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Book appétit

Literary nourishment for here and to go

Caledonia — Dressed in an apron and chef’s hat, Dutton Elementary librarian Jennifer Scharp welcomed classes to the Dutton Diner.

She said she was met by a few confused faces from the first group of students when she told them their library had been transformed into a restaurant of sorts. 

They entered to find tables covered in tablecloths with plates and utensils. Instead of serving food, Scharp served up new books to “taste test.” 

Italian dinner music played in the background and she sat the students, maître d’ style, at the tables. The music played and they switched tables every few minutes, like musical chairs. Some tables featured appetizers, like picture books, for younger students and more pricey entrees, or chapter books, for older students with bigger appetites. 

Scharp recalled how kindergartner Gigi Erb was sad at first because she hadn’t found a book then said she was excited to finally find a baking book she loved at the nonfiction table. 

Students like Gigi found satisfying literary nourishment; others found the books in front of them to be an acquired taste, Scharp said.

Clockwise from left, kindergartners Kevin Harris, Shantel DeGroot, Abigail Hamilton and Emily Dabakey enjoy reading new books at the Dutton Diner (courtesy)

Ordering Up New Books

Scharp had more than $2,000 worth of new books to add to Dutton’s library after the fall Scholastic Book fair and donations from parents. To introduce students to the recent additions, she found the idea for a book restaurant on a library blog. 

“New books get lost easily mixed in with all the existing ones, especially the chapter books all lined up on the shelves,” she said. “I wanted students to have the chance to explore the new books before they went on the shelves.” 

Dutton teachers were in on the library-to-diner transformation, and kept it a surprise until their students arrived.

“(The students) loved it,” Scharp said. “I put on my chef’s hat and made it a big deal. If I get this amount of new books in the future, I will definitely do this again.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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