Nonfiction in the Cafeteria

Nonfiction in the Cafeteria

I am starting to realize that one of my ultimate goals as an elementary school principal is to have books available within 200 feet of any student. Case in point: We just resupplied the shelves in the cafeteria with nonfiction titles from the National Geographic for Kids series. They are strategically placed; the K-2 students eat breakfast and lunch on this end of the room. Reading can commence while they wait for dismissal. I believe this sends a strong message: Readers read when there is time, and it is always a good time to read a good book.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District ( Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD ( and Lead Literacy (

28 thoughts on “Nonfiction in the Cafeteria”

    1. Thank you Mandy for the comment. We are fortunate to have the Title I funds that we have to make these types of projects happen.


  1. For young students, any reading exercise has to show a well defined purpose, on the outside of those plastic holders , print laminate and glue a an easy question to entice thses young readers. Fro example, the storms nat geo show in your pic, How many storms are in this book? or Which page shows the biggest storm? Now add the teacher touch Matt, and you entice ALL readers!


    1. I hope the kids do too! One of my second grade teachers has a lot of these titles in her classroom library. She said they were very popular with her students.

      Thanks for the comment Liz.


  2. Wow, love this! (Found your blog from your terrific post on Nerdy Book Club today.) As a parent, I think you captured the philosophy of our house with books! Access here, there and everywhere for our children.


    1. Access is something Jim Trelease encourages quite a bit in his book. 200 feet is pretty arbitrary, other than the fact that the books placed are within eyesight of a student. Trusting them to take care of the titles sends a powerful message, too.

      Thanks for the comment Lauren.


    1. Please do! The hardware is actually magazine holders for home bathrooms. We ordered them on Amazon. This idea was born out of our struggle to keep our students engaged during transitional times at breakfast and at the end of the day while they wait for the bus to arrive. Thank you for commenting Clare and Tammy.


    1. Agreed, Tom. The artwork was done by our former art teacher. I think the messages pair nicely with the available texts.

      Looking forward to giving you the dime tour in March, Tom. Thanks for the comment.


  3. Now you just need some beanbag chairs or even a rug. This looks like the wall from one of your early blog posts – the wall that you needed ideas for usage. Is it? It looks amazing now… just the sort of place I would have loved as a second grade student. I teach middle school and I know of MANY students who would want to hang out if we had such a wall. Not all middle school students want to socialize or go outside after eating lunch. Many just want to curl up with a good book.
    Love this wall and I am enjoying reading your other postings Matt. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Beanbag chairs and rugs – nice idea. I don’t know if there is space with the cafeteria tables, but it is definitely worth a look. Your suggestion for middle school students would be welcomed. Maybe you could have the kids help you select the titles and maintain the area. I hope you are able to pursue this project.

      You are correct, Rhonda. I initially wrote about this project two years ago ( Good memory! I could have just shared out this post again, but I thought it deserved another reflection with the new titles. I hope the students appreciate the update.


      1. Hi Matt,
        My memory is not great, unless you mean it is good for the last month. It appears I was thinking of the wall you wrote about in your December blog, “Making Our School’s Learning Visible.” It looked like the same wall, only white and pretty now. My guess is this is another wall in your cafeteria.
        Anyway, I love the cafeteria library wall!


    1. Hmmm, I do have an iPhone. Jeff Daniels made it look so easy in the commercial 🙂 I’ll give it a shot on Monday, thank you for the idea.


  4. Loved this idea and the leadership it demonstrates. I’m meeting with a lot of elementary schools and teachers this week. I plan to share your work in hopes of inspiring them!


  5. Sorry if this posted twice, but I loved the leadership demonstrated here through example. This week I’m working a lot with elementary teachers and schools. I plan to share your work with the hopes of inspiring them to seek out ways to support students’ independent reading! Thank you!


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