“Book tasting” whets reading appetites

A special three-course menu was recently served to fourth graders at Sweet Apple Elementary. While the small bites included grapes, crackers, cheese and cookies, the main dishes were not edible. But they were tantalizing.

The event was a “book tasting” that highlighted the variety of nonfiction works available from the school’s media center. Fourth grade teacher Rachel Rafinski had seen the idea on various social media sites and was eager to try it in the Roswell school.

“But it took a lot of organizing,” said Rafinski. “So I reached out to the room parents and asked for their help to make it happen.”

Parent Caroline Degala was happy to take on the project.

“I got four other moms, and we spent about an hour pulling 150-plus books together,” she said. “The goal was to have 12 books for each student – one as an appetizer, one for a main course and one for dessert. The challenge was to find things we thought the kids would be interested in.”

Students were “served” in a classroom transformed to look like a restaurant with tables decked out with red plaid tablecloths and flowers, and attended by volunteers sporting aprons and carrying food trays.

For each course, they delivered snacks and water, but the main attractions were the samplings of books for students to peruse. The final “menu” featured a first course of science and technology, followed by “entrees” of historical nonfiction and desserts of narrative nonfiction.

The selection included Guinness world record books, biographies of Lance Armstrong and Michael Jordan, science titles and some solid kid-pleasers on how to make slime, why snakes shed their skins and the history of toilets. Readers were invited to spend about 15 minutes looking at the first few pages and taking notes about the books they liked best.

“The idea was you needed to read a few pages to get a ‘good taste,’” said Degala. “We also provided book markers as reminders, so if they wanted to read more, they could check the books out later.”

The tasting also helped Rafinski find ways to promote the nonfiction section of the curriculum. “It’s something many kids aren’t as excited about,” she said. “I wanted to get them to try something new. The parents explained each genre and answered questions, and we talked about how to find a good book fit.

In the end, a lot of kids said they found a book that actually interested them. Now they’re asking when they can do it again.”

Degala noted the same responses. “You could tell the kids were really engaged; it was absolutely quiet while they were tasting each course,” she said. “My own fourth grader said he found a few books he might not have normally considered reading, but he thought they were interesting. The kids absolutely enjoyed it and thought it was fun.”

Information about Sweet Apple Elementary is online at fultonschools.org/sweetapplees.


Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.