By Ana Gerson (‘21)   

Students walking along the upper deck at MUS recently might have noticed some of their friends sitting on the floor in the former Learning Center, sorting through boxes overflowing with hundreds of books, and wondered just what they were doing.

The answer lies with Mrs. Sara Hansen, English teacher and Humanities Department Chair at San Diego Jewish Academy. Last September Mrs. Hansen decided to organize a new book room so that high school students can have access to a broader range of books. “I’m really excited,” she says, “I think it’s going to be a great project.”

So far, Mrs. Hansen has organized several meetings about this book room. During the first few meetings, students brainstormed answers to her question about how to use “the space to create and encourage opportunities for students to interact with words and books.” For this purpose, they created an idea wall where they wrote down even their craziest ideas for the room.

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Idea Board for Book Room  Photo: Ana Gerson

Students involved briefly discussed the free library model, and Mrs. Hansen loved the idea. “We could do a free library thing out front,” she suggested. She also thought it might be a good idea to have the kids exchange a book they had previously read with one they wanted to read.

Sophomore Kayla Swartzberg (‘21) suggested that the first step should be deciding what type of books they want. Mrs. Hansen told the students that a lot of books were left over from when the school’s old library shut down. “We have to start having the boxes delivered and go through them,” she said.

The first four boxes got to the room about a week after that meeting. The students set up places around the room and assigned them each a category for organizing books. Natalie Goldwasser (‘22) suggested they dedicate a whole corner to classics. “We are going to need a lot of room for those,” she said. The boxes were sorted quickly. The big pile of books that wouldn’t be appreciated in the book room was packed back into a box that will be donated to literacy groups in the area. Friday, October 26 saw more boxes being delivered for students to sort.

This library will positively impact the culture of SDJA. Having a space full of books will encourage people to read, and to tell their friends to read as well. The dream is that the number of SDJA students who are currently reading a book outside of class should grow exponentially. When asked about her thoughts on this new library, Mrs. Hansen says, “I think that every school should have a space where students are invited to read.”

Kayla Swartzberg and fellow sophomore Geena Benson (‘21), hope “to have the room done by the end of this school year.” Swartzberg feels that “once we have the room done, it will speak for itself. People will come here to read and hang out and have fun.”

The next meeting about this exciting project will be held on Friday, February 8 at lunch in Room F206. Anyone interested in being a part of this project should feel free to attend and contribute their ideas about how to make it easier to discover great books.

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