Friday, April 10, 2020
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20191004 StarbooksStudents at Sharyland’s Jessie L. Jensen Elementary School are given a new incentive to read more.

Earlier this month, the campus opened a library cafe-Starbooks- to recreate the experience of attending a Starbucks cafe in a Barnes and Noble store for a campus where the student population come from low income families.

“Starbucks is a place that because of the area they live in, students probably don’t get to visit,” campus Reading Interventionist Jenny Gonzalez said. “So we decided that if they don’t visit it, we will bring it to them.”

Starbooks, Gonzalez explained, is a new initiative to promote reading across all grade levels at Jensen. To promote a love of reading, Gonzalez explained, the library was redecorated to resemble a cafe, complete with some of the shelves resembling a Starbucks kiosk offering “Starbooks Cafe Book Tasting,” a book club for students to discuss the books they are reading.

At the end of each six-week grading period, students who’ve met their accelerated reader points goal will be rewarded with a drink provided by Black Iron Cafe.

“We’ve been promoting it all year and got a lot of excited students who wanted to read to join and attend the opening,” Gonzalez said. “At the end of the first six-week period, more than half of the students enrolled were able to attend.”

The accelerated reader points, or AR, is a software that monitors a student’s reading comprehension skills by testing them on the books they’ve read and awards them points for passing the test. According to Gonzalez, each elementary campus competes at the end of each six-week grading period to see which school has more total AR points across all students.

“Last year, we were ranked last. A few weeks ago, we were ranked third,” Gonzalez said when asked how the cafe is influencing a student’s reading habits. “[Students] are keeping themselves accountable for reading and now it’s like they love to read. They are working toward their goal and it’s been pushing them to read more. Kids are coming to the library more frequently and we’re seeing kids excited to visit Starbooks and reading in the cafe and checking out books more frequently.”

For Gonzalez, who credits her fellow reading interventionist Cathy Cortinez for getting the project started, Starbooks is a way to not only nurture a love of reading for students at a young age, but also teaches them an important life skill.

“It’s important to reward students because as adults, we have jobs and go to work and get compensated and I think children need the same thing to experience compensation for their life work,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a life skill that will motivate them to work more. The benefit about it is that now they want to read, they love it.”