Library offers literary dining program

Getting kids to dive into good books has long been Malena Bisanti’s goal. As the media specialist at River Eves Elementary for the last five years, she’s been on the lookout for innovative ways to woo young readers into the stacks.

Last year, Bisanti created Book Tastings, an event that turns the Roswell school’s library into a restaurant-themed adventure in literacy.

“I set it up with table clothes, flowers and cafe music in the background,” said Bisanti. “I wear a chef’s apron and have menus to give to the kids. On the projector are the day’s specials and reservations for each class. And yes, a lot of times kids come in and say they want to order chicken nuggets.”

What the 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade get instead is the chance to explore three different tables piled with books.

“For instance, first grade was learning the difference between fiction and non-fiction, so the books had non-fiction works for them to sample,” said Bisanti. “Second graders were into different series, so they got three books in different series. After moving to different tables, they’ll have sampled about nine books.”

Students take menus with them to record titles, or draw smiley faces for the youngest set, to remember what piqued their interest. At the end of the session, they can check books out.

“They’re very excited about checking out books, and they often come back to ask about others they’ve seen,” said Bisanti. “And when I ask if anyone saw a book they hadn’t seen before, a lot of hands go up.”

Fifth-grader Lilly Frierson admits being a big fan of mysteries, but through the Book Tastings she’s discovered a wider variety of options.

“It really opened my eyes to different genres of books,” said the 11-year-old. “Some of the books were interesting to my taste, and others weren’t, but the whole thing is about finding out what you like.”

Two books that Frierson discovered were “Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year” and “Linked.”

“The book tastings are a fun way to check out cool books and to get people to like reading,” she said.

Bisanti said the teachers also thought the idea was engaging and have repeatedly asked her to host more tastings.

“It started with just one teacher, but soon others were bringing their classes in,” she said. “It grew to maybe a couple of times a week. We’ve even had quite a few since we came back in-person this year. The teachers like that it’s a different way to introduce books to kids while at the same time reinforce what they’re learning.”

The students also look forward to the event and often ask Bisanti when the next one is coming up.

“It’s a good way to see what kind of books you might like,” said Frierson. “It’s really, really cool.”

Information about River Eves is online at

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