By Dedra Cordle
For some, a library is a place of peace. Its quiet atmosphere makes it easy to slip away into unknown worlds while reading a good book and it also helps channel that certain mindset one needs as they prepare for upcoming exams.
In this tranquil state, the last thing someone wants is to be disturbed by constant chatter, but Michelle Eckard, a library aide at Norton Middle School, revels in it. In fact, she helps egg it on.
Before the school day officially begins, Eckard can be found moving the furniture across her ERC. The wooden chairs and the heavy tables make a bit of noise as they move across the floor – not that she minds – but its prior arrangement will just not do to accommodate what is it come.
After that task is completed, she goes back to her desk and waits for the arrival of students who do not have quiet time on their minds.
When the students arrive in the ERC and settle into their chairs, they feel free to talk constantly and at their normal level. Rather than shush, Eckard listens and marvels at what they are discussing. Sometimes their conversations can go off-topic, but what they are mainly focused on are the latest chapters they have read in their Book Club.
They discuss character development, character identity and symbolism. It goes beyond just saying whether they liked the chapters or hated them – although some begin their conversation that way before they go further in depth to explain why they liked or disliked it – and for the book-loving Eckard, it is a joy to witness.
“What they come up with is simply amazing,” she said.
Eckard often tries to stay on pace with the chapters they are currently reading, but admits it does not always go as planned. Still, she never feels out of the loop because these seventh and eighth grade students are so detailed during their conversation that it (almost) negates the necessity.
Although she chimes in on occasion, Eckard is not the main facilitator of the Book Club. That tasks falls to Muriel Kelley, a youth services assistant at the Westland Area Library.
She begins by asking a question about the assigned chapters and then lets the students take over. Even though there are many opinions flying around, they all remain respectful of each other’s views.
“We never have heated arguments,” said eighth grader Summer Breeze. “We just like discussing what we read.”
The Book Club does admit to more lively debates when choosing a new novel to read, however. For instance, the boys in the club did not want to read “Auracle” by Gina Rosati because the main protagonist is a young female, but their protests were squashed by the girls in the group because they didn’t complain when they had to read “Shelter” by Harlan Coben, which has a male protagonist as the main character.
They are not very far into “Auracle” but the reaction to the book is mixed.
Hannah McNamara said she is enjoying the book because she likes its science fiction themes coupled with its mystery.
Elizabeth Arteta is not feeling it.
“I don’t like it,” she said. “It’s too weird for me.” (The book is about a 16-year-old girl who can astrally project out of her body.)
Breeze was more diplomatic.
“You have to really get into a book before you decide if you like it or not.”
Cameron Hunter didn’t express his opinion on the book, but did remark that anything “beats
sitting in boring homeroom.”
The Book Club members were open and willing to share their opinions with the peers but it was a completely different story at the beginning of the year.
“Originally, only five students talked out of the 20-plus students we had but now it’s closer to 18,” said Kelley.
She said is has been exciting to watch them grow as debaters, public speakers, friends, and book-enthusiasts.
Eckard said the foot traffic in her library has picked up thanks to the Book Club as they are always looking for more books to read. They are even bringing non-members to join in on their quest to find a good book to check out. She doesn’t mind the noise.