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.
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.”