Book Speed-Dating: Finding the Perfect Read

Justin Pham reads the jacket cover of a book to see if it’s for him

Byron Center High School sophomore Lexi Hess may have found her perfect match.

She plucked the book, The Star Won’t Go Out, by Esther Grace Earl, out of a pile of books atop a classroom table. “I want to read this!” she said, jotting the title onto her list of must-reads.

Ways to Encourage Teens to Read

  • Set an example and read for pleasure

  • Furnish your home with a variety of reading materials.

  • Give teens an opportunity to choose their own books.

  • Build on your teen’s interests, sports, entertainment, crafting, etc.

  • Read some books written for teens.

  • Make reading aloud a natural part of family life.

  • Acknowledge your teen’s mature interests.

Source: Reading is Fundamental

But then she noticed Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman, another possibly perfect-for-her read.

The sophomore English class was Book Speed-Dating, a method introduced last school year, during which students move from table to table scanning book covers and titles to discover books of interest to them.

They spend three minutes at each stop to find books that catch their attention until English teacher Stephanie Krause says “Rotate!”

“Our whole point, kind of like if you were speed-dating in real life, is for everyone to find their perfect match,” Krause said. “They are going through as many books as possible.”

Educators got the idea from Kelly Gallagher, a teacher and author who focuses on helping students become better readers and writers.

The entire high school English department is Book Speed-Dating with their classes.

It’s part ofa new approach to reading that emphasizes choice. While classes still have two assigned novels per school year to read, the traditional book reports of yesterday are gone, Krause said. Students read their chosen books and present book talks in front of the class. They confer one-on-one with Krause, who monitors what each student is learning from their book.

Kimmie Stump has 11 titles on her list of must-reads
Kimmie Stump has 11 titles on her list of must-reads

Lists of Books They Like

As students perused books, they added titles to their to-read lists for future reference. Speed-dating sessions are held about four times a year, when Krause restocks her book collection.

Krause said she was at first hesitant about the idea, doubting students would read when they weren’t being tested on it. But she sees students reading more than ever, and teachers in other classes have to tell students to put their books away.

“One of our huge goals is getting them engaged and making them want to read. They are way more engaged because I give them at least 10 minutes a day where they get to read what they want to read,” Krause said.

For Lexi, she’s much more interested in reading than she used to be.

“I was never really into books and then we did this in English 9 and it sparked an interest for me,” she said.

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Kelly Gallagher’s website

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio

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