Blind Date with a Book: Tips and Tricks

Many of us librarians have done a Blind Date with a Book activity/display in the month of February. I have done this display at all the buildings I’ve worked at and all grades K-12. Each year I change it up so that it is different for the students who spend time in the library. 

Here’s a bit on what I’ve done over the years: 

How Does Blind Date with a Book Work?

Blind Date with a Book is a way to get students interested in reading and to try books they never thought they would try before. Each time I’ve done it, the books have been wrapped or the covers hidden behind a sheet of cardstock so students cannot readily see the cover of the book – the goal is to not judge a book by its cover. More on the wrapping later…

I either pull the books myself or have my students pull the books (I had them pull the books this year) around the last week or so of January. I run the Blind Date with a Book starting at the end of January (this year I started on January 24) and go through the end of February. This gives kids time to read the book before it all gets shut down. 

Since I have my student workers help me with wrapping the books, all the books were wrapped in two days (check out my previous post on how I utilize my workers). If I do it myself, it takes between 4-5 days since I am usually actively teaching and answering hundreds of questions in a day. 

Choosing the Best Books for Blind Dates

I pull between 50 and 60 books because of the large display area I have when students immediately come into the library. I always pull more than what I think I need so that I have backups when books fly off the shelves. Students wrap those extras as well so that all we have to do is grab them from my storage area and put them on the shelf. To keep track of the books that we’ve pulled, I create a list in Destiny and change the location to “display.” This way, if a student comes asking for the book, and we see that there is a copy available we don’t drive ourselves crazy trying to locate it. 

When choosing books, I ask students to pull books they have enjoyed or books they think their classmates would enjoy. I always have students pull the first book of a series. This way, students are not caught off guard by the fact that the book they may have just read has a book prior to it, especially if the first book has a catastrophic event. Plus, when students return the book I can let them know there’s a sequel, which they will excitedly check out!

The best books for blind dates are popular titles that may not get checked out frequently. Students, like most humans, tend to judge books by their covers and if the cover looks like something they wouldn’t naturally gravitate toward or looks older they most likely won’t pick it up. Other great books are ones that have amazing first lines. If you get a catchy first line such as, “This is how I kill someone.” from Mindy McGinnis’ The Female of the Species, students are automatically intrigued about the rest of the book and want to check it out just because of the first line. To get first-line ideas I just Google for them, but some of the lists that I like are:

How to Cover Books for Blind Date with a Book Quickly and Cheaply

I have covered books with many different mediums. Magazine pages, butcher paper, wrapping paper, large brown paper Kroger bags, red mailer envelopes, and this year – newspaper. I look for things that are free or cheap. I’ve also put them in brown paper bags and used a hole puncher and ribbon to seal them. You can find cheap wrapping paper at any dollar store. 

If I am wrapping the books, I wrap them just like a birthday/holiday gift with the paper that I have. At times, I have wrapped them with ribbon, bows, etc. to make them look brighter and more festive especially if I am using brown paper or newspaper. 

On the front of the book goes either the directions for the activity (which I did this year), the first line of the book, or clues about the type of book it is, such as you might match with this book if you like adventure, strong female characters, and/or twisting plot lines. 

A piece of advice (that I learned the hard way) – before you wrap the books make sure to get the barcode information off the book so that you can add it to the outside of the wrapped book so students get the pleasure of unwrapping them at their leisure. This year, I printed the barcodes off and glued them to the front of the book. In years past, I have written the barcode number on the front. 

Setting Up your Blind Date with a Book Display

First, find a highly-visible space in your library with lots of room to display all the wrapped books.

I have an area when you walk into the library that I lovingly call the vestibule (mostly because there isn’t an actual name for it). Two summers ago, I moved and re-hung bulletin boards there and three short bookcases to use for displays. This is a great place to display lots of books because it holds around 46 books. Students also have to pass the area in order to come into the larger library space. It really draws their eye, especially since I tend to use bright colors. 

As mentioned earlier, wrap the books and attach any instructions, first lines, or other activity you’re using. Place them in your display, and watch them disappear off your shelves!

That brings me to the contest part of the activity. Once students are done reading their book, they fill out a Rate Your Date slip that tells what they thought of the book, what they liked the most, their rating out of 5 stars, would they recommend the book to a friend, etc. I have had many different options of review slips and change it up every year. I either put the slips on the books themselves or give them to students to use as a bookmark when they checkout.

When students bring their books back with their review slips, they are entered to win a Valentine’s Day prize basket full of candy and trinkets. I also give students who are checking out books a small piece of candy. 

I like being able to change up the display every year to keep students interested. They seem to really enjoy the activity and it is difficult to keep books on the shelves. When students return books, I check in with them to see if it’s a book they normally would try on their own and what they liked about it. 

How do you set up Blind Date with a Book for your students?

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