Book Speed Dating: The Hows and Whys

Oh, this lesson is awesome! I’ve wanted to try out book speed dating for awhile now, and I finally went for it last week. I wanted to use a smaller “test” group before trying this with a class of 35 eighth graders, so I tried it with our resource reading classes first. The resource classes’ primary focus is to support struggling readers, so they generally have fewer than ten students. Because of the nature of the class, the students do not tend to be readers, nor are they generally intrinsically-motivated to read.

Y’all, this activity went SO. WELL. I had the best results with the eighth grade class, who better-understood all my dating jokes (“sometimes you have to kiss some frogs”, “sometimes you have to throw that fish back in”, “if at first you don’t succeed”, etc.). They really enjoyed the lesson, and my eighth grade library assistants, who saw the speed dating as they worked in the library, all asked me to do this with their classes, too.

The best part? The classes I did this with were excellent at reading quietly, even though many of them are struggling readers!

How I implemented Book Speed Dating in my middle school library:

Prep: Decide how you want the tables set up. I had 9 tables with 4 chairs at each table. Each table was a different genre. For the reading resource classes, I chose high-interest genres such as horror, humor, manga, nonfiction, survival, romance, sports, and realistic fiction. I put 10-15 books on each table to represent that genre. Each table had a sign labeling the genre. I also set up a PowerPoint with the directions for the minutes.


Students could sit at any table. As they came in, they noticed the signs and books, and I could already tell they were picking their genres, even though I hadn’t said a word about what we were doing. I just told them to sit anywhere and that we would be moving soon enough.

I went through the PowerPoint slides (available in my TPT store–see link below), introducing speed dating and how it relates to our book speed dating activity. We went over the directions thoroughly, and I made absolutely certain everyone knew what to do.


Time to start! When going over the directions with the students, I talked about book speed dating etiquette, which the students loved. Here’s how I timed it:

    • First minute–Choose a table. Start looking through the books in the stack.
    • Second minute–The “first impression.” This second minute is so important that I added a section just for the second minute below. In the second minute, students should take time to really look through the books at their tables. No reading yet though!
    • Minutes 3-5–Start reading the book. If the book is short stories, poetry, or nonfiction, you can start at any point that interests you. If it is fiction or otherwise necessary, start with the first chapter. This should be completely silent, and I also compared that to a first date. You have only three minutes to “get to know” this book and see if you want a second date.
    • Minute 5–If you like your book speed date, keep it with you. You are still going to explore the other books and can always “throw that fish back in” if a better book comes along. Or, you can just check out both of them! It’s great if you can give your students a record sheet to write down their thoughts about their book date.
    • Switch tables!–I allowed my students to choose any table they wanted, but they could not stay at one table for more than two rotations.

The all-important “second minute”

I believe too many students, particularly reluctant readers, choose a book based on the cover or that they’ve seen the movie. Especially in cases where they are rushed for time and must “pick something,” some students base their book selection on nothing at all. I want them to think about what makes them want to read a particular book. Even as a successful reader, I personally never commit to a book without looking at the font size, white space, and the blurb.

This is why I believe the second minute of this activity should never be skipped. In this second minute, the students looked closely at the front and back cover, the condition of the book, read the blurb, open the book and look at white space, illustrations, font size, chapter length, etc. I specifically told them not to read the book at this time.

We also talked about how sometimes, your “date” looks really great, but when he/she starts talking, you realize she has bad breath or he can’t string together a complete sentence without cursing. As with first dates, we must delve beyond a book’s front cover.

Some other rules students had to keep in mind

  • If you are talking, you are being rude to your book date and the book dates going on around you.
  • Do not switch out your book date before the three minutes is up. This would be the equivalent of talking to another potential date when you’ve barely spoken to the date you are on!
  • If you want to meet someone else’s book date, wait until your date is over. It’s three minutes, not a lifetime!

Tweaks for the next class period

After your speed dating class ends, you’ll want to evaluate how it went and tweak it for the next group. Was there a particular table that never got used? Was there a table that was full every time? Did the timing work for the class? Did they have enough time, or not enough? For my classes, I added a second nonfiction table since it was full every time. The romance section was particularly popular, even with the boys, so I added some “non-pink” romances to that table for the boys. Surprisingly, barely anyone was interested in the magazines table.

What Would I Do Differently?

I am excited to add a fun twist for when I do this activity again. After all the “book speed dating” has finished, each student will choose a playing card from the middle of the tables. Students who got a heart or a diamond (red card) get a “kiss” at the end of their date (Hershey’s kiss). Students with a spade or club (black card) get a “sour face” at the end of their book date (a warhead candy). They can redeem the cards at the checkout counter.

Overall, this lesson was a great success. Many of the books got checked out, and the students were really engaged and enjoyed it. Next time, we’ll get to squeeze in more rotations since I won’t have to take time explaining how it works. Best of all, they were introduced to LOTS of new books and genres!

Additional resources:

Book Speed Dating Activity

Love this idea but don’t have time to put it all together? I’ve prepped the PowerPoint and student record sheets in my Book Speed Dating Activity on TPT.

Other ways to speed date with books:

“Book Speed Dating”–The Mighty Little Librarian— This one is very similar to mine, except in this one, the students stay put and move the boxes of books.

“Building Our To-Read Lists: Book Speed Dating” by SharpRead— Same concept with younger students. Simply stated with plenty of photos!

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