What's Cooking in Booktober: Multi-Dimensional Possibilities Between Food and Books

  • 2022
  • High School
  • Middle School
  • Primary
Ariel Pan, Teacher Librarian; Celina Ng, Library Assistant

Food might be the best, easiest and most interesting way to get to know a culture. You might have tried chicken tikka and samosa before you visited India. Taco could be your favorite comfort food yet you have never been to Mexico before. Food is undoubtedly the bridge connecting people all over the world and the mutual friend between you and someone you just met. It’s like the door to a whole new world. 

As the library team was setting the theme for this year’s Booktober, food immediately came to our minds and we decided to highlight and go for some underrepresented food in Hong Kong, like African food and Jewish food, which were both included and discussed at the author visit and workshop. Food is something us humans all share and documented in literature in almost every language. The Harbour School is an international school and our students are from all over the world with different backgrounds. When on lunch duty, we’ve noticed some of them are quite curious about what's in other people’s lunch boxes. If books and food could go hand in hand for students to study cultures, people and countries, why don’t we combine them and provide our students with a month-long immersive experience in the name of celebrating Booktober? Therefore, the sub-themes are food all over the world, festive food and family recipes. 

During the first week of Booktober, students were very excited to have Dr. Rick and Tucker (therapy dog) join their lesson as guest readers. As soon as Dr. Rick and Tucker walked into the library, they quickly lit up the room and Grade 7 was no longer interested in looking at their laptops and reading. Tucker patiently listening when Grade 5 students Nao and Crystal volunteered to read for everyone at the library snack club was the sweetest thing we’ve seen. We will never forget how many smiley faces they had brought us and are looking forward to the next time Dr. Rick and Tucker join us at THS again!

For each grade, we had planned special guest speakers for them to expand their horizons of knowledge by jumping out of the traditional classroom setting. During the talk, they were able to build multi-layered learning relationships with the outside world.

In the first week, we invited Laura Gehl, the author of nearly two dozen popular picture books, board books, and early readers, to give a virtual talk on Jewish food stories and Jewish festive food culture for our Lower Primary students.

Phoebe Chan, a young entrepreneur based in Hong Kong, food blogger, and the creator of Hong Kong's first Mooncake Wellington, shared her "recipe" for success with Middle School and High School students.

Finally, we were honored to have the Africa Center come to our school to introduce African food culture to our Upper Primary students through texts, videos, and other visuals. Our students, including teachers, were ecstatic about the sampling session, where they were able to taste African snacks and drinks as well as see, touch, and smell the ingredients.

How can a food-themed celebration of readings be separated from our students' daily lunchtime enjoyment? After being inspired by Ms. Mierczak's idea of playing story time videos for Grade 3 during lunch, we realized that having story time created by THS students, teachers, and parents would be a lot of fun. 

Night at the Library is now a Booktober tradition. This year, we’ve included a cooking session. Yes, cooking in the library. A massive thank you to our dear principal, Ms. Greenberg, for reading us two food stories and teaching us how to cook Pancit. Her endless support for this event has made the multicultural cooking night a wonderful time for both parents and students. 

The cookbook, as we all know, is a useful but often overlooked primary source in a school library; however, it can be examined as a window to explore authors as well as their societies and cultures. One of the most creative Booktober activities this term is to create a THS Cookbook during library lessons by collecting students' favorite or family recipes. In the meantime, students are instructed to design a book cover. We received so many wonderful submissions, and we will choose the "best" one to be the real book cover for the THS Cookbook, which will be released in December.

The Grove library always receives book donations from students and families. We’ve realized how many unwanted books the THS community might have and started to run a book swapping. We received enough books to fully fill the book swap shelves in the library and seen many old books become students’ exciting new reads to bring home to. We have a parent book swap shelf at the Grove’s front door during school hours. Parents are included in this activity as well!

Another impressive and amazing task done by the students is the photo competition where they took pictures of themselves in food clothes or with real food while reading.

Booktober is not complete until the THS’s annual Book Parade is held! The successful parade serves as a reminder to us all of the many ways in which books enrich our lives and the lives of those around us, from our families and classrooms to our neighborhoods and communities.

We’re writing this blog as Booktober is coming to an end. We’re very happy to proudly say that this year’s Booktober was such a success and we’ve explored so many possibilities from multi-dimensions between food and written words. 

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