2013-02-15 / Community News

Library, Wentworth School join forces

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Grace Dittmer, left, and Tara Heffernan, fourth-grade students at Wentworth Intermediate School, discuss “The Search for Delicious,” a 1969 book by Natalie Babbitt with Scarborough Public Library’s childrens librarian Louise Capizzo and Wentworth librarian Barbara Merritt. The librarians worked together this year to start a book discussion group to encourage a love of reading at the school. (Michael Kelley photo) Grace Dittmer, left, and Tara Heffernan, fourth-grade students at Wentworth Intermediate School, discuss “The Search for Delicious,” a 1969 book by Natalie Babbitt with Scarborough Public Library’s childrens librarian Louise Capizzo and Wentworth librarian Barbara Merritt. The librarians worked together this year to start a book discussion group to encourage a love of reading at the school. (Michael Kelley photo) Librarians from Scarborough Public Library and Wentworth Intermediate School Library have teamed up to create a book discussion group for fourth-grade students to help instill a love of reading for the young students.

Louise Capizzo, a children’s librarian at Scarborough Public Library, saw the power of such a partnership when she was a librarian in Falmouth. While in Falmouth, she said there was a great relationship between the library and the town’s elementary school. She said last year she began looking to create a similar relationship in Scarborough, where she lives.

“As a way for me to get to know Barbara (Merritt, the intermediate school librarian) and the kids here in the Scarborough schools, I wanted to do a combined book discussion group with her,” Capizzo said.

She felt going into the school during the student’s lunchtime was the best opportunity to do so.

“Sometimes it is hard to get students in here or a book discussion because they are so busy, so it made sense for me to go to them,” she said.

Currently, 10 fourth-grade students are participating in the book discussion group. The group will soon be expanded to include third-grade students.

Capizzo and Merritt began discussing the idea during the last school year, but didn’t get the go-ahead to implement it until this semester.

The group, which had its first meeting on Thursday, Jan. 17, is wrapping up its discussion of “The Search for Delicious,” a chapter book written by Natalie Babbitt in 1969. The book, her first published novel, tells the story of a prime minister in the midst of creating a dictionary, but runs into trouble when he tries to define the word delicious. To help provide a definition of the word, the prime minister sends his young messenger to poll town residents about what they think delicious is. The simple task, however, soon erupts into a civil war and threatens to tear the country apart.

Capizzo said it the perfect type of book to begin the inaugural book discussion group.

“I think she is a great writer,” Capizzo said of Babbitt. “I really like the story and Barbara and I thought it would be a good, challenging read and a good book for discussion.”

Although she has already read the book, fourth-grade student Tara Heffernan said she has enjoyed the opportunity to discuss it with others, including several of her classmates.

Heffernan said outside of school she reads at least a half hour every day and is currently reading W.I.T.C.H., an Italian fantasy series created by Elisabetta Gnow, Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa.

“I am a big fan of mystery and mystical. I think it is fascinating,” said Heffernan, who also likes to read nonfiction books and books about the galaxy and stars, a subject that has captured her curiosity.

Fellow fourth-grade student Grace Dittmer also finds fantasy, mystery and nonfiction enjoyable genres to read. Like Heffernan, Dittmer is a voracious reader.

“I usually read six or seven books at a time,” said Dittmer, who admitted she hates not having something available to read. Right now she is reading “InkHeart,” by Cornellia Funke, “The Subtle Knife,” by Philip Pullman and the “Fellowship of the Rings,” by J.R.R. Tolkien. Over February break she said she is going to start reading “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” by J.K. Rowling.

The aim of the book discussion group, Capizzo said, is to provide a laid-back environment in which students, like Dittmer and Heffernan can share their love of reading with their peers.

“It hones their skills of discussing a book. They are not graded on this so they don’t have to worry about giving the right answer,” Capizzo said. “It’s a more relaxed atmosphere and they get to talk with librarians, which is different than talking with their teachers in the classroom.”

The ultimate goal, Merritt said, is to encourage a lifelong love of reading.

“It’s about supporting them in their reading, showing them how we think reading is really important and hopefully getting them to think that it is fun for them to share about books and what they are reading,” Merritt said.

Merritt said the book discussion is good training for when the students get to Scarborough Middle School and beyond.

“The Middle School has a very active book discussion group,” Merritt said. “We want to light that spark under them so they know reading is important. We want to do anything we can to make reading fun for them.”

The next book discussion group will be for third-grade students, who will be reading “The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester,” a book written by Barbara O’Conner that features mischievous Owen Jester and the secret he encounters one night when a train passes by his grandfather’s home.

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