“I had never really seen students get so invested in a book before,” Middle Division (MD) Library Department Chair Rachael Ricker said in reference to the MD Readers Forum. “There’s always a lot of yelling and excitement and I love the energy.”
Readers Forum is unlike a typical book club because all the students read different books, Ricker said. “The idea was to have a place for students to informally discuss their love for reading.”
Grace Yoon (7) joined the club last year to connect with other peers who enjoy reading. “I think the best part is being able to interact with people who share the same interests as you,” she said. “The sense of community is great.”
Loewy Miller (7) also joined the club as a sixth grader, and it was one of the best decisions he’s ever made at the school, Miller said. He loves the club because it’s a warm community that feels very inclusive, he said.
Emily Park (7) believes that Readers Forum inspires students to become better readers by introducing them to new books. “I like getting book recommendations and how everyone’s just talking about books,” Park said.
Each year, the club hosts the Mock Newbery Award: the school’s version of the real Newbery Award that chooses the most distinguished American children’s book published that year. In Readers Forum, students begin with a selection of 60 books that have a wide range of genres, which they eventually narrow down to five and then one final book.
Yoon’s favorite club experience was last year’s decision-making process, which included controversy and debates over which book should win, she said. Eventually, Yoon’s pick won: “Lovely War” by Julie Berry.
Miller’s favorite memory of Readers Forum was also last year’s Mock Newbery, he said. Although his favorite book was not chosen last year, Miller is still optimistic about this year’s award, he said.
Even during HM Online, Ricker feels that the students seem to be very engaged in the club. “It works really well over Zoom because I can present [the books] to the students and I have all of them in one place at one time,” she said. “I can record it so if someone can’t come, they can watch it later.”
Ricker is confident the students will bring the same excitement during virtual meetings as they did in the spring when school first went online, she said. “We were still able to have the same spirit of the club even when we were remote.”
Park prefers when club meetings are held over Zoom. “I know this is kind of surprising, even though it’s online, I feel like we can get a little more done,” she said. “When we’re in person, it can get very chaotic, and online, at least Ms. Ricker can mute people.”
Readers Forum also introduces students to new people they might not have been friends with before and brings together students who love to talk about books, Park said. “I met a lot of new people and it was really nice.”
Yoon believes Readers Forum is a great club for students to join, regardless of whether they like books. “If you want to sit and listen that’s okay too, so it’s open to a wide variety of students.”