2010-01-28 / Front Page

MAMS bridges lunchtime with literature

Lunch Bunch program brings public library into school
BY JACQUELINE HLAVENKA Staff Writer
Students are satisfying their hunger for learning — and their appetites — outside the cafeteria at Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School (MAMS).

Students work on crafts during Lunch Bunch, a new lunchtime program held in the Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School media center. Chrissie McGovern, Youth Services librarian at the Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library, reads to students in the media center. Students work on crafts during Lunch Bunch, a new lunchtime program held in the Matawan-Aberdeen Middle School media center. Chrissie McGovern, Youth Services librarian at the Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library, reads to students in the media center. Once a month, sixth-, seventhand eighth-graders now have the option of attending a new lunchtime program called “Lunch Bunch,” featuring food, crafts and a book discussion with the Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library (MAPL). The program is held in the school’s media center.

“The library isn’t just a place for books, but it’s a place for fun, too,” said Chrissie McGovern, youth services librarian at MAPL. “It’s really helped our program attendance.”

PHOTOS BY JACQUELINE HLAVENKA PHOTOS BY JACQUELINE HLAVENKA The in-school program, which started in September 2009, is a collaborative effort between the administration at the middle school and the staff at MAPL. Members of the public library began visiting the middle school on a monthly basis for book talks during lunchtime periods throughout the day.

“We come once a month, either myself or my part-time librarian, and we do a couple of crafts with them and we bring books we think would interest them, and we talk about programs at the library,” McGovern said.

The partnership with MAPL was fostered by Jessica Emili, the new media specialist at MAMS. Emili spearheaded the program and aimed to create a new connection with the public library to encourage students to do outside research and read for enjoyment.

“It’s a free program, and we try to build a partnership with the public library,” Emili said. “We encourage students to check out books outside our library, and it opens up our resources.”

Students have the option of attending the 40-minute lunch program by signing up in the media center or by obtaining a pass from their language arts teacher.

The student must submit the pass at the beginning of the lunch period in order to attend. Students have the option of bringing lunch from home or buying a meal in the cafeteria before heading to the media center.

Each monthly session has a different theme drawn from fiction and nonfiction titles. After students hear about a book that interests them, they can find a copy and check it out at the public library.

The media center at MAMS has approximately 11,000 book titles in circulation. The MAPL offers books, magazines, newspapers, microfilm, audio cassettes, CDs, video cassettes, DVDs and online research databases to the public.

So far, participating students are happy with the program, viewing it as an alternative to the day-to-day routine of eating lunch in the cafeteria.

“I like books and crafts, and my friend was joining, so I think it’s really fun,” said sixth-grader Michala Rose. “I enjoy reading. There are so many books I like, and it’s noisy in the lunchroom. It’s mellow in here and we discuss books.”

Her friend, sixth-grader Katrina Mastrolia, said the library is “a nice environment” to spend time in. Crafts in the past have included pencil toppers and balloon art. “I came to the last one, and was really fun with all the different crafts,” Mastrolia said. “She [Mc- Govern] brought us snacks, and it’s much more fun than lunch. Plus, love reading.”

Emili said approximately 45 students sign up for each period. She added that Lunch Bunch attendance has consisted of mostly sixthgraders, but she hopes the program will expand to include more upperclassmen as well.

Fliers advertising the program have been placed around the school, and language arts teachers promote

in the classroom. Morning loudspeaker announcements are also made.

As a whole, MAMS is focusing on improving language arts skills across all grade levels. On the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK), a multigrade assessment program for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, students showed an increase in proficiency for language arts in eighth grade and gains in advanced proficiency for language arts in seventh and eighth grades.

Emili said encouraging reading is her No. 1 goal as an educator.

“We try to promote recreational reading,” Emili said. “We want them to go to the library and read outside of school.”

The Matawan-Aberdeen Public Library is located at 165 Main St. in Matawan. For more information about children’s and teen service programs, call 732-583-9100 or visit www.matawanaberdeenlibrary. com.

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