By mid-elementary school, students generally have an idea of the kinds of books they like to read. That said, we can certainly expose them to different genres, authors, and titles. One way to do this is by hosting a book tasting in the classroom or library. This is a great way for students to sample books they may not otherwise come across! And honestly, it’s a lot of fun!
If you’re new to the concept, a book tasting is an event during which students “taste”, or sample, a selection of books that you’ve chosen ahead of time. They can rotate among tables to sample the books and record notes about the books that interested them. This can look as fancy as a classroom transformation or as simple as putting books out on the floor. Below are a few quick tips for getting started with book tastings.
Decide on the Goal
You have to know what your goal is for your students before you can select books. What is it you want to accomplish? Maybe your goal is to –
- introduce students to newly published books
- expose students to new genres
- introduce students to diverse characters or authors
- expose students to award winners
- have students choose a book for a book club or literature circle
The other thing to consider is if you want students to record their thoughts during the tasting, such as making a wishlist of book titles they’re excited about. Depending on the grade level, this might mean labeling books with sticky notes with their names on them or filling out a worksheet or brochure with short book reviews. For me personally, I want students to spend the bulk of their time engaging with the books, not completing a worksheet, so I like to use something simple that won’t be too time-consuming.
Book selection is the most challenging part of the book tasting for me, particularly making sure I’m choosing books at the right reading levels. If your classroom library doesn’t have what you need, try reaching out to your school/public librarian or your reading teacher!
I recommend writing down the titles you choose for each table, or better yet, snap a photo like the one below. This will save you a lot of time if you do the same tasting again next year.
Again, a book tasting can be as fancy or as simple as you like. If you are interested in creating a cafe- or restaurant-themed event, here are some ideas to create a fun atmosphere!
- Decorate tables with tablecloths and placemats. (I use these red and white checkered plastic tablecloths.) You can laminate the placemats for long-term use or you can have students write directly on them.
- Add signage so students know what books they can find at each table. This might include types of genres, author names, series titles, etc. I also find it helpful to add table numbers. I like these little sign holders for displaying signs, which I print double-sided.
- You can also add battery-operated tea lights that look like little candles, bud vases with flowers, and anything else to set the “mood.” Check in your teacher lounge or with your office staff or PTA – they may have some you can borrow!
- Write a fun message on a portable chalkboard or dry-erase easel at the door to invite students in!
- Dress up! You can wear a chef’s apron and hat or server apron! I actually borrowed an apron from the cafeteria manager at my school to save money!
There’s really no wrong way to do it! Just make sure that the books are front and center at each table! I like to put them in the middle with some standing up, but you can also lay them out at each seat.
A book tasting might take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. Here’s an example of a third grade genre tasting I held recently that took 30 minutes. In this tasting, 6 tables were set up featuring different fiction genres. Each student got to sample 3 different genres during the rotations.
- 5 minutes – overview and directions
- 1 minute – choose first table and book
- 4 minutes – round #1
- 2 minutes – reflect on book #1 and complete brochure
- 1 minute – choose next table and book
- 4 minutes – round #2
- 2 minutes – reflect on book #2 and complete brochure
- 1 minute – choose next table and book
- 4 minutes – round #3
- 2 minutes – reflect on book #3 and complete brochure
- 3 minutes – wrap up and share out
One thing that was important for me to explicitly teach was how to sample a book. I show students how we can look at the title, front and back cover, table of contents, font type, and illustrations, and then actually read a few pages.
To save time on transitions if you want them to “taste” more than one book, you can have students stay at the same seat and just switch books, or switch seats at the same table. There are lots of ways to make it work for you!
I hope you’ll consider hosting a book tasting for your students if you haven’t before! While it does take some prep, it’s such a fun way to boost excitement about reading and connect students with books they haven’t seen before! Click here for even more ideas to promote excitement about reading at your school!