Friday, February 27, 1998

Food for the Mind Nicarico Literacy Grant

Article from:Sun Publications (IL) Article date:February 27, 1998More results for:jeanine nicarico Literacy

In school, children read because they have to. Keith Lustig and Mary Kelly want them to read for pleasure, too.
"We want them to become lifelong lovers of reading," said Lustig, a Crone Middle School teacher.

He and Kelly, Learning Media Center director at Hill Middle School, are each running "Read 'Em and Eat" book clubs at their schools.

The schools received a Jeanine Nicarico Literacy Grant and an Indian Prairie Education Foundation grant to help fund the cost of books.

Lustig and Kelly also received $300 from each of their principals to cover the cost of food.

Each school has two clubs: a breakfast club, in which students are told titles of the book to be discussed and they find their own copies for the discussion; and a lunch club, in which the school gives books to 30 students who have signed up for the club.

Lunch club students sign a contract, which also must be signed by a parent, that says they will read the book and be present for the discussion.

Breakfast club is open to an unlimited number of students, parents and teachers.

A set of books, funded by grant money, travel between the two school libraries for students to use.

"When we came up with this, we decided we wanted to do it a couple of different ways to find out what works," Lustig said.

"And we knew we needed food.

It draws kids."

Both club leaders are pleased with the success of their first sets of discussions in February.

The clubs will meet again in March and April.

"We worried that we were really targeting a small group of kids.

With a student population of almost 1,000, we are only giving away 90 books (in each school)," Kelly said.

"But reaching a smaller number creates a different audience, and it's something we wanted to try."

Before the book clubs, Lustig found he was reaching kids just by talking about books.

"I'd informally share with kids about what they were reading and then they'd give it to me to read," he said.

The book clubs create a formal exchange.

They also provide food.

Lustig said at the middle-school age, students attach memories to food.

He also said the food expands the experience.

At the Crone Middle School breakfast club Feb. 12, club members munched on biscuits and orange juice while talking about Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen.

The 10 students, five parents and five staff members divided into small groups and followed guide questions for discussion.

"The club allows students to talk with teachers without fear of evaluation, to simply read for pleasure," Lustig said.

"If we take that pleasure away by grading all of the time, we take away lifelong readers and learners."

Parent Sue Verrill said involving parents in the discussion shows they are prepared to read what their children do.

"It shows them there is some enjoyment in reading," said fellow parent Sharlyne Williams.

Williams' daughter, seventh-grader Shakira, usually doesn't like to read, but she likes coming to the book club with her mom.

She said she learned that discussing the book can help students find the main point more easily.

"She liked the book, I liked the book, and we had fun together," Shakira said.

Although he usually reads alone, seventh-grader Nick Dolendi also attended the morning book discussion.

"I came here because I figured it couldn't hurt to discuss a book with other people.

I figured I'd do something different and I liked it," he said.

To student-teacher Tracey Beidelman, the morning book club is also a lesson brought to life.

"These are the things you hear about in school but you never see," she said.

"Adults paid attention to them, and I think the students really liked that idea.

What else would get them here by 7 a.m.?"

Teachers Marge Tunnell, left, and Keith Lustig are among the teachers participating in the "Read 'Em and Eat" book club at Crone Middle School. The program lets students, such as Shakira Williams, right, discuss books with teachers and parents in an informal setting -- over lunch or breakfast. | Crone Middle School teacher Sandra Dee and a student discuss the book Harry and Me by Gary Paulsen during a book club meeting Feb. 12 at the school.