As a proponent of choice reading, I am always looking for ways to get books into the hands of my students and have them build their reading list, and what better way to celebrate Valentine’s week than having your students speed date books? Inspired by the speed dating scene in New York where single people met potential dates over a brief, timed conversation and ranked them, speed dating books is a way for students to quickly put their hands on several books in order to find one of interest.
To kick off each semester, my students speed date books. I’ll give our media center specialists a little information about my class, and they go to work pulling high-interest books. When we arrive in the library, several books are arranged on tables and students find a table and sit with their guided note page. I set the timer for anywhere between two to four minutes depending on the students, and the book dating begins. Students make notes on first impressions of the cover, the inside jacket blurb, and possibly even the first paragraph or two. The timer buzzes signaling students to move to another table and start the process with another book. We may repeat this process between five and ten times depending on student interest and the time of year. After students have completed the process, they will rank books deciding which book to begin reading immediately and which ones to add to their reading list.
I have experimented with book speed dating several ways. Books may be grouped at tables by genre helping students learn different types of genres and seeing the variances within a genre. Faculty members may choose books which have been personal favorites for students to browse or students may each submit a couple of their favorite books for others to choose from. Today my students will speed date books on Valentine’s day complete with chocolate and candles. The possibilities are limitless.
As a follow up to speed dating, I carry the analogy further by discussing dating the book. A book may start slow but grow on you as the more you read it, so I encourage students to not give up too quickly on a book. Sometimes, however, the book does not live up to the hopes and expectations of a student, and students have permission to break up with a book and try another one. Life is too short to trudge through a book without connecting to it especially for choice reading when there are so many other choices.
The benefit of speed dating books is students are active participants in the choosing process, and the fast-paced nature of the activity keeps students engaged and excited. Speed dating books can be adapted to any grade or reading level, and the planning and prep time is very little. Teachers too often hear students complain about reading, but this activity will only produce excited chatter about books.