Park Avenue Elementary fourth-graders’ French-themed ‘book tasting’ offers opportunites to experience different book genres


Park Avenue Elementary fourth-graders’ French-themed ‘book tasting’ offers opportunites to experience different book genres

September 27, 2019

Teacher with student at book tastingTwo French “restaurants” were open for one meal only on the fourth-grade floor of Park Avenue Elementary on Sept. 27, serving student patrons bountiful helpings of mystery, realistic fiction and historical fiction book entrees/titles during a special “book tasting.”

Le Park Café and Chez Park were creations of “chefs” Lenora Shook and Julie Hornbeck, who co-teach ELA and social studies. The idea was to create a restaurant-like atmosphere where students could have a “taste” of different book genres for the day’s ELA lessons.  

Exposing students to different book genres

A book tasting is a chance to expose students to different to different genres and to get them engaged and excited about reading. These could be books that they would never look at their own or books that might not circulate in a classroom or school or local library.

Students were grouped at “plated” tables complete with faux candles  with books categorized by mystery, realistic fiction and historical fiction genres in “bread baskets.” They had several minutes to pick a book title, five minutes to read a few pages, five minutes to write a review in their “menu” and then conclude by talking about the book before switching to the next table and, eventually, onto their co-teacher’s room.    

As part of the activity, students were encouraged to create a list of book titles that particularly interested them for future reading.    

Teachers Lenora Shook and Julie Hornbeck“They’re in charge of picking the book and then also discussing the genre,” said Mrs. Shook. “I want them to go home and say, ‘I can’t wait to full read this book I tried today,’ or ‘I didn’t know I’d like this genre.’”

‘Ambiance française’

With traditional French café accordion music playing quietly in the background to provide an “ambiance française” conducive to reading, students had platefuls of books to digest.

“I like how I can sit with friends and read and discuss the books,” said Tyler Frederick. “I like how everything is dressed up like a restaurant. I like the music.”

But there was more to than just being in a Disney “Ratatouille” reading atmosphere, Tyler felt.

“Reading is important because it helps you get ready for life, like if you make a baseball team,” he said. “If your name is on one of the lists, but you can’t read your name, you wouldn’t know if you made the team, and you wouldn’t be able to make any money.”

Across the hall in Julie Hornbeck’s “café,” students were busy tasting books from the book/bread baskets.

student with mrs. Hornbeck“The goal is to appreciate and learn about the varied book genres, and to have students want to read more,” she said. “This is the first-time we’ve done this and the students are having a great time.”

When it was time to move onto the next table, Mrs. Hornbeck stayed in her chef character, telling students in her best French accent: “Mesdames et messieurs, it’s time to try another book genre serving.”

‘You should know how to read…’ 

Like Tyler, student Lyla Sandfort felt the special class offered a good learning opportunity.

“We get to try new books,” she added. “Having a restaurant set-up makes it more fun. You should know how to read, because that will allow you to be able to do a lot of things.”

Visit the district’s Facebook page to see more book tasting photos.



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