A taste for books

Matthew Rhodes/Register: Students in Jennifer Lacher-Starace’s eighth-grade reading class sample books and snacks at the Reading Rocks Café in the Mickelson Middle School library. The café was held to allow students to sample a wide variety of book genres before the school’s book fair this week.

Reading Rocks Café introduces MMS students to new genres

BROOKINGS – Mickelson Middle School students were the exclusive customers at a new café in Brookings late last week and earlier this week, designed to let them sample as many menu items as possible.

Students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades took part in an event called Reading Rocks Café, which showcased 19 different genres of books. 

Eighth-grade reading teacher Jennifer Lacher-Starace wanted to expose her students to the variety of options books have to offer through a unique way of sampling, or a “book tasting.” The MMS library had several tables dedicated to a genre. Each table had a pile of new books the students could look at, and students were given a “menu” with a scoring sheet, where students were able to write what they did and didn’t like about the books they briefly perused.

Hy-Vee, Bel Brands, and the Parent Teacher Student Association all paid for snacks that were available for the students while reading.

Books at the Café were provided by Scholastic Books for the MMS book fair taking place at the school through Thursday. The café event was held to inspire the students to find books they are interested in, to encourage lifelong reading and to show them items they could purchase at the fair.

“It felt novel to me to have the kids use some autonomy in picking out books that interest them to keep them reading,” Lacher-Starace said. 

Another goal of the Reading Rocks Café was to show students there are others who enjoy the same types of books. It creates a sense of camaraderie for the students when they normally would read by themselves.

The Reading Rocks Café was also a collaborative effort held in conjunction with the Brookings Public Library. 

Ali Bruinsma is the young adult services coordinator for the Brookings Public Library, and she helped Lacher-Starace by providing additional book options for sampling. The only difference was that those books were for the Summer Reading Program hosted by the Brookings Public Library.

Since working with MMS for the past year, Bruinsma said she’s seen a significant increase in students participating in activities offered by the library’s Summer Reading Program.

Many of the students participating in the “book tasting” said they felt empowered by feeling relatable and understood both by the authors and by their peers.

“If they don’t like reading, then they simply won’t like school,” Mickelson Middle School Principal Tim Steffensen said of the event. 

He said he was pleased with how well the students responded to the event and how inspired they have become both for the fair and to read.

Contact Matthew Rhodes at [email protected]


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