Reading Initiative offers love poems and pancakes for “read-dating” event


Harrisites celebrate Valentine’s Day with pancakes and love poems at the Read Dating event, offered by the THHS Reading Initiative.

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This year has seen a slew of Townsend Harris High School Reading Initiative events, and Valentine’s Day was no different with Reading Initiative organizers offering “Read-Dating” after school in the library. Among those attending the event were students and their significant others, or even pairs and groups of friends to celebrate a day of love and connection. The event saw the library turned into a restaurant where couples received a pamphlet of select love poems to peruse as they ordered and enjoyed pancakes and refreshments, served by members of THHS faculty.

Couples were paired based on their rankings of ten love poems, in order of most to least romantic, sent in a Google Form; those who ranked similarly and specified a preference of whom they wanted to be paired with, would be put together. Again, these couples did not have to be romantic, as emails and announcements stressed that this was an event for friends and significant others alike.

According to Librarian Arlene Laverde, she held the event to “get kids excited about poetry […] and to offer another way to celebrate reading.” Prior to “making reservations” in the library restaurant, students received a series of love poems and ranked them from most romantic to least romantic. They were then paired based on their romantic rankings (unless they specifically requested to attend the event with a significant other).

 “It was just a way to eat and laugh […] all around a reading event,” Ms. Laverde said. 

“My friend and I sat down and just talked while eating pancakes and drinking lemonade,” junior Annie Wang said. “We enjoyed the event a lot. It was interesting how the faculty were our waiters for the afternoon.” The servers were English teacher Natali Frank, Parent Coordinator Jodie Lasoff, and school social worker Allison Harris. Ms. Laverde and English teacher Brian Sweeney hosted the event while Senior advisor and social studies teacher Blayne Gelbman served as pancake chef.

Mr. Sweeney said that the goal of these events is to promote reading through social events and the building of school traditions. “Things that become traditional are more successful,” he said. “This year our goal is to get things into a schedule that’s repeatable, and once these are traditions, students like it more, and the awareness of it makes it more effective as a thing to inspire reading.” He cited events like Founders Day and the Election Simulation as such events, where students see or experience it and know it to be an integral part of Townsend Harris life.

Freshman Jasmine Femblas said that she felt the event was a great opportunity for her to meet others as a new student. “It was a nice experience. Since I’m a freshman, it was a really nice event. I liked the service and seeing the teachers,” she added.

Initially, according to Mr. Sweeney, one of the organizers, the event would have had the students “date” the books, wherein they would read until they found a book that they felt they enjoyed the most. However, he thought that “read-dating,” a pun on “speed-dating,” would be more social for those attending and love poetry would work for the holiday.

The rest of the year’s Reading Initiative schedule holds just two more events: the trip to Washington, D.C., where four actively participating students in the reading challenge will win a free spot, and Keepers Day, which returned last year after a COVID hiatus. The winning grade of the reading challenge will be announced on Keeper’s Day, and, bragging rights aside, will win a trophy that will be displayed in the grade’s designated floor. Though juniors currently hold the lead, there is still ample time and room for any grade to take and secure their spot.