As an elementary media center clerk, Narda Gonzalez normally does not wear a chef’s hat at work.
But as the proprietor of the “Good Book Cafe,” it’s part of her uniform.
Ms. Gonzalez transformed the Rustic Lane Elementary School Library last month into a “restaurant” complete with red checkered tablecloths and place settings. On the menu: a wide variety of books that students could sample at her “book tasting.”
“We give kids an opportunity to read different types of books that they probably have never read. We give them just a little snippet of it so they can then try different types of books and see what they like and what they don’t like,” she said.
Students who normally might stick with humor or scary stories, for example, got a chance to try something new, like books about nature and science.
“Once you put them in a different seating area with different books…when they start reading, they start realizing, ‘Wow, I actually really like this,” Ms. Gonzalez said.
Book tastings took place across the JUSD this fall as part of the district’s Literacy Without Limits campaign. Each school participated and put their own spin on the idea.
“They are getting to sample different genres of books here in the library,” said Amy Noyes, Coordinator of Education Technology. “It gives them an opportunity to broaden their literacy and their knowledge.”
The cafe atmosphere helped draw students into the library. Once there, students gladly perused stacks of books and even checked some out to read later.
At Jurupa Valley High School, library staff set up Cafe Read-a-Latte which featured books and coffee-shop treats. Staff even wore green barista aprons.
“When I started here we didn’t have too many students that were checking out books, at least not on a regular basis,” Jurupa Valley Library Tech Jessica Ramboz said. “I wanted to find something that would encourage them to get into the library and just get books in their hands.”
JVHS posted flyers about the special event and had an overwhelming response.
“I love it,” said Education Specialist Connie Finazzo. “I think it’s a fantastic way to draw kids into the library. I saw a really diverse group of students in here. They were all chatting about different books and talking about their interests and how those relate to the books that were on display. I just love the whole process.”
JVHS Senior Kaylee Honig was one of the students who stopped by Cafe Read-a-Latte.
“It’s pretty fun. I think it's good for people who don’t read books a lot. I think it’s good exposure,” she said.
Kaylee said she didn’t used to enjoy the library, but now she does.
“I enjoy it. It’s peaceful,” she said.
Ms. Ramboz said she hopes more students will discover all that the library has to offer.
“The library is a place that’s for everybody,” she said. “That’s what I love about it.” “Whether you’re looking for information or just an escape from reality, you can find that in a book.”
“The library really is the heart of the campus,” Ms. Noyes added. “They (libraries) support our teachers. They support our students. They support our families. Building literacy is such an important goal for our schools.”