Recently I saw my fellow colleague, Buffy Hamilton, talk about “book tastings” in the Unquiet Library. Just the words “book tasting” sparked a plan to share books with our students that they might normally miss on the media center shelves. I often see students picking the same kinds of books: comics, football, sharks, princesses, etc. While I think that is completely ok for them to read, I do think it is important to explore other genres and push yourself as a reader. I offered teachers the opportunity to bring their classes to the media center for a book tasting to allow students to see several books in a short amount of time in order to find something new.
Today, Ms O’Prey brought the first group of 5th graders. We set the media center tables with flowers, turned on some jazz and classical music, and placed “menus” and books and pencils at each seat. I did a quick intro and explained to them that they would have between 2-3 minutes with a book. Their job was to read some of the book: the back cover, the first pages, etc. Then, on their menu, which was a list of all the books, they had to make notes about the books that they experienced. This could range from a frowny face for a book that was just terrible to a longer description of why the book was a good match for them.
Students chose their first place at the tables. From there, students spent 2-3 minutes with a book before hearing a train whistle blow. At that time, they passed the book to the next person at the table and started the process again. We immediately noticed how engaged students were in the process. It was fast-paced and fun, and they were eager to see what they got. We did run into some students who had already read the book they received, so we placed replacement stacks in the middle of each table. Students could swap a book out if they had already read it. I circulated and had a few conversations with students or redirected them if they were off track. Periodically, I checked in with the whole group and got a feel for how the time was working for them, whether or not they had found a book they were interested in, and if they had found a book they couldn’t wait to get rid of.
As our time came to an end, I asked them to revisit their menu and choose their top 3 books. We spread the books out on the tables. Each student walked to their top pick. If they were the only person there, they checked out that book. If there were several people, they negotiated and some moved on to other books. In the end, every student left with one new book and several left with more than one.
I was pleased to see books leave the media center that are new and have not circulated as much as I would like them to. I told the students that I would check back in with them to see how the books were going. Before they left, a few students recorded why they chose the books that they chose. I have 2 more 5th grade classes coming to do this, and all of the 4th grade will be coming to do “author tastings” for author studies they will do at the end of the year.