I was thinking about National Libraries Week (taking place from 8 – 13 October 2018) and how we might celebrate our much-loved school library, when I stumbled upon the idea of having a blind date with a book. The aim is to encourage children to explore new genres and authors in an exciting, engaging way and the ‘blind date’ idea seemed perfect. I love getting creative and it really captured my imagination.
The challenge is designed to expand children’s reading repertoires and guide them towards enjoyable reading outside of their own comfort zones, by tapping into their personal interests as readers. Who wouldn’t want to open one of these gorgeously wrapped books? Adding a little extra detail can really make all the difference. I loved getting creative with my books (pictured below).
The idea is simple. Gather a wide selection of suitable literature, wrap up each book in brown paper (or any type of paper for that matter) and give children a little teaser, just a hint, of what they might find between its pages. Immediately, this builds intrigue and a buzz of excitement around what to choose but it also makes the reader ask themselves some important questions: ‘What do I look for when choosing a book? What types of books do I like to read? What genres do I prefer?‘
Not knowing the identity of the book underneath and having something to unwrap is sure to ‘hook in’ even your most reluctant readers. So, why not give it a go during national Libraries Week? Or perhaps introduce the idea in your classroom? It could even be done regularly to engage the children in book talk and reviews.
Blind Date with a Book – How it Works:
1. It’s a wrap! Simply wrap up a selection of brilliant books from your library. The blind date books should include a mixture of fiction and nonfiction with a blend of genres and writing styles, as well as poetry. Try to avoid major best-sellers and go for books they might not have seen or read yet. For ideas about where to find fantastic books, read this.
2. Make an enticing display. Place the books around the library (or classroom) and allow the children to spend some time browsing and discussing what they might like to read. There are inspirational display ideas aplenty on Pinterest.
3. Perfect Match. At this point, allow children to choose their ‘date’ simply by reading the teaser on the cover. Children will need to make a choice based on what they want out of their next literary adventure. If you’re running this inside the school library, barcodes could be taped to the outside of the books for check out.
4. Date Night. Either give children time in class or a session in the school library to ‘get to know their date’. Better yet, allow ‘date night’ to take place at home.
5. Rate your date. Ask children to complete a ‘Rate my Date’ card about whether or not they enjoyed their blind date with a book. The rate your date card is important as it allows you to gather important feedback on selected books and children’s personal reading habits and interests. Of course, not every blind date goes well and you should never force a child to finish a book if it was a “bad date” but I would personally ask that they do fill out the form to tell me why it didn’t work for them.
Top tip: wrap up more books than you’ll require as this enables every child to make a choice, rather than being faced with the ‘leftovers’.
Some ways to customise the Blind Date with a Book idea…
- If you don’t have time to wrap/write personal ads, ask co-workers to help you or get the children involved in wrapping books and writing teasers for another class.
- If you’re really short on time, you could skip personal ads altogether and simply label them with a genre or just leave them blank – a complete mystery!
- Instead of doing this as a classroom-based reading activity, you could simply create a display in the library for fun.
- Wrap up 2 or 3 of the same book but describe them differently. This will encourage book club chat/discussion with others who’ve had similar blind dates.
Increase Teachers’ Knowledge of Children’s Literature too
According to a recent report by the Open University, Only 46% of teachers are able to name 6 children’s authors and only 10% of teachers are able to name 6 poets. This scant knowledge represents cause for concern and it’s important to consider fun, exciting, engaging ways to expand teachers’ reading repertoires too. Start a teachers’ reading group or set up some staff blind dates with books to encourage wider reading and CPD.
Another idea – Speed Dating!
Why not host a speed-dating session with your class, giving them a limited time to sample each book whilst also encouraging them to ‘rate each date’ they’ve experienced? Simply wrap up around the book covers rather than the entire book so that children can still open and read the pages. Place a few on tables and give each child a quick and easy ‘rate my date’ style card. I love this cute emoji style card from Teacherspayteachers.com.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog. If you do decide to have a go at hosting a #blinddatewithabook for your class or school, don’t forget to tweet us a picture!