Fostering a Sense of Belonging
December 12, 2019
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Pop-up Bookclub

Alexandra Mahoney

Newark Academy’s Pop-up Bookclub was born one morning last fall when I walked up to the lectern at Morning Meeting after the third or fourth Upper School student had told me that I should read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. As an English teacher, I try to jump on any crazed teenage book bandwagon and also follow the recommendations of trusted current and former students who love to read – habits that have brought joy (The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown), suffering (Divergent by Veronica Roth), and new summer reading books for 9th-grade English (Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang).

The response I got from both adults and students to my unpremeditated announcement launching the Pop-up Bookclub brought together a healthy little community of readers, which coalesced and morphed and attracted enough attention that NA librarian Jean Moroz offered to give away free books to interested students and teachers. Why the unbudgeted generosity? “To promote reading, of course!” exclaims Jean, who provided copies of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

“I like that the reading suggestions come from the students. Reading young adult stuff reminds me of what it felt like to read as a teen.” – Mary Lysinger, French Teacher and Chair of the Language Department

Some of the books we read are Young Adult and some aren’t. No matter the classification, one of the beauties of Pop-up Bookclub is that the reading is utterly voluntary and there are absolutely no expectations whatsoever.

So, while Pop-up Bookclub isn’t very “pop-up” anymore, we retain the name to hold onto the notion that the pleasure of reading and the thrill of discussion exist outside of the world of obligations. The experience creates a kind of “pure” exchange of thoughts, emotions, perspectives and ideas as teachers, staff and students connect on a completely level playing field – no one’s the expert and everyone’s a learner.


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