Written by Edith Updike, email@example.com Thursday, 15 May 2014 10:07
With a pilot program lending iPads to all middle schoolers, Friends Academy is exploring the leading edge of education technology, but the grand old technology of ink on paper took center stage at the school’s annual Book Fair, a tradition since 1990, that ran through May 1.
By all accounts it was a smashing success—record-smashing, that is, with the bake sale raking in nearly twice its usual take. The final tally for the fair itself was not available as of press time.
“We do raise a lot of money for the libraries, but it’s not about the numbers,” said Judith James, library director at Friends. “It’s to promote kids loving books. We want them to have some physical experience with books. There’s something different about the tangible book on the table.”
The whole Friends community pitches in to pull off the event. This year library staff were supported by a legion of parent volunteers—including Mark and Lori Kaminsky of Roslyn, Barrie Savasta and Michele Cagner of Oyster Bay, Elizabeth Wootten of Locust Valley, and Debbie Rechler and Yvonne Feinstein, both of Old Brookville.
All Friends students visit the Book Fair at least once, with a class group accompanied by a teacher. Many return on their own or with parents. On the last day of the fair, as high school students and parents boxed up the unsold upper-grade level books, Lower School students looked over the remaining picture books and puzzles escorted by parents, teachers and teacher’s aides. Classics like Goodnight, Moon sold next to Lego books and other newer offerings.
There’s no shortage of technology use among FA students, yet James says the Fair has not been impacted by ebooks. Even though students are using both formats (and highly adept at digital gaming and communications), many books are still not available in digital editions and there is still appeal to the hard-copy experience. Only a few students told her they’d be using an e-reader for their summer assignments, she said.
According to Middle School Librarian Mary Ann Reardon, the Harry Potter-influenced fantasy genre has faded. Friends Middle Schoolers these days are drawn to serials such as John Feinstein’s Steven and Susan Sports Mysteries, which feature a young crime-solving protagonist of each gender.
These students lean to fiction with dark, often dystopian, themes. The Hunger Games mania has been displaced by the Divergent/Allegiant/Insurgent and The Maze Runner trilogies.
“They’re kind of all the same story: You’re 16, you have to make a choice, then fight everybody,” said Reardon. “I think it’s partly marketing [tied to movies].” The Sledding Hill, told from the perspective of a dead boy, sold out, as did familiar classics like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967) and The House of Dies Drear (1968).
According to James, the high schoolers primarily picked up their required summer readings, which include True Grit and Siddhartha for rising 9th graders; 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale for rising 10th graders; Ethan Frome and The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin for rising juniors; and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The White Tiger for rising seniors.
“Few bought for pleasure reading,” she said, acknowledging the jam-packed schedules of these teens. “Some tell me they hope to read for pleasure after they graduate.”