Lit Lunches:
Promoting a love of reading one bite at a time!


by Mau­r­na Rome

Ready for Lit Lunch.

I admit that I am some­times envi­ous of my friends who work in the busi­ness world and get to enjoy fre­quent din­ing out excur­sions dur­ing their lunch breaks. A 20 – 25 minute rush to digest school cafe­te­ria food, microwav­able left­overs or a brown bag sand­wich isn’t the most appe­tiz­ing mid-day meal expe­ri­ence. How­ev­er, once a month I do get to enjoy a spe­cial book club of sorts, called “Lit Lunch,” with some of the most thought­ful, deep thinkers I’ve ever chat­ted with about books!

It might be hard to believe that “din­ing in” with thir­ty 9‑year-olds could be such a delight­ful affair, yet this once-a-month event has become one of the high­lights of the year in Room 132. From a kid’s point of view, get­ting to eat with the teacher in the class­room has some kind of mag­i­cal appeal. For this teacher, any­thing that moti­vates kids to think and talk about a good book is worth doing.

The Sand­wich Swap

When choos­ing our lunch book of the month, our cri­te­ria are quite sim­ple. The book must have a con­nec­tion to some type of food item that can be added to the lunch menu with a rea­son­able amount of prep and cost.  It also helps if the sto­ry has a “meaty” author’s mes­sage we can real­ly dig into.

I’ve used “lunch with the teacher” as a spe­cial reward for many years, but this is the first year I’ve real­ized that adding a lit­er­a­cy ele­ment gives it an added pur­pose. An unex­pect­ed result from host­ing the first few Lit Lunch­es was that many kids made it their mis­sion to find the per­fect book for next month. My stu­dents are always on the look­out for a good sto­ry that fea­tures a favorite fare to nib­ble on.  I know the extra effort and small invest­ment in a few ingre­di­ents are more than worth­while. I’m not sure who enjoys Lit Lunch­es more — the kids, our lunch­room super­vi­sor, or me.

A favorite book

Through chow­ing and chat­ting, my stu­dents iden­ti­fied sev­er­al com­mon words of wis­dom from the books we’ve devoured so far this year. “Don’t judge a book by its cov­er” applies beau­ti­ful­ly to The Sand­wich Swap by Queen Rania of Jor­dan Al Abdul­lah, Ene­my Pie by Derek Mun­son, and Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss. Nib­bling on a hum­mus and PB&J sand­wich, slice of pie, or green eggs and ham while chat­ting about the impor­tance of get­ting to know some­one or something before pass­ing judg­ment helped made our first few Lit Lunch­es a success.

The mes­sage “When life hands you lemons, make lemon­ade” came through loud and clear after read­ing and dis­cussing The Lemon­ade Club by Patri­cia Polac­co. This selec­tion was spe­cial for sev­er­al rea­sons. Sev­er­al of my stu­dents and I have dealt with the chal­lenge of help­ing a fam­i­ly mem­ber bat­tle can­cer. It was also the first stu­dent-select­ed book, thanks to an enthu­si­as­tic young lady who vis­its the pub­lic library often. Aman­da was so excit­ed to share her checked-out col­lec­tion of Polacco’s books. As we swapped our heart­felt per­son­al con­nec­tions, we shared lemon pop­py seed muffins and, of course, lemonade.

Green eggs and ham
Eat­ing green eggs and ham.

Our most recent les­son to be learned came from the light-heart­ed best sell­er Drag­ons Love Tacos. “Always read the fine print” was the take away from this sil­ly but fun tale. The food tie-in was by far the biggest hit with kids, though it also proved to be more time inten­sive and cost­ly than the oth­er month­ly selections.

My advice for any teacher who is inter­est­ed in mak­ing lunchtime a lit­tle more inter­est­ing, though per­haps not as relax­ing as a meal out on the town, is to start small. Con­sid­er invit­ing a group of 5 – 6 kids to join you for a Lit Lunch based on a recent read aloud. For your sec­ond help­ing of Lit Lunch, add anoth­er group of kids. When hold­ing a full class Lit Lunch, a hand-held micro­phone that can be passed around is a must. Secur­ing fund­ing through the school par­ent-group, a grant, or grade-lev­el bud­get would be a good way to off­set the cost of pro­vid­ing appe­tiz­ing titles that are paired with some tasty treats. 

Green eggs and ham
A lot of green eggs and ham.

It may take time, prac­tice, and group reflec­tion to make the Lit Lunch feel more like a real book club with impromp­tu con­tri­bu­tions ver­sus a tra­di­tion­al class­room, teacher-led dis­cus­sion. It is help­ful if kids prac­tice being a part of infor­mal con­ver­sa­tions in both small and whole group set­tings. Facil­i­tat­ing a pro­duc­tive dis­cus­sion about char­ac­ter traits, the gist of the sto­ry and/or the author’s mes­sage is not an easy feat with a group of thir­ty hun­gry 3rd graders, but Room 132 is proof that it can be done.

Find­ing the right food-relat­ed book is a must. A free 100-page, anno­tat­ed book list fea­tur­ing  “over 400 books with pos­i­tive food, nutri­tion and phys­i­cal activ­i­ty mes­sages for chil­dren in grades K‑2” can be down­loaded thanks to a project from Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty Exten­sion and the Michi­gan State of Education.



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