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Swipe right for reading: Speed dating with books at Hamber Secondary


Stephanie Lemmon, Tracy D. Smith, Gillian Lau. Photos provided by author.

By Tracy D. Smith (she/her), teacher, Vancouver

 

Two weeks into teaching four blocks of English 11 at my new school, Eric Hamber Secondary, my class was invited to the school library to select individual silent reading books. I had no idea how incredible a sight it would be when I headed down to the library learning commons to find tables adorned not only with stacks of books but also hearts, roses, and fake candles. It turns out my grand idea of “speed dating with books” was not so unique after all. Stephanie Lemmon and Gillian Lau, a dynamic librarian duo, not only had the same brainwave ages ago but also took it to the next level by scheduling it around Valentine’s Day, adding decorations, and extending the metaphor to its most engaging end.

 

There I was, thinking I was so clever coming up with this idea at my old school, only to find out it’s an old tried-and-true practice here. The library was transformed into a literary love nest, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. The idea was to encourage our students to casually date books, you know, no strings attached. No big commitment, no need to pop the question—just pick up a book, give it a read, and see if there’s a spark.

 

Poster promoting the book-dating event.

Stephanie and Gillian had the tables arranged strategically, and they had already picked out some gems to showcase. As the students took their seats, the teacher-librarians became the matchmakers, providing book talks and highlighting the allure of each genre to pique the students’ curiosity. Snippets about each book were shared, highlights of their quirks and charms, which made it impossible for the students not to be intrigued.

 

The students then tried out different books at each table, just like changing partners at a dance. If they found a new book crush, they could gracefully say goodbye to the old one, with an “it’s not you, it’s me,” and move on to the next literary adventure. The timer was set, and students had three to four minutes to read any of the books at their table. We encouraged them to read the book jacket cover and then start on page one. They could even just read the book jacket of each book at their table. Students were not to talk or discuss the books with each other but to read for the whole time, even if there wasn’t a book there that they seemed to like. Part of the point of the session was to just practise their reading skills.

 

The best part? The whole thing wasn’t about settling down with the first book they liked. It was about exploring, trying out different genres, and not judging a book by its cover (though that might be the start of the attraction) but looking beyond that first impression and finding out if it’s a match. Finally, and hopefully, they would find that one book they wanted to take home and introduce to their parents, a metaphorical way of saying they found a keeper.

 

The beauty of this book “dating” experience is that it breaks down the barriers of judgment, urging students not to use “looks” as their only deciding factor but rather to explore a book’s content and decide if it resonates with them. By the end of the session, students had “dated” several books, met new authors, and explored genres they might not have considered before. The aim was to help students see that books are more than mere words on pages—they are gateways to new worlds, perspectives, and emotions.

 

Our library turned into a literary love fest, and the excitement was contagious. The students discovered that books are like relationships: some are meant to be and some are just passing flings. But the thrill of the chase and the joy of discovering a new literary love were palpable.

 

So, fellow teachers and librarians, if you’re looking to ignite that passion for reading in your students, consider giving speed dating with books a shot. It is working for us, and I’m sure it will work for you too. Swipe right for reading, and let the bookish romance begin!

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