Why I Start the School Year With a ‘Starbooks Cafe’

LaQuisha Hall

by | 07.24.19

LaQuisha Hall is a teacher in Maryland. Follow her on Twitter @MrsHallScholars.

The majority of my scholars say they don’t have books at home that are relevant to their interests. They tell me they don’t think there are many books out there that they can connect with. That’s why I start the school year with a special event, which I call our ‘Starbooks Cafe.’

First, I select high-interest, culturally relevant YA titles – which I typically choose from Project LIT’s lists – and I put four books on each table. I wear a green apron, and I set out hot chocolate and donuts. Once everything is just right, I invite my scholars in.

I give them time to walk from table to table, browsing and just enjoying our cafe atmosphere. I ask them to choose their top three books and then to stand by the table of their choice. Then everyone starts to read.

They know that when they finish their first book, they have another one on their list, so they never stop reading. By the end of last school year, my scholars had read over 200 books as a group.

It becomes a point of pride for them to discuss how many books they’ve connected with so far, and that builds self-esteem. Last spring, a scholar told me that she had read seven books already – more than she’d ever read! She was so proud of herself. I know that if I set up opportunities for expression and empowerment, my scholars will invest in our classroom community.

Putting on the cafe takes planning and work, but when they see me dedicating my time and energy and imagination to it, they respond. They buy into it.

I think it’s important for all of us teachers to trust our natural creativity. When an idea comes to me, I open the door to it. I tell myself that if it doesn’t work, I’ll just close the door. So far, I haven’t had to close the door.

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