Book Speed Dating

One of the most powerful things I can do for my students is work to promote reading for fun and helping students find books that they will enjoy. I feel like middle school is one of those key times in life where many students either take the path to become a life-long reader…or not. So I try to do as much as possible to talk to my students about what they’re reading and help them find books that will get them hooked!

One activity that I’ve found to be extremely successful this year is a round of “Book Speed Dating.” I know that this is an activity that many librarians have done for years…it’s tried and true for a reason!

Here’s how I’ve put together this activity:

  • I pulled books that I frequently recommend from 7 different genres and put them in boxes at each of my 7 tables. It exposes readers to new genres that they may not seek out on their own.
  • Students come in and decide on a ranking system they’ll use to rank the books they preview (scale of 1-10, five star ratings, etc.).
  • I set a timer (like the one projected on the screen) for five minutes. For the first 30 seconds, they can peruse the books in the box at their table and select a book. Then, they spend 4 minutes reading the book to see if it hooks them. With 30 seconds remaining, they make note of the title of the book and give it a ranking.
  • If at any time they find a book they want to check out, they can hold on to that book. All other books go back in the box, we rotate the boxes, and repeat this activity 4-5 times.

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I always get great feedback from teachers and students with this activity…they love it! By the final round, about half of the students will typically have a book that they want to check out. And ALL of the students have spent some time with a book from a genre that’s outside of their typical reading comfort zone.

I did this several weeks ago with my 8th graders, and this week the 6th graders are having their turn. I especially like that I can customize the boxes for the classes/grades that I have visiting. And I LOVE that lots of book replenishing is needed after each class!

Do you do something similar to this? What other tried and true activities do you use for the love of reading?

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3 Responses to Book Speed Dating

  1. Jen Baker says:

    I did something similar at our high school last month. Classes were coming in for the library orientation and to choose a book for free reading. I put selections of books of different genres on each table. In the first class, I noticed that the books I had set out (great books!) were completely ignored. So for the next class, I changed things up and had them decide as a group which one was the most popular choice at the table. Then they had to give an impromptu book talk based on the limited information they had – what was it about the book that appealed to them? What did they think it was about? etc. The books went from being ignored to about 30% checked out. Students still come in looking for the books someone else got before they did. I like the speed dating idea, though, because they don’t have to decide as a group (I did that because of time limitations) . Looks like a great way to get students to interact with a lot of books in a short period of time!

  2. Katie L. says:

    Hi Tiffany!

    I heard you speak at the ISLMA Conference last weekend and was incredibly impressed with all of the great things you are implementing at your school. After reading your post about book speed dating I decided I had to try it out! I set up 5 tables with different genres of books for my 4th graders. They followed the procedures you mentioned: selecting a book after browsing at the table, reading for several minutes and keeping books they wanted to check out. I completely forgot about the ranking system aspect and would be curious to try that next time to see what it adds to the mix. I was thrilled to have 44 of the books I placed on the tables for speed dating get checked out by my 38 4th graders! They were all very excited to have found some new things to read and I was thrilled to see so many different books walk out my door. Thank you for inspiring me to try something new this week!

    Katie L.
    Chicago, IL

  3. Teri Padua says:

    I’ve read about book speed dating before, but really appreciate the details of how it worked for you. This is one I’ll have to try soon. Thanks.

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