I have two new favorite teen program ideas – Blind Date a Book and Food Truck Menu Challenge.
Ok, Blind Date a Book isn’t very new; more often than not, you’ll see this in February for Library Lovers’ Month. Librarians across the country have taken this idea out for a ride and given it their own personal spin. Some benevolent librarians will give potential readers clues, by listing the genre or even a few spoiler-free sentences describing the plot or main character. Some have even successfully applied the speed dating concept to book choice – setting up tables with books at each station, allowing teens to sit with each book for a few minutes, then allowing teens to choose the book date to which they’re most attracted.
For my Blind Date a Book programs, I opt for complete “blindness” – offering up no hints at the contents of the wrapped tome. The “dates” I select tend primarily to be best sellers or YA classics that appeal to a broad range of ages, but I do include the occasional “acquired taste” titles. I decorate my stable of dates with stickers, stick-figure & smiley face drawings, and even phrases like “Short but sweet” (for the thinnest books) or “Can I hang out at your house?” The official rule is that the book must remain wrapped until it is checked out. Once checked out, the reader is free to unwrap the book – even if they’re still in the library. There are no penalties for returning their selected date right away. Sometimes, you just know you won’t be compatible, and that’s ok. I’ve included “rate your date” review forms and bookmarks that double as contest entries; both with varying degrees of success. However, my greatest satisfaction occurs when the books STAY checked out. To me, that means that the teen is reading something he or she would not necessarily have chosen or is re-reading a favorite. Either way, a teen is reading for fun – objective achieved!
Blind Date a Book can be done any time of year because the point is to get readers out of their genre comfort zones. So, go to your shelves and select some great dates – road trip books, dystopian & fantasy titles, or even some nonfiction about faraway places, titles you think your library’s teens would like to read and may not notice.
The Food Truck Menu Challenge is something I’m itching to try this year. Food trucks are hot and teens are becoming mini-foodies. Let your teens loose in the cookbook section of your nonfiction shelves (641), or pull a great selection for them. Anything is possible – blended drinks, barbeque, cupcakes, vegan options, and more. Teens can work individually or in small groups (two or three at most – remember food trucks are small!). Have the teens design a menu that can be prepared in a food truck – keeping in mind things like storage space, variety of ingredients, portion sizes, and pricing. If you can hold this in a computer lab, they’ll have loads of resources, but it can be done with a couple laptops or tablets for research and paper & pens. Give them about an hour to design their menu, and then let them share. You can give prizes for best overall menu or most creative dish. Teens love to eat; if your library has a kitchen or food prep equipment (microwave, electric griddle, blender, panini maker, etc.), make something! We’ve got a microwave and toaster oven, so I’ll be making mini waffles and offering different fillings – chicken nuggets & syrup, ice cream, fresh fruit, and whipped cream. Another option would be to “borrow” my favorite dish from a local food truck, the Tot Cart (www.thetotcart.com), and make loaded tots – tater tots, Velveeta, bacon crumbles, and sour cream.
Carolyn Aversano is a Teen Services Librarian at Ocean County Library, Jackson Branch, Tom’s River, NJ.