Even though I don't know her very well, I do know that she is a fantastic person. How? She reads to and with her children. In my book that makes a great person. In fact, her second post was about reading with her son, Noah. Her first post was about reading YA and children's literature with students on a study abroad program--they read Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, and some of the Chronicles of Narnia in Oxford England. You see, she really is a great person.
Beating the Winter Blahs with a Book Bistro
“Book Bistro is an independent reading strategy for encouraging students to read books on their own, bring books to class for a scheduled event, and linger over books in a cafe atmosphere” (Kasten & Wilfong, 2005, p. 857). Kim and I scheduled our Bistro to take place in her classroom all day on a Friday in January. Kim’s 7th and 8th grade students were the “guests,” and my pre-service English teachers hosted the event. Prior to this day, my pre-service teachers had been enrolled in a YA literature class offered as a 3-week (abbreviated) January-term class at Columbus State. They had studied multiple texts and each chose 2 YA novels to share with the middle school students during the Bistro. (Note: None of Kim’s students had previously read these novels).
To set the mood for our Bistro, we decorated Kim’s classroom to look like a quaint café. During the event, two of my pre-service teachers were stationed at each table, along with copies of their novels. In small groups, Kim’s students rotated from table to table as my pre-service teachers facilitated the book tastings:
Book Bistro Menu
Check Out Some of the Books They Introduced
As the pre-service teachers and middle school students discussed the novels, Kim and I acted as “wait staff” by distributing snacks. Students were also provided with “menus,” on which they could note each novel’s title, author, and genre as well as their impressions. Students would use these menus on a later date to choose independent reading texts.
Book Bistro Responses
Overall, Kim’s students responded positively to the event. They each wrote a brief response at the end of their class period. Many said that they enjoyed “meeting college students” and “doing something different.” One, in particular, wrote, “I don’t like to read but I want to try one of the books now.” Following the Bistro, Kim took her students to the library and many were eager to check out books they had enchountered during the event.
The pre-service teachers also enjoyed participating in the Bistro. One said, “We got to see students that are not normally big on reading become excited and questioning why they do not read more.” Another reflected that “students today do not seem excited about reading…Book Bistro showed them that reading can be and is for everyone.” A third noted, “We got to give them many different views on different books, opening their minds to all of the possibilities that reading can give them…I did not expect the students to react as positively as they did to it!”
Book Bistro Variations
One of my pre-service teacher’s reflections was particularly poignant for me. She did not talk about the teaching strategy or event; instead, she focused on the 7th and 8th graders. “One thing I learned,” she wrote, “is that middle school students are all different. It is up to me to build a one-on-one bond with every one of my students.” Her reflection mirrors my teaching philosophy – As ELA teachers, we can build relationships with our students by playing “matchmaker.” That is, we can “book-match to ensure students have accessible, high-interest texts; build enthusiasm for reading; [and] cultivate a community of readers through modeling of independent reading and conversations about reading” (NCTE, 2019). Book Bistro is one way we can accomplish these goals.
- The teacher facilitates Book Bistro by choosing titles and assisting students in find the best “match” for them.
- Students facilitate Book Bistro by presenting self-selected texts to their peers (Kasten & Wilfong, 2005).
- Students partner with pre-service teachers as “pen pals” to read and discuss texts together through notebooks (Wilfong & Oberhauser, 2012).
Finally, if anyone is interested in seeing which titles were presented at our Bistro, please visit our class website. Together, we created resources for teaching Gratz’s Refugee on this site. Additionally, each pre-service teacher created a website focused on 2 self-selected YA novels.
- Kasten, W. , & Wilfong, L. (2005). Encouraging independent reading with ambience: The Book Bistro in middle and secondary school classrooms. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 48(8), 656-664.
- NCTE. (2019). Statement on independent reading.
- Wilfong, L.G.,& Oberhauser, C. (2012). A pen pal project connects preservice teachers and urban youth. Middle School Journal, 43(5). 40-50.