ELKHART — Getting students to read and enjoy a book can be a challenge for teachers.

To that end, teachers at Elkhart Memorial High School recently took on a different approach by taking themselves out the equation and having the students motivate each other.

The high school’s ninth and 10th grade English classes held a Readers’ Showcase event Thursday.

Set up like a science fair, the event featured a gallery of displays on digital and tri-fold poster boards the students created highlighting books they liked and would recommend

“What we wanted the students to do was put together book displays for books that we as teachers haven’t recommended but they as students have enjoyed that they would recommend to their peers, other students to try to promote literacy and reading,” English teacher Jeffrey Hemmerlein said of the event’s objective.

At each booth, the students spoke to peers and staff about their book choices by describing the impact the book had on them as a reader, writer and human being while also explaining why they’d recommend others to read their chosen book.

At one station, Michaela Toliver, a sophomore, was busy presenting her book “Milk and Honey.”

The book, written by Rupi Kaur, talks about survival and how essential survival is in the face of violence, rape, love, loss and femininity.

“I think this book is powerful and something everyone could learn from because it talks about overcoming tough challenging and finding inner strength,” she said.

After her presentation, she handed out quotes to all those who visited her booth to help them remember the book and hopefully read it someday. 

Another student, Maggie Bongsa, a freshman, presented “The Way I Used to Be” by Amber Smith, which tells of a young girl’s struggles to deal with her rape.

“I used to mainly read fantasy-type books, but I enjoyed this one because it exposes you to real-world things that could happen,” she said. “I think everyone should read this book, especially those who’ve experienced sexual assault because it reminds them that they’re not alone and to get help.”

Hemmerlein said he thinks the event was an effective way to help spark students interest in opening a book. 

“A lot of times peer recommendation is more powerful and valuable than from us as teachers,” he said. “So, we try to combat the falling literacy rates, not necessarily here in Elkhart, but nationwide, we’re trying to do little things like this to bring an interest to reading.”

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