As Hayes Elementary third grade teacher Heidi Hall led her students back to their classroom after specialist class on September 11, students excitedly noticed green, black and white balloons framing the classroom entrance and a familiar sign on their door. Students instantly recognized the Starbucks Coffee logo, but this sign read “Starbooks” and showed a mermaid reading a book. Hall put on a green apron and announced to her students that she was their “bookista” and would help them sample and taste different genres of books that day in their classroom turned cozy coffee shop.
“Finding what students are interested in is my biggest challenge,” Hall said about obstacles she faces in getting her students excited to read. “Students always say to me, ‘I don't like to read.’ When I ask why, they respond with ‘Well, I don't like the book.’” Hall often follows up by asking students what they are interested in to find a book that might pique their interest. She finds if students develop ownership in choosing what book they want to read, they have more success in sticking with the book and finding similar styles in the future.
Once students were in the classroom they noticed other coffee shop decorations that transformed the space such as relaxing music, signage, and green table cloths. There was also a table set up with hot chocolate cups and treat bags, but Hall let the students know that they’d get to explore that table after they did their book tasting.
Students sat on the rug first, while Hall explained how the book tasting would go. Each student had a bookmark, a book tasting menu, a placemat and a stir stick at their respective table seats. The stir stick acted as a tracking finger while students read. Students got five minutes each with five different genres of books to see what type of book they liked in genres including biographies, non-fiction, graphic novels, fiction (fantasy) and mystery. Hall explained that it’s OK if a student didn’t like a certain book; this activity was more about finding what they liked.
As Hall dismissed students to their tables, they began to taste-test their first books. “My biggest hope is that my students view reading as something they get to do rather than they have to do. It's a treat,” Hall said. “We talked about the coffee shop vibe and how people go there to get away, be with friends and go somewhere new. I think that's exactly what books do for you. You get to make new friends with the characters, you can travel to far away places, and really develop that love of reading.”
Every five minutes, Hall would remind students to take notes on the genre they were currently reading and then she transferred the genres to different tables. “One table said to me, I really like graphic novels, so bringing the graphic novels over to them and seeing that excitement on their face was really exciting.”
After their book tasting, students were able to continue to enjoy their cozy, coffee shop vibe by enjoying hot chocolate and a cookie. The next day, students “shopped” for books in Hall’s classroom library and she could tell the excitement was still there because they mentioned seeing certain books during the book tasting.
“A huge thank you to store manager Gina from the Maple Grove location of Starbucks for helping make this a possibility,” Hall noted. “Gina graciously donated everything, from the cups, the stir sticks, everything. It was amazing. Without that, it would have been hard to see this idea come to life.”
For now, Hall hopes that this excitement and drive continues because her students have found things that they enjoy reading. Reflecting on this experience, Hall emotionally beamed, “They're going to recess, they're going to lunch, and they're talking about it. Hearing them excited about reading, I think for me, is huge.”