BWE’s reading cafe is motivating students to find a good book

Published 9:05 am Friday, March 10, 2023

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On Monday, Berta Weathersbee Elementary unveiled its Soaring Readers Café. The café is a part of the school’s initiative of promoting literacy and a love of reading.

Dalecia Hamilton, creator of the café, said the idea initially started with encouraging her students to bring books to read at lunchtime. 

“Every day when my class would come down for lunch, I’d make sure they have a book and sight word cards so whenever after they finish eating they could read, practice their sight words, quiz each other on their sight words or read to one another,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said getting her students to read and practice their sight words at lunch, students started making progress.

“After doing that, for an entire quarter, I started to see an increase in fluency, accuracy and comprehension with my students — so much to the point one of my students was able to read for Read Across America to the entire school,” Hamilton said. “It really built up her confidence to be able to read a book. Every day she comes to the cafeteria, sits down next to her classmates and she’s reading books, practicing her sight words — I said to myself, ‘if my babies can have that growth, then every child can do the same thing.’”

For the first 15 minutes of their lunch, students will eat and then after they finish, they can use the remainder of the lunchtime in the café, Hamilton said. The café is for all grade levels and features a variety of books for all students big and small.

As a part of the café, students fill out reader’s receipts, that in turn put them in a drawing for s special treat.

“Once they finish reading a book, they will fill out a reader’s receipt putting their name, the title of the book, the author, and then write something that they liked about the book,” Hamilton said. “At the end of the week, we choose three of them, who may get a token for the book machine, a $5 gift card to Chick-fil-A or something along the lines of that.”

Hamilton said so far the café has been successful.

“The children are really taking to it and it brings me so much teacher joy, to see them over there reading to each other and really getting into the book,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton said she’s also been getting reviews and asking the kids what types of things they want to see in the café.

“I’ve recorded some of their reviews and posted some of them on Facebook, with some of the pictures of what the students say,” Hamilton said. “One of the reviews said, ‘I’d give it five stars, I liked the décor’ another said they feel like they’re grown up when they go over there and read. It’s good to see how excited they are to grab a book and read.”

Hamilton said right now the café is in its opening stages and looks to get a carpet, a stool for story time and feature readers from the community.

She said creating the cafe has been a united effort and everyone has been pitching in.

“The one thing I love about Berta is that everyone from the custodians to the lunch ladies to the front office staff is invested in anything that we do. Our custodians built and painted the benches in the café,” Hamilton said. “It takes a village and everyone has to be invested. I love the fact that they took extra time out of their days to build those benches for our students.”

Long-term, Hamilton said the café will increase fluency, comprehension and the love of reading.

“To increase fluency and comprehension, you have to read more. Just the act of reading helps,” she said.

“The younger babies may not be able to read the words, but the action, the pre-reading skills of opening the book, identifying the cover, finger reading and actually going through the motion will help all of those skills built up to make a lifelong reader.”