Book Pass Activity

Girl in red shirt passing green book to a fellow student

Try a book pass activity to grow your students’ love of literacy! When I taught eighth-grade literature, one of our school’s requirements was that students had to read a novel on their own each quarter. It had to be within or above their personal reading level, and it had to be on a list from a particular computer program so that they could take a test on it by the end of the grading period.


I had all kinds of students: from the avid readers who snuck books in their laps to read during instructional time to those who would rather suffer through a stomach bug than use their own free time to read a book. 


It was always a major challenge to help those latter students learn to love to read. I’d say even impossible at times, honestly. 

But one thing I noticed over the years is that if they can get hooked on even just ONE book, they will be more likely to pick up another on their own in the future.

The problem is, how do we expose students to a variety of titles to find the one that will grab hold of them? Taking them to the library is great–definitely keep doing that–but it can be overwhelming for students to go and try to pick something they will actually enjoy.

My first year of teaching, one of my colleagues taught me about a book pass. I’d host this activity early in each quarter as a way to get a large number of books in students’ hands in a brief amount of time. 

 if they can get hooked on even just ONE book, they will be more likely to pick up another on their own in the future.

If you’ve never tried a book pass, I highly recommend it. Here’s how it works:


  1. Choose a number of books equal to the number of students in your class. Each book must be different. See our grade level recs here. Find as much of a variety in genre and topics as possible – fiction, nonfiction, action, mystery, dystopian, etc. You can borrow from other teachers or check them out from your school/local libraries. (Tip: Ask your media specialists for advice on book choices)
  2. Give each student a log like this one to keep up with the books they encounter.
  3. Hand out a book randomly to each student. Remember – everyone should have something different. They need to record the title and author on their log.
  4. Start a timer. For about 2-3 minutes, students must read the book in their hands. The rules are simple: they must start on chapter one (no skipping ahead or reading the last page!), and they must keep reading until the timer is up. 
  5. After time’s up, students record their thoughts/ratings on the log, pass the book to the next person, and start the process over again.
  6. Repeat until students have experienced at least 10 books, more if you have the time.

students passing a blue book

By the end of the activity, your students will have previewed 10+ books, giving each one a fair shot. I like this activity because it gives students a solid first impression from a high number of books. And now they have potentially built a list they can reference for reading in their free time–or for an outside reading requirement.


Bonus: my students and I generally loved this activity because it was a low-key, quiet day for all of us. (You can even join in if you want!) Expectations were simple, and they got to appreciate a little break from direct instruction or higher-stakes assignments. And it was helpful to them because they were able to get a head start on a requirement.


So give it a shot; you may just surprise yourself and your students. And who knows–you just might help a student discover a new love of reading!

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