Keeping Them Reading: Speed Dating with a Book

Confession:  I have never been speed dating.

I just love the idea of it.

In 2012 I wrote about an activity we did in my AP English class that got everyone talking as we prepared for the AP exam. I hadn’t even thought about that, until I started to write about our latest foray into the talkative world of speed dating with books.

Neydy and LauraI know many teachers have tried some version of this activity. I want to add my voice to theirs:  this is a F.U.N. way to get students talking about what they have read and what they might want to read — both important factors in helping students of all ages develop their identities as readers.

How to Speed Date with a Book

As students entered my classroom, I asked them to

1) find a book from the shelves that they had read and liked enough to share with another person,

2) find a second book that they thought they might like to read — maybe they liked the cover or the title; maybe they had heard someone talk about this book. Didn’t matter.

Everyone needed two book.

Then, we tried this “speed dating” thing.

First, we formed two circles, one inside the other. One circle faced outward. The other faced inward.
Students stood in front of one another, and I with the easy job stood with the timer and the camera.

“One minute,” I said, “You’ve got to stay on topic, and talk about one or both of the books in your hand for one minute. Your goal is to ‘sell’ the other person on why they want to read these books.”


 We talked books for as many minutes as it took for every student to talk one-on-one with every other student. It was exhausting. And wonderful.

After we completed all our rounds, we set all of the books out on one table, and students picked up their writer’s notebooks and turned to their “What Shall I Read Next?” lists, adding any titles they might want to read during the last two months of school. Every student wrote down at least one book. Some wrote down several.

Why Talking About Books Must Be a Constant

I teach juniors in high school. Before this year, most of my students did not consider themselves readers. They have had to learn what it means to

a. like books,

b. like to read books,

c. like to talk about books,

d. know how to find books they like.

The moment I stop holding up books at the beginning of class, reading a bit, and encouraging them to give it a try, many they stop reading.

They are one year and a couple of months away from graduating high school, and they are Baby Readers, fledglings not ready to leave the roost and fly off on their own. (In more ways than one, I know.)

I don’t know if my readers will be strong enough to keep reading when they leave me the first week in June.

I hope so.

In the mean time, I will keep up the talk and keep up the expectations:

You must read if you are a student in my class.

You are a reader who reads every single day.


What are some activities you do to keep your babies reading?


©Amy Rasmussen, 2011 – 2015


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16 thoughts on “Keeping Them Reading: Speed Dating with a Book

  1. […] our reading lives. We read aloud. We line whiteboard rails with new titles. We do book tastings and speed dating with books. We celebrate our readers and exhaust our arsenal of book-loving […]


  2. […] are major speed daters over here at 3TT.  We speed date books ALL THE TIME.  I’ve also found that the speed dating […]


  3. 9 Books to Hook Your Holdouts | September 23, 2016 at 6:42 am Reply

    […] I always turn at this time to the power of social capital, harnessing tools like speed dating with books, book passes, or writings in Red Thread Notebooks, to get my students recommending books to one […]


  4. […] Follow-Up:  After students have written their reflections, I ask that they pass notebooks.  They’ll read all of their table mates’ entries, providing 2-3 mini-booktalks–a variation on speed dating. […]


  5. […]  Talk to your table mates about what you are reading. Sometimes it’s a little more formal:  Speed dating with a book, which is one of our favorite ways to share […]


  6. […] I’m in the plaid, exploring a possible independent reading book during “speed dating with a book” […]


  7. […] Get students talking. The more students talk to one another about their reading the better your chances of getting all students to read. One favorite activity in my classroom is speed dating with a book. […]


  8. […] put the desks in a circle and have students rotate the books every minute or so, but I love Amy’s approach as […]


  9. […] the room, I hand out books in preparation for book speed dating. I place Ellen Hopkins’ Crank on a student’s […]


  10. […] the week, I book talk popular titles, engage in “speed dating” with books, and provide ample free time for students to explore our classroom library, but I also […]


  11. […] Then I noticed that a few students started returning their books to these shelves, and after we did Speed Dating with a Book a few weeks ago — we put all of our to-read-next titles on these […]


  12. […] I must expose them to good poems. Reading aloud poems on a regular basis has the same effect as talking about books […]


  13. […] Three Teachers Talk shares a strategy to get high school students reading through speed-dating with books. […]


  14. Whitney Kelley April 17, 2015 at 10:05 am Reply

    I love this line, “You must read if you are a student in my class.”
    I may have that made into a poster and placed in my room.

    I have done the speed dating with AP titles to get my preAP juniors reading above their level and to prepare them for their senior year of AP Lit. The librarian is a huge help because she pulls all the titles in advance. Then when I take my classes to the library, they spend about 5-6 minutes at a table full of books, perusing, evaluating, sampling. Then they switch to the next table, and so it goes for the class period. They are able to preview and choose what they want instead of my assigning a whole-class novel. I’ve done this the last two years, and for the most part, it is really successful. (Of course there are those students who fake-read, but many find titles they never would have discovered on their own.) This speed dating is the intro to what I call “Taste of AP” when we start dabbling in AP Lit prompts, exposing them to the level of work that is required for success the next year.

    I have so much to learn about continuing to create and strengthen a culture of literacy in my classroom. I love having Book Talks (I think you call them “Book Chats”) with students about their book selections. This morning alone I’ve talked about the Vietnam War, WWII, Body Language, modern mythology and feminism. The coolest part about it is that I can flip over to Book Talks with other students and now start cross-pollinating, making recommendations to students based on what other students have been reading.

    It’s hard work to create and continue a classroom that values reading. I applaud all of you who roll up your sleeves and hold steadfast to this endeavor.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Erika B. April 17, 2015 at 8:51 am Reply

    I felt rejuvenated just reading this…I can anticipate the buzz in Room 382. Thanks for reminding us how we can add ‘spice’ to our and our students’ reading lives! Can’t wait to try this!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ruth April 17, 2015 at 6:43 am Reply

    I love this, Amy!

    I used to do this with vocabulaty . Each team would divide up the words, look up the meanings and decide how to get that definition across so it could become a part of the standard repetoire of usage for a classmate. Then the sides would switch.

    Liked by 1 person

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