You Can’t Taste a Book by Its Cover: Book Tastings in the Library

Are your students hungry for good books? Do your patrons eagerly devour the newest titles? Do you ever wish you had a recipe for increasing kids’ appetite for reading?

Little girl reading a book at a cafe table
A Book Tasting is a low-budget, high-impact event that introduces kids to a wide variety of books in a fun setting.

Then it’s time you hosted a Book Tasting — a deliciously easy way to increase your students’ (or other patrons') taste for good books.

What is a Book Tasting?

A Book Tasting is a low-budget, high-impact event that engages students in a fun activity while introducing them to a wide array of books. Invite groups of young readers (third- through sixth-graders are a perfect audience) to come to the library at a designated time.

Students sit at library tables that have been transformed into café tables, and the librarian-waiter will “serve” a tray of books to each table. Invite students to look over the stack of books for five minutes or so, after which the librarian-waiter switches the tray of books so that everyone is looking at a new stack of books.

Repeat the process until each table has had a chance to “sample” each tray. After the Book Tasting is over, encourage students to select a few books to check out.

Setting the stage

Before your students or patrons arrive, transform your space into a café. Set the café mood as much as possible:

  • Place tablecloths or placemats on the tables, dim the lights, drape strands of holiday lights around the room, play soft jazz music. You can even find a burning fireplace video on YouTube to display on a computer or project on a whiteboard.  
  • Set each table to create the proper atmosphere. At each place setting, provide a sharpened pencil, napkin and bookmark. Ask a local restaurant for a package of blank guest checks and use those as name place cards.
  • Create a blank menu that provides students a place to write down the titles that they find interesting so they can keep track of all the books they want to read.
  • Provide snacks (optional). You don’t have to provide food at a Book Tasting because books, of course, are the main course. But providing a simple snack, like pretzels or cookies, can extend the restaurant theme.
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    Image of library set-up to look like a cafe
    Transform your space into a café with tablecloths, music and a crackling (faux) fireplace.

    Be deliberate in selecting the books you highlight at the Book Tasting. Choose high-interest books that are in good condition, and seek out quality books that you think are often overlooked. It’s best to choose books that you have read so you can be a knowledgeable server, like the servers in the best restaurants: be prepared to answer patron questions, speak with confidence about the offerings and provide informed recommendations.

Make a day of it

Allot about 35 to 45 minutes for one Book Tasting. Schedule groups of students to come throughout the course of the day, being sure to give yourself time to clean up and refresh the tables between groups. If you have help, you can have other adults act as host/hostess or as additional waiters to “serve” the books.

At the conclusion of the Book Tasting, expect your students to clamor for more. They might even ask to make this a weekly event, but explain that a Book Tasting is a special occasion and a once-in-a-while event.

Happily, though, you can remind students that the library always offers a buffet of books worthy of a reading feast.