
- Do one or more words dominate the titles?
- If so, are there any titles that do not rely on those words? How are those titles unique? How are those books unique?
Compare and Contrast
- Do the titles on your list vary drastically or are they all fairly similar? Some things to analyze: content, length, specific words, presence of a subtitle, etc.
- In a new section of the library, pick a subject area which is very different (for example if your first list is about space, maybe go to the art section).
- Create a new title list. Repeat one or more of the above exercises.
- In what way is your new list similar to/different from your previous list? How much do you think the book’s subject affects that?
- Separate your books into two piles based on main purpose: to entertain or to inform. In what ways might that impact the choice of title?
Titles can do a lot of work for the reader and the writer. Enjoy taking a closer look at all the titles in your future!
Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. Studying titles and subtitles in the library helped her create a few fun ones of her own: BUGS DON’T HUG, SURPRISING SCIENCE FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER, and SOMETHING ROTTEN. You can learn more about here wacky titles at www.HeatherLMontgomery.com
Here are some ways to add some STEAM into your work with titles:
- Pick one book from your list and create at least 3 alternate titles.
- Using your stack of books, create a spine poem. Feel free to add other books to your pile as needed.
- Using your title list(s), create a blackout poem. Is it easier to do with one list than the other? Why might that be?
New to spine or blackout poems? Kristen W. Larson explains how in this post: https://fromthemixedupfiles.com/stem-tuesday-stem-activity-books-writing-tips-resources/