May 10


Book Dating by Kyla McDonald

As a parent, teacher or librarian, you might never have thought to encourage your tweens or teens to start dating, especially speed dating. I’m here to tell you that it’s ok for your kids to date early, as long as they are dating books!

Unlike dating people, book dating is free from rejection, completely safe and it is ok to date as many books as you can keep track of. Book dating is a way to get readers out of their comfort zone and into titles they wouldn’t normally read. They get to meet and explore five new books to see which ones are a good fit. I have done this with grade 4 through 9 students and the feedback has been fabulous. Not only is it fun and non-threatening, but it can lead to some brand new cherished titles.

Book dating can be done with a couple kids, a small group or a large group. If you are doing this with your own child, see if there is a friend or cousin who wants to do it too, it is definitely more fun with others (especially if your reader is reluctant in any way)..

Step 1. Choose a location with a lot of books! A library is ideal, although a classroom library or bookstore could work too. There should be at least twenty choices per reader, the more books, the more chance of true love.

Step 2. Outline the criteria for choosing the five dates. The most important criteria I use are: the books must be ones they have not read, there cannot be more than one book by any given author, there must be at least three different kinds of books (non-fiction, biography, graphic novel, mystery, fantasy…). One book must be chosen for you by someone else.

Step 3. Kids choose their books! I usually use a timer and give them a set amount of time (10-15 minutes), so they don’t overthink it too much. I also have a stack of books at the ready, so that I can pick ‘dates’ for the kids who just can’t choose all of their in that period of time.

Step 4. Each student needs 5 sticky notes and a pen as well as their five books. This works best if each kid has there own space.

Step 5. Set the timer for 5-15 minutes depending upon the age and attention span of your group. Explain to the students that this is their time to get know one book. While the timer is counting down, they should be with their book the whole time. (It is handy to give an example here of starting with reading the back and how they might read non-fiction differently than a fiction book.)

Step 6. Let the dating begin! You set the timer and the kids get to know their first book.

Step 7. When the time is done the students stick a sticky note on their book and then decide how well this book fit them. I usually come up with a rating scale ahead of time with my kids, but often the choices are: 1. Not for me, 2. OK, 3. Really interesting and 4. Loved it. Books they give a 1 they have no interest in ever meeting again, 2 are books they don’t want to read right now, but they could come back to at some point in the future. 3 are books they want to read and 4 are books they want to read right now! If they found a match (gave their book a 3 or 4) they keep the book at their table. If it didn’t work out, I have a pile where they come and place the rejected books.

Step 8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until you have dated all the books.

Step 9. Typically most of my students end up with 2-3 books at their tables at the end of the speed dating. I have never had someone end up without a book, but I have had kids who liked all five. The students make notes in their Word books (which can be an reading/writing/ELA notebook or a scrap of paper you put on your fridge) of the titles and authors of the books they would like to see again. In my class the students could keep their top 2 books in their desk. In the library they can check out the books they would like to read, if you’re in a bookstore then hopefully you brought your wallet!

Step 10. (totally optional educator step) As a classroom teacher or a librarian, I put all the Not for me books together and take a picture, and all the Loved it books together and take a picture. It just helps me see if there are trends in what kids are reading and can help with future purchasing or weeding out of book collections.

The greatest thing about book dating is grown ups can do it too! If you are like me, carving out an hour and a half to get to know some new books can be daunting, but well worth the time and energy for the joy it brings


Kyla McDonald is a writer, teacher,  librarian, and queer mother of 4. Stories make up the heart beat of her daily life in Winnipeg, Canada. Every day she nurtures the relationship between people and stories because it is stories that allow us to grow, understand and accept each other in our similarities and our differences. Please visit her at