Have you ever been on a Blind Book Date?
Students at Summit Lakes Middle School have. Spurred by matchmaker Christie Brown, they accepted 90 such dates last Valentine’s Day.
Brown, media specialist at the Lee’s Summit school, wrapped the books in brown paper and pasted a small summary on each to entice the middle school students to pick them up. In this case, no one discouraged public displays of affection.
“We had kids lined up, ” said eighth-grade social studies teacher Damon Carr.
The Blind Book Date proved so popular that Brown had to wrap more books after students quickly grabbed the first ones displayed.
“I was literally sweating getting more books out in time,” said Brown who, after being nominated by her peers, recently received the 2013 Lee’s Summit Reading Council Literacy Award.
Brown also got students engaged through an all-school service project, inspired by the “The Hunger Games” books, in which student/staff teams earned points during a food drive
“She’s not your typical librarian,” Carr said. “I don’t know of anyone who works harder than she does. She embeds literacy throughout.”
Brown also tries to get the middle-schoolers ready for research reports in high school and beyond.
“It’s important that I teach my students sound research and databases and (that they) understand and know what they are,” she said.
Brown has watched many students try to conduct Internet research without accessing journals, credible books or magazine and other databases. Those students then go to college and struggle.
“She takes an active role in teaching students how to research the proper way with databases, and she’s teaching kids in eighth grade to do that,” Carr said.
Eighth-grader Caroline Sinnerty said Brown helped her find references and cite sources for a paper she wrote about privacy for social studies and language arts assignments.
“I learned about how websites take a lot of information (of yours) that you might not know about,” Carolyn said. “It was definitely advanced, but it was easy once she explained it.”
Brown taught English at Raymore-Peculiar, Lee’s Summit and Lee’s Summit West high schools before taking her current position after receiving her library certification.
As part of her job, Brown helps coordinate the school’s literacy program, the technology committee and library activities such as Teen Read Week and Book-of-the-Month club.
She’s a member of the Truman committee, which is part of the Missouri Association of School Librarians. Her previous honors include the Teacher Library Collaboration Award when she was an English teacher at Ray-Pec and the Progressive School Library Media Program Award earlier this year.
She walks her talk to come up with ideas for the school. As soon as a question arises, she’s doing research of her own and is quick to forward web links and addresses about topics discussed.
“I do a lot of research,” Brown said. “I come up with (an idea) myself or feed off an idea.”
That’s how she started the Blind Book Date project, by finding the idea online. She also uses social media like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, along with library journals.
Brown’s other purpose is to get students hooked on reading, which can flow into all areas of their lives.
When a student of reading specialist Susan Sexton showed an interest in the Navy SEALS after seeing the movie,
“Zero Dark Thirty,” Brown’s recommendations helped hook him up with Howard Wasdin’s book, “I Am A SEAL Team Six Warrior.”
Sexton said she depends on Brown’s suggestions because she is in the know about the newest books for young adult readers.
“This book provided my student with information and knowledge about the work of the Navy SEALS, and he liked reading the SEAL’s point of view on the mission carried out against Osama bin Laden,” Sexton said.
“Matching students to the right books is what it takes to turn kids into lifetime readers. Christie makes reading fun, and that’s the key to promoting literacy for middle schoolers.”