By Courtney Fahy
On Fri., Nov. 4, Heritage Middle School in Livingston and the Livingston Public Library held their monthly Booked for Lunch program.
Seventh and eighth grade students met during their lunch periods in the school’s media center to discuss this month’s book, “The Compound” by S. A. Bodeen.
Run by Heritage Middle School teacher Christine Maccarella and Teen Librarian Karen deWilde, it was the first book club meeting of this school year. Booked for Lunch came about through a collaborative effort between Maccarella and deWilde.
“It’s really hard,” said deWilde. “Kids are super busy. They have a hard time coming to the library for book clubs with after school activities and transportation issues. We know we have a great circulation of teen books here and we wanted to provide kids with the opportunity to read and talk about books within their busy schedules. So far it’s working very well.”
The students sign up for the book club voluntarily, and during their 30 minute lunch break, students from four different periods trickle in and out to converse and share their voice by debating about the book, voicing their opinions, examining the fundamental issues the books brings to light and even discuss the books’ film potential.
Attendance ranges from eight to 15 students per-period, with an estimated total of 40 kids participating each month. When describing the students, Maccarella stated, “There are kids who are avid readers and then others who are coaxing. Whether they finish the book or not isn’t the main point. We want them to have a positive experience.”
As for book selections, deWilde stated, “We look for books that talk about issues. High interest books that are also thought provoking.” She went on to explain how the current book meets these expectations: “It’s about a man who takes his family to live in an underground compound to escape nuclear war. Many issues come up about survival, morality and resources. It’s a thrilling and a very exciting book, but also very thought provoking.”
The students also have a choice in what book they get to read for the next month. While Maccarella and deWilde choose books to present to the students to choose for their next read, the choice goes to the students.
“Karen and I nominate books and figure out what will work,” said Maccarella. “We want a good solid read that they might not have looked at or know about. We introduce four or five titles, give a quick synopsis, and then they vote for the next book.”
The program promotes reading for pleasure in a fun and accessible way. The students eat lunch, play games and build a rapport with one another in a safe place where they can express their thoughts and opinions. Students are also learning how to branch out and find more books on their own.
Maccarella said, “Once the kids read the book it gets easier to find them their next great read as we know their likes and opinions. We open a doorway for them to follow that genre a little bit more closely. It helps to promote the whole idea that reading can take you places and give you an adventure.”
The purpose of Booked for Lunch and the efforts of Maccarella and deWilde are clear. “Get books in the hands of kids that they would enjoy. We’re making lifetime readers.”