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This term, girls in Years 3 to 6 have dined at a café with a difference: the Genre Café!
Remember the Dr Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham? Perhaps you might remember the refrain, “I do not like them, Sam-I-Am!” The perennially persistent Sam-I-Am is determined to share the love of green eggs and ham, despite the protests of his friend.
“You do not like them, so you say.
Try them! Try them! And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.”
While avid readers might find libraries a place where dreams come true, new readers, or those who find books challenging can find libraries overwhelming. An unfortunate experience with a book can rapidly evolve into a belief akin to “I do not like them, Sam-I-Am”. At Wenona, the library staff are eager for girls to try a wide variety of books in the hope they might find one that sparks that love of reading for pleasure.
This term, girls in Years 3 to 6 have been invited to the Genre Café. Located in the library, it comes complete with tablecloths, flowers, candles, menus, genre placements, fancy restaurant music and even a maître d′!
Each week, a new genre is ‘tasted’. (Try them and you may, I say…) Girls explore key features of the genre, listen to a chapter, and select a book from that genre to sample. Silent reading of the book of their choice enables girls to really immerse themselves in the story, rather than simply judging a book by its cover or blurb.
Following this time of silent reading, the girls reflect on the experience, noting their opinion of the book in their ‘menus’, and give the book a rating.
Importantly, a book tasting does not automatically result in every girl loving every genre. However, the Genre Café empowers Wenona girls to be more adventurous in trying a range of books and has sparked many conversations and recommendations with peers.
“I learnt that I don’t only have to like fantasy books,” said Amalia (Year 4).
“I liked the Genre Café because every week it was fun and there was something new and some stories I didn’t know and I got to read them,” explained Ava (Year 3).
And this from one of our Year 5 girls. “I have changed by borrowing a lot of different books that I’d probably not get if the Genre Café wasn’t there.”
Intuitively, reading is regarded as a ‘good thing’ for students. However, the benefits of reading for pleasure are well-researched, and extend far beyond academic benefits of vocabulary and knowledge acquisition:
- Empathy and inclusivity. Research has shown that imagining stories helps activate the regions of the brain responsible for understanding others and seeing the world from a different perspective. In fact, the mental simulations created when reading fiction cause the brain to react as if they were actually living the events they were reading about. (Raymond Mar, 2014) Similarly, when a reader identifies with, for example, a character from a different culture, stereotyping and other forms of discrimination are decreased. (Dan Johnson 2014).
- Relaxation. Research at the University of Sussex shows that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, and is more effective than other methods including listening to music or taking a walk. (University of Sussex 2009).
- Improved relationships: Books are a ‘reality simulator’. In the same way that computer simulations assist with complex problems like flying a plane, fiction can help in understanding some of the complexities of social life. (Keith Oatley 2012)
As a result of the Genre Café, girls have been borrowing enthusiastically, recommending books to others and discovering worlds beyond their own. Now that’s food for thought.
Thank you to all our wonderful library staff, in particular, Junior School Teacher Librarian, Ms Sue Scott.