Juicy Genre Café Expands Reading Palates

Second graders patronized the latest hot spot on Roland Avenue on Friday, September 30. “Mr. LJ Shapiro’s group, party of 10,” the second grade teacher announced before Lower School librarian-turned-hostess Melissa Da seated them at the table filled with a platter of mystery books.

The other groups led by second grade teachers Lisa Shapiro and Caroline Way and reading specialist Becky Stevens were seated at one of four other fiction sub-genre tables — fantasy, science fiction, realistic fiction, and historical fiction. Each student was given a menu for the Juicy Genre Café that listed the five genres. But at the Juicy Genre Café, you don’t have to choose just one dish; it’s standard to order everything on the menu. Every 10 minutes, Da rang the bell to indicate it was time for the next course, and groups rotated around the Stevens Room-turned-restaurant. The boys recently studied genres in library class and are well-versed at finding clues on the cover, spine, or pages of a book to understand which one it belongs to.

The juicy event was started from scratch in 2018. “They’ve always had book projects in second grade. But we noticed that students were always picking books in the same series and not trying new things,” said Caroline Way. So she and Lisa Shapiro along with then second grade teacher Erica Hudson approached Da to help come up with a recipe for helping the boys expand their reading palates.

“Preparing the event is a collaborative effort with the second grade team, and it’s really centered around the kids,” said Da.

Way added, “It makes them realize they have more options to choose from, and their reading experience is that much more enriched.”

Since the event has been held over the last few years, second grade classroom bookshelves have been reorganized by genre, and students choose a book from a different genre for projects throughout the year.

After an hour of tasting so many reading samples, each boy got to place a carryout order before leaving the café — one book from a genre of their choice as well as a scented cafe-inspired bookmark.

“There is the academic piece, of course; talking about genres has become more meaningful to them,” said Da. “But it’s also about the joy of reading.”