Brewster High School’s English Department has solved the puzzle of getting BHS kids to read over the summer: Read, Relax, Repeat!

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After 30 years of teaching high school English, Leslie Fine’s goal is simple: get kids to read and love reading. She and her colleagues thought about it for a long time. They experimented with assigned books, classics, young adult books. Regardless of the book assigned, the results were always mixed.

But this summer was different. In the pilot program Read, relax, repeatstudents had the opportunity to choose their own books and were rewarded with coffee, a homework pass and prizes.

Read, Relax, Repeat, which started late last year, includes all stages of the reading process. First of all, how to choose a book? To get the conversation started, Fine spent time talking with her students about books they had read and loved, books from favorite authors, popular series, and books that followed their interests.

Those interested in the sport can be directed to the memoir section. She also talked about audiobooks and graphic novels. Because her students hadn’t been to the school library since the pandemic, she brought her classes in for a visit.

The department hung posters of books around the school with QR codes in an effort to get students to know the titles. Students were encouraged to make a book recommendation recording or interview someone who had read a good book. Teachers and students have been recorded talking about books! The buzz about the new program started before the start of the summer.

Lily. Pupils from all English classes had the opportunity to read a book of their choice during the summer and come to the Coffee House for a book talk the first week of school. More than 350 students from grades 9 to 12 participated. Did these students actually read their books? Yes they have! All agreed that they were motivated to read their own book – in addition to having more time to read over the summer, they enjoyed making their selections.

Relax: The high school library has been transformed into a café with hot coffee, tea and sweets served by Handy Paws Catering, a BHS student-run business. At the tables spread out in the library, the students were discussing their books. Titles included: Nothing Burns as Bright, The Outsiders, We Were Liars, The Body, Wonder, Lock and Key, Good Girls Guide to Murder. The students talked about the main characters and questionable plot twists; they analyzed a confused language; some even talked about crying at the end of their books.

Early Monday morning, Fine and new writing coach, Sammi Davidson, walked around with raffle tickets. When students were overheard discussing a book, they received a raffle ticket to win a gift card or one of the coffee mugs donated by the Brewster PTSA and the Brewster Education Foundation. Sanna Black was heard talking about John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down; Bianca Torke has been heard talking about Stephen King’s The Body; Sophie Rosero was heard talking about Sarah Dessen’s Lock & Key.

Students were asked to complete recommendation forms, listing the title and author of their book along with a brief summary and explanation of why they liked the book. One student wrote, “I liked this book because even though it is young adult fiction, the story was heartfelt when Ruby received support from her friends and family. Ruby finds her true identity and Nate is there for her even when no one else is watching. At the bottom of each recommendation was a scoring system – five out of five possible bear paws!

The atmosphere in the library was joyful. The students drank coffee and snacked on danishes. Some decorated bookmarks that said “Read carefully” and “Don’t give up” and “I LOVE books!” with colored pencils. There were students who “read everything” and students who didn’t read as much as they would like, especially during the school year due to time constraints and TikTok. But, all the students agreed that this program was a success. Besides food, drink, and loot, Jeff Huff said he thinks discussing the book with friends “sparked better conversations.”

Repeat: Read, relax, repeat!

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