by Mirele Davis and’ Elizabeth Savopoulos
In order to spark more interest in recreational reading, our school library decided to throw an Ender’s Game party in anticipation of the release of the Ender’s Game movie. Our library at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School had never had an event like this in its history, and we were proud to be the pioneers. ‘ The goal, we decided, was to stimulate student interest in reading the book and in reading for pleasure in general. ‘ We began preparing a month in advance, posting announcements on our website, putting up flyers around the school, and making special announcements during lunch-time and advisory meetings.
We selected a student who was enthusiastic about the project to take on a formal participatory role in planning the event. He attended planning meetings, helped with advertising, and contributed to the overall vision and goals of the event. We advertised a space-themed party that would include neon snacks, space-themed video games, a spaceship Lego building contest, and a simulated laser-tag battle based on the tournaments in Ender’s Game.
We enlisted the help of Art Club students to build and construct a giant faux-stone arch to prop up outside of the library, reading “Welcome to Battle School.” The event itself offered two different space-themed wii games for multiple and single players. We had a table set up with Legos for the space-ship building contest, for which we offered a prize to the winner. ‘ We provided snacks in neon colors (gushers, buttered popcorn, Hawaiian punch in shades of blue and green).
I had asked a local movie theater to donate Ender’s Game -themed popcorn bags that we used for the event. ‘ In the middle of the refreshments, we set up a display of our Ender’s Game books and newly-purchased audiobook, all available for check-out. For our simulated battle, we had two teams (Dragon and Salamander), each equipped with a gunner (who held a laser-pointer and a flashing gun that made sounds). ‘ The goal of each team was to let one person through the other team’s ‘Gate.’ This required partners to approach the gate, and one would press the gate’s button (like in the book) to let the other partner inside. ‘ Once a partner passed through the gate, the team got a point and the round was over. We played several rounds, with Salamander emerging victorious. Our library provided natural obstacles, and if you were tagged by the laser, you had to freeze in place for the remainder of the round–thereby creating even further obstacles. Sometimes, we even flashed the lights on and off to heighten the atmosphere.
At the end of the evening, we handed the award to the builders of the best spaceships and took their photos. ‘ Afterwards, we provided coverage of the event and posted photos on our e-newsletter and on our website.
Our program had a profound effect on stimulating interest in recreational reading among our students. ‘ In the days leading up to the event, an English teacher commented that she had never heard so much excited chatter among students about a library event before. ‘ The event attracted students who were not â€œlibrary regulars,â€ and I heard them describing the event to their friends with enthusiasm afterwards. ‘ We had over 20 attendees from both middle and high school. ‘ Teachers expressed interest in the event and popped in; those who could not make it approached me the next day to inquire about how it went.
Of course, our goal was to stimulate interest in reading Ender’s Game and in recreational reading in general. ‘ Our event was a success in that respect; both of our Ender’s Game paperbacks and our audiobook version were checked out by the end of the night. ‘ One student loved the battle arch so much, that he took it home to set up in his bedroom! ‘ The students have been approaching us with suggestions for the next library event–the Divergent movie party has been suggested.
This program was especially significant, because it was the first of its kind in the history of our school library. ‘ Until recently, students and teachers perceived the library as a place for quiet, intense research and not for any type of boisterous event. ‘ The current librarian, who assumed full responsibilities only this year, is trying to change this perception. ‘ The Ender’s Game party drummed up enthusiasm for reading that resonated throughout the school. ‘ Our program is an exceptionally creative example of how to bring together a school communityâ€”from students to teachers to outside organizations (in our case, the movie theater).
It also supported several of the Developmental Assets for Adolescents, notably numbers 22 School Engagement (number 22), Reading for Pleasure (number 25) and Creative Activities (number 17). ‘ The library staff demonstrated fulfillment of the Core Competencies listed under Services, in particular, number 4: â€œContinually identify trends and pop-culture interests of young people to inform, and direct their recreational collection and programming needs.â€ ‘ Our program serves as an example to other new solo school librarians, showing them that they can transform a library with no history of exciting reading events into a hub of activity in one short evening.
Mirele Davis is a third-year librarian at The Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) in Rockville, MD.’ She writes about youth librarianship and posts children’s illustrations ‘ at’ www.mireledavis.com.
Elizabeth Savopoulos is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, where she majored in history.’ This is her first year as a Library Assistant at CESJDS. ‘ She is also an accomplished ballet dancer.