Despite their different levels of reading comprehension, the roughly dozen fourth- through 12th-graders sat glued Friday to the pages of a book about Malala Yousafzai while taking turns reading aloud.
One fourth-grade girl, whose mustard-colored hijab matched the one that Malala was wearing on the cover of “Who is Malala Yousafzai?” read quotes from the Pakistani activist’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in measured syllables.
Other students quickly read through the final pages, looking back at the life of the teen who was shot in 2012 by a Taliban gunman for her promotion of girls’ education.
Tiffany Casey, the 30-year-old librarian who has led the weekly summer book club at Sumner Library in the Near North neighborhood of Minneapolis for the past few years, said the club was designed to be flexible because most of the kids already hang out at the library and elect to come to meetings when they want.
“Doing this is just really helpful for them, because they know it’s every Friday at 4,” Casey said. “It’s just super easy for them because they’re already here, but no one’s coordinating their time.”
Casey, who inherited the club from another librarian, said the kids ask for the program all year long. She said the library’s goal is to keep kids engaged with books through the summer, when they’re not in school.
Casey plans out the summer reading list each year, choosing books that reflect the diversity of the kids who come to the club.
“Kamila and her Somali Cat” is a special book she picked out earlier this year because many of the kids are Somali-American, she said.
“Anything that can try to reflect the community are books I look for,” she said.
After they spend about 20 minutes reading, Casey and the students discuss the book, play a game and have snacks.
“It’s like their first experience of a club or a routine activity,” she said. “The hope is that they enjoy it, they like coming to programs, and they’ll continue to do more traditional book clubs when they’re older.”
Casey runs other programs at Sumner Library, which she said is largely used by children. She created a teen advisory program for former book club members to get their ideas for the library.
“What we really try to focus on is teaching them the love of learning and the love of reading, and doing it for themselves to encourage lifelong learning,” she said. “If they have a good experience in book club, they’ll be more likely to continue reading during the fall and into the school year.”
When the kids finished the book Friday, Casey asked them what they thought the coolest part of the story was.
“When she got shot, she wasn’t mad at the person,” said one.
“Even though she got shot, she still kept doing what she was doing,” volunteered another.
“She won the Nobel Peace Prize,” was another response.
Casey then asked the students what they want to be remembered for, in the way Malala is known for her activism. Their responses ranged from “My awesome dance moves,” to helping the poor, saving lives and “I want to be the first American Muslim president.”