Literature & Little Caesars?

Lunch in the Library Encourages Love of Reading

Students lining up for pizza and chips include (from left) Shoshanna Yonkers, Jessica Decker, Lexa Reyes, Jenna Beechler and Hailey Landers

There’s nothing like pizza and potato chips to get students in the mood for reading. At least that’s the thinking behind Lunch in the Library, a monthly program at Crossroads Middle School that cleverly combines literature and Little Caesars. Teachers and community guests read aloud while students eat.

Sixteen students recently gathered in the media center to hear Liz Wierenga, youth librarian at the Kent District Library’s Plainfield Township branch, read an excerpt from “The Nest,” an eerie novel about a boy’s efforts to save his sick newborn brother aided by angel-like wasps.

“They’re a very good audience,” Wierenga said of her listeners. “Everyone likes to be read to. It doesn’t matter how old you are.”“There was something wrong with the baby, but no one knew what,” Wierenga read as students dug into their pizza slices.

The program has been going on for several years as a way to help entice students into the library and encourage reading. Up to 20 students sign up for three lunch shifts, with priority given to those who have not come before.

Though classrooms have their own libraries, some students rarely venture into the media center, said librarian Christy Burgess.

“Libraries are often an intimidating space,” Burgess said. “We had found circulation sort of dropped once kids hit middle school. The whole idea was, get ‘em in the door for pizza and they’ll stay for the books.”

It’s proven an effective way for students to come in, get to know the librarians and “find out we’re not all scary ladies,” Burgess added with a laugh. “It’s a really great way of communicating to kids it’s not just a book warehouse, it’s a community center. You can come hang out and be comfortable.”

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Crossroads Middle School

Kent District Library’s Plainfield Township branch

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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