Students enter binding relationship with books

Sven Wright meets the librarian at Hunter School of Performing Arts with a novel idea that is encouraging students to read.

Three school girls wearing masks in a library looking at books wrapped in paper
Image: Perfect match: Students at Hunter School of Performing Arts selecting a book for their 'blind date'.

Students at the Hunter School of Performing Arts have been diving into love affairs with literacy under their library’s ‘Blind Date with a Book’ program.

To help students reconnect with the joy of hard copy books, Librarian and English teacher Karuna Chetty set up a lending scheme in which students don’t see the cover, just keywords on the gift wrapping of the book, such as ‘adventure’, ‘romance’, ‘history’ or ‘family’.

“I am always trying to reiterate the concept of 'don't judge a book by its cover',” said Ms Chetty.

“I was inspired by seeing the concept several years ago at a bookstore in Newtown, and I have been using it as a fun way to encourage students in Term 1 to come to the library and be excited about borrowing a book.

“Starting work at the school in Term 4 last year in the middle of a pandemic and online learning, I saw a potential long-term risk of students being hesitant to come back into the library."

She said with the start of the 2022 school year and a focus on wellbeing support she had "wanted to remind students of the calm, physical space the library is" as well as a place they could borrow books.

“Students sometimes say they don't have time to read books and just walk past them, but by covering them and only having a few words to describe the content, they’re more likely to stop and look and engage with what's on the inside," she said.

Ms Chetty said she had picked a range of genres from the junior and older fiction sections to accommodate primary and secondary students. The library staff helped decorate the books and Ms Chetty added keywords to the new covers.

“Students have taken time to read the key words, get interested, and they then say the cover no longer matters. They are genuinely excited when they unwrap their 'date' and know they will enjoy its themes and concepts," she said.

“They’re excited to share their 'dates' with their friends and some have waited to unwrap their 'date' until they are home so their family can be a part of the unveiling.

“This is exactly what I wanted to achieve: sharing the thrill of anticipation about what a new book will hold.

“Establishing that habit will give pleasure for a lifetime.”

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