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Kids go for book tasting in Medina

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Kitra Schmidt, student at Medina Public School, begins reading a book Dec. 20 during a book tasting program for fourth- and fifth-graders. Students read from books of different genres during the event. John M. Steiner / The Sun2 / 3
Jessica Schlecht3 / 3

MEDINA, N.D. - A room full of studious children who are completely focused on their reading -- just days before a holiday break -- must be a teacher’s Christmas wish come true.

Two teachers at Medina Public School created a restaurant-themed book tasting event to help instill a love of reading in their students on Dec. 20. They said the event worked because it allowed the students to just be themselves and read.

“We wanted to create an environment where they are just calm and relaxed and you can tell that they are very comfortable,” said Jessica Schlecht, a fifth-grade teacher at Medina Public School. “We wanted a homey feel for them to be able to enjoy reading and hopefully get a love of reading.”

Schlecht and Mary Wick, a fourth-grade teacher, said the idea for a surprise book tasting event came after hearing that similar events were successful in schools around the country. The teachers transformed a classroom into a restaurant using colorful draperies to conceal the school walls, with soft lighting and holiday music and even a fireplace on a big screen television.

The students had 5 minutes to a read a section of a book from each genre and then write down five memorable lines that they enjoyed from the reading. Then the students wrote down whether or not they would like to continue reading the book.

The teachers smiled at the quiet intensity as the students turned off distractions and focused their attention on the reading. The students sat at tables in groups of three and rotated the six tables until they read something from each genre of realistic fiction, fantasy, mystery, biography, series and nonfiction American history.

The students had a place setting, menu and pencil to carry with them to each table for writing the reaction to each book. There was no talking during the 5-minute reading times and the students were treated to hot chocolate, snacks and other goodies at each rotation.

“The whole reason we are doing this is so that you can taste genres that maybe you don’t usually go to,” Schlecht said. “We tried to pick some different things so that they can enjoy all different kinds of books and hopefully broaden their choice of books.”

The teachers polled the students occasionally to ask by raise of hands who enjoyed reading a new genre. Most students said they enjoyed the new material.