Book Tastings: 7 Steps to Promote Your Best Books!
In light of all the fun that Halloween, *cough* I mean Book Character Dress-up Day brings, I thought I’d share a fun learning experience that I tried last year and have gotten to revisit again this year…Book Tastings!
I’ve written before about how I don’t really do booktalks, at least not very often with such limited time in my schedule. Admittedly, I’m also not very good at “keeping up” with reading new children’s literature and the four-month backlog of School Library Journal that’s currently sitting on my coffee table. And you can’t recommend what you haven’t read.
In the past 2 years, though, I’ve discovered that book tastings are a more efficient way to introduce students to both new books and some old classics.
Here’s my basic process:
1. Schedule a time with the classroom teacher for students to visit the library for about an hour. (This is by far the hardest part.) Consult with the classroom teacher about the range of reading levels in the class and any specific genre he/she would like to highlight.
If at all possible, invite other teachers who work with struggling readers in that class, e.g. reading specialists, learning support teachers.
2. On each library table or area, pile about 30 *attractive-looking* books from one genre or topic. This is not the time to pull out Mr. Popper’s Penguins or A Wrinkle in Time with their original cover art (no matter how much you and I might love them). Instead, set out the best of your updated-cover classics as well as newer books that you know students will like if they give them a chance. Have an equal number of fiction and nonfiction genres represented, and mix of various reading levels. Fill the table with two layers if needed! Better to have too many than not enough in this case.
3. Students come with a list (or a blank sheet of paper) or a tablet/laptop if your school has 1:1 devices. If using devices, show students how to login to Destiny Quest to access their account and add to “My List.”
4. Explain directions and start a timer for 7-8 minutes (can be shortened to 5 if you’re in a hurry). Each student has 7-8 minutes to “shop” or “taste” the books on that table. If they are interested in a book and they MAY want to check it out later, they either write it on their paper list, or add it to their “My List” in Destiny Quest.
5. Meanwhile, all the teachers in the room circulate and make sure the books that students choose are ones they can actually read. If needed, they can recommend an on-the-spot Five-Finger Test or comprehension check.
6. At the end of the 7-8 minutes when the timer buzzes, students rotate tables and you start the timer again. Repeat until all students have visited all tables.
7. If time and schedule allows, I let students check out 1 or 2 of their favorites now, and save the list for later in the year.
When I did my first book tasting, I bought Carolyn at Risking Failure‘s Book Tasting product on TpT. It was well worth it to get me started, and now I can do it on my own with just some basic place-cards at each table to label each genre/topic.
Our Fall 2014 tables were: Realistic Fiction, History and Historical Biography (double table), Science & Scientists (double table), Art/Music/Artists/Musicians/Fun/Sports, and Mystery/Adventure.
Of course, I did try to sneak in some fantasy/sci fi books at the mystery/adventure table. They are my favorite genres after all, but it was just a few! The double tables were 2 separate stops on the rotation, and consisted of 2 tables pushed together. Having 2 double tables allowed students to linger a little while longer on the nonfiction, and I could also showcase some of our excellent picture book biographies that our older students usually dismiss as too young or easy for them.
Have you ever done a book tasting in your library or classroom? If so, I’d love to hear what your “menu” looked like! List your topics/genres in the comments, and any other ideas you would like to share.