Re-Create Reading: Behind-the-scenes Q&A with Meredith Cranston


by Anisha Padwekar & Brinda Perumal interviewed Upper School Librarian Meredith Cranston on what goes on behind-the-scenes of the summer re-create reading program and some of Cranston’s reading advice and favorites. The program will begin with a short introductory meeting on Wednesday, April 18th after ASB speeches and end with the reading discussion at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.

AP: How did the re-create reading project start?
MC: It started a few years before I came to Harker. Mrs. Vaughan and Ms. Smith started it … as not an alternative to the english summer reading … but to supplement that or complement it. The purpose of it is just to be fun, to give kids a chance to read books that they want to read, share the books that they’re interested in with their teachers, and have their teachers be able to share the books that they love with their students, and have it be this kind of fun community building without grades or any written assessments. Just, [celebrating] the joy of reading.

AP: How did you choose what books to do or the genre?
MC: I chose Chick Lit because I’m not totally familiar with it … because I never read Chick Lit as a student. I tended to read more fantasy and totally unrealistic stuff, so I decided this year to start reading more Chick Lit and i’ve really enjoyed it.

AP: You’re hosting Chick Lit. What’s your favorite book so far in Chick Lit?
MC: I don’t know there’s so many different Chick Lit books that are appealing. One of my favorites would have to be Beauty Queens.

BP: There are so many genres and different books in general. How did you come up with which ones you wanted to have as groups?
MC: Well, we didn’t actually come up with them. Teachers come up to us and say “I wanna sponsor detective fiction or any iteration. I want to talk about detective fiction only involving vampires.” It can be very specific and it can be very broad, so that’s what we thought was kind of the beauty of the program. And also, if students want to sponsor something all they have to do is find a faculty member willing to sponsor it with them and they can do that.

AP: How did you prepare or organize for this recreate reading online-wise?
MC: Well, Mrs. Vaughan does all of that. She does a huge amount of coordinating. She gets all the feedback and input from teachers and advisors. She gets everyone to commit to a book or a genre and talks to kids and tries to solicit interest in what she thinks is going to be popular. And then she organizes everything. She builds [the libguide] herself. It’s a huge project and then what’s new this year is that we had Mr. Carlos [go] around and he interviewed lots of the teachers about what books they liked and why they chose them … and we thought that was great because it has a little video on the website.

AP: How long did it take you to prepare for all of this?
MC: It takes about a month because it’s a big lead up because you want to give faculty enough notice and you want to give students enough notice that they can look at the website and decide what is interesting to them. So, its a big project.

AP: Is there anything different then last year?
MC: Last year you could stay with your advisory if you wanted, so if your advisor had chosen a book you could just stay with them and your advisory would be closed. This year we are not having any closed advisories, so we are extra sure that kids are engaging in the process of choosing a book.

BP: We have a meeting next week with our groups, what is the purpose of that?
MC: Just to check in, maybe talk about why you chose the thing you chose, its a chance for your faculty to start the process to get to know you, maybe if there is something exciting about their book to give a little teaser, but just its more of a check in.

AP: And what do you hope to achieve through this program?
MC: We just hope that everyone experiences the joy of reading a good book and talking about it, and there is all the cognitive benefits of reading for pleasure: you get higher test scores, you’re more articulate, you’re better able to express yourself on written and verbal exams, but I think most important to us as librarians is fostering this community of readers, people who love the written word and read for fun and not just for school for graded assignments

AP: What are you reading right now?
MC: That’s a good question … very embarrassing, I’m not really reading much at all. I was reading the Art of Fielding recently. It’s a book about life, but it’s about college baseball.

BP: What is your favorite book?
MC: My all time favorite book is Beloved by Toni Morrison. That’s the first book that I read that made me think and also made me feel. That’s the book that really unlocked the power of literature for me.

AP: When did you read it?
MC: I think I was a sophomore in high school.

AP: If you had any suggestions for students reading-wise, what would they be?
MC: Just to read whatever you like, read whatever you want to if its a sports blog, read that, if it’s a car magazine I would read that, if it’s fantasy novels I would read that, read whatever you want to in great amounts.