Goodview Elementary students Kaylee Harkey and Brett McElroy write down their thoughts on to their menus after the first course of the school’s biannual Book Tasting on Tuesday.
by NATHANIEL NELSON
Summer is here for Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) students. On Friday, students across the district will pack their bags and head home to spend the next three months relaxing and enjoying the sun, but third- and fourth-grade teachers at Goodview Elementary School have one last big tip to give –– don’t stop reading.
On Tuesday afternoon, the third and fourth-grade classrooms at Goodview were transformed into a restaurant, complete with menus, snacks, assigned tables and a three-course meal. That three-course meal, however, was not for eating, but for reading. At the school’s biannual Book Tasting, students are groups together at tables and given selections of books to read, writing down their notes on menus and gathering ideas for summer-break reading.
“The best way to explain it is the kids are seated like they would be at a restaurant,” explained third-grade teacher Britta Browne. “In their menus, they are writing down their thoughts and if what they want to read what they’re looking at.”
Browne explained that the idea for the Book Tasting came from a conference that she attended with several other teachers, focused on getting students engaged in their studies.
Students are called one by one to sit at assigned tables across the classroom pod, sitting with similarly-skilled readers, and given a menu with three sections: appetizer, main course, and dessert. The students then choose what books they’d like to “taste” by reading the front and back cover and the first few pages.
“It’s a fun and different setting, where we’re able to make the menus with the three courses and tie it into the restaurant theme,” Browne said. “It’s a play on tasting that they’re getting a ‘taste’ of the book. It is just a great way to introduce them to new books, new authors, and new series.”
The tasting is presented twice each year –– once before winter break, where students take a peek inside various holiday books, and right before the summer, which is focused on series. Browne explained that the goal of the tasting is to introduce students to new series to follow over the summer and keep them reading, whether they are getting their books from the library, ordering them, or borrowing them from the school.
“Any way you can get your hands on books this summer, we want you to do it,” she told the group.
Lydia Flesch, Cordel Ruppert and Madi Davis were among the 100 students flipping through pages that afternoon, and they had all already started to plan their summer reading.
“I’ll be going to the library every day,” Ruppert said. He was reading a book about a dog and his owner, and said he was interested in following the series through this summer. “This is great because you might get into a book series you never were into before,” he added.
Flesch, on the other hand, said she was more interested in reading non-fiction books, but some of the series piqued her interest. “I love books, so I’ll be reading a lot,” she said.
Davis had her nose deep into a volume of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” and said she was excited to get to reading this summer. “The images are pretty good, and I read a little bit of it and it’s my type of reading,” Davis explained.
Browne explained that the goal for the tasting isn’t just about getting to know new authors and books, but also getting students to be ready to read over the summer and not let their time go to waste.
“We want to avoid the summer slide,” Browne said, referenced the phenomena of students’ academic abilities backtracking in the summer months. “If they can come back in the fall at the same reading level or above, that would be amazing.”
Kimberly Moran, a fourth-grade teacher at Goodview, explained that reading helps students improve their comprehension, literacy, language skills, and experiences while also teaching them about the world and introducing them to new genres of media.
“Reading takes you someplace that you can’t really go visually,” Moran said.
“It’s a relaxing activity that we try to get all the kids to enjoy,” Browne added.