Way back when I was a young doe, fresh out of graduate school and ready to take on the world of a high school library, I often read blog posts by Buffy Hamilton, the Unquiet Librarian. Her blog was filled with wonderful ideas, and I eagerly awaited each new installment.
Her posts and lessons often sparked new ideas in my own mind, and led me down wonderful paths of inquiry and discovery. One favorite activity she shared was on “Book Tastings,” in which students were exposed to a variety of books in different genres, and given time to explore.
At a large public school with big classes, this activity was a lifesaver. Often, English teachers would bring in classes to self-select books for various projects. Students would listen to a few book talks given by me, and then be free to roam the shelves. And forever did they roam, I must say. Most used the opportunity to chat with friends, and/or pull random books off the shelves and ask me if I thought they would like it. While I was happy to give recommendations, I was also disappointed that students could not simply browse, read descriptions, discover new authors. They wanted the perfect book to fly off the shelves and hit them in the chest, yelling “pick me!” It was exhausting, and most students ended up with a book they didn’t want. It’s hard to perform reader’s advisory with 30 students…and I wanted better for my students.
So, enter the Book Tasting! It was popular at the public school, and continues to be a mainstay in my independent school. I go through the activity every year with freshman, a month or so before their Free Reading Week. I do this to give them tips on how to self-select a book and time to explore some of the best titles in each genre. Book Tasting, or Speed Dating with Books (for the older crowd), also gives me the chance to book talk some of my favorite books from each represented genre. I LOVE talking about books I have enjoyed. I always get goosebumps when reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaimon. For some of my book talks, I like to read aloud to the students, even if they are in high school! They still enjoy it, and this book especially keeps them on the edge of their seats.
I count it as a successful day when most of the books I have book talked are checked out by the time the last class leaves. It is an easy, fun, yet fulfilling activity. I even recently hosted a professional development “Speed Dating with Books.” Faculty loved going through different titles, especially during an afternoon Professional Development activity!
To hold your own Book Tasting or Speed Dating with Books session, follow these easy steps:
- Select at least 8-9 genres that you love and/or that you know students will gravitate towards.
- Create some signage for each genre.
- Select books to put on tables for each genre- choose at least 4-5 in each category that you can book talk!
- When students arrive, hand out a worksheet to guide them through the activity- an example is linked in the resources below.
- Give some book talks for each genre (depending on your time).
- Then, give students 4-6 minutes to go through their favorite tables, encouraging them to choose a new genre each time.
- Be ready to check out loads of books!
I look forward to hearing about how your book tastings go, or please share advice if you conduct a similar activity!
Check out the original blog that inspired this activity: Unquiet Librarian Blog
Feel free to use this sheet for your own book tasting: Book Tasting Worksheet