The idea of the "Book Tasting Cafe" was sparked in 2008 when Jennie Scott-McKenzie posted about her activity, "Chez Dewey" on LM_Net. She had designed an activity to engage students in learning about the Dewey Decimal System by "ordering" books using a menu, but spin-offs quickly emerged.
Today, the most common iteration is to set up the library like restaurant with books to "taste" as a way to hook students on choosing pleasure reading titles. The special touches of a place setting, placemat, tablecloths, menus, and other details create an ambiance conducive to reading and a feeling of ownership over one's book choices.
I've done variations of Book Tastings over the years because it's a great way to promote books, encourage students to take time to read into a book, and make reading feel like a special activity.
But what I REALLY love about Book Tasting is the anecdotal evidence I gather while the students are busy reading.
While the students read silently at their tables, I watch them like a mama hawk.
I'm watching to gather evidence about each one as a reader. What I learn about each child during the Book Tasting helps me connect him or her with books throughout the school year.
- which students can get into the flow of reading quickly
- who struggles to keep their focus
- which students flip right to the end
- which students drift from the page quickly
- which genres grab their attention
- which students like lots of white space
- which students are willing to take a risk on an usual book
- which ones like a challenge
- which ones read fast
Book choosing behaviors I see...
- starting in the middle
- smelling the pages
- reading the first page and looking at the cover again
- reading the blurb and moving on to something else
- reading the blurb and telling a friend about it
- flipping to the end to read the last page
These little bits of personal information about students' reading behaviors and preferences go into my mental file. When a child comes to the library, I pull up my memories of the Book Tasting and use the information I gathered to suggest books that will fit with what I saw that day.