November 16, 2023

Books, Culture & Community

Crafting Creativity and Engagement

Alejandra and Efren transformed the library into a cozy café with jazz music, tablecloths, and candles for a “Book Tasting” session with the 7th and 8th graders. “Each table featured a different book genre, allowing students to explore various literary styles,” says Alejandra. This unique setup introduced students to various types of books and encouraged them to check out volumes for independent reading. By combining their passion for literature with the cozy ambiance of a café, Alejandra and Efren captivated students and nurtured their creativity.

Alejandra and Efren have also launched a series of lunchtime craft events for middle schoolers, encouraging community and creativity at the library. In December, students will be able to decorate gingerbread cookies, followed by a zen tea tasting and coloring pages event in January. Alejandra hopes that these activities will draw in more middle school students and help support community building without using digital devices. “I think one of my main goals for this year is to really build up our middle school book collection to increase independent reading, specifically with the middle schoolers, and also the high schoolers,” Alejandra adds. 

Cultivating Collaborative Connections Among Peers

As part of their themed book displays, Alejandra and Efren have introduced book suggestion cards as a way to encourage students to actively participate and connect with literature. Efren anticipates that this peer-to-peer interaction will have a profound impact on students, as it often resonates more when suggestions come from fellow classmates. “We’re hoping that students share their suggestions and their ‘why.’ I think it will matter more to students to hear it from their own voices.” This initiative enhances the library’s role as a dynamic space and also empowers students to shape the reading culture within the Oakwood community.

Book Suggestion Card

Fueling Curiosity and Cultural Exploration

The library has been hosting a series of author visits, cultivating a deeper connection between students and the literary world. Shelby Van Pelt, author of the book Remarkably Bright Creatures held a virtual author visit in October, allowing students to engage with the author and delve into the themes of friendship, love, and loss present in the book. During Latinx/a/o/e & Hispanic Heritage Month, award-winning author Aida Salazar visited Oakwood for a book signing event, in collaboration with SOMOS Unidos and GECO (Gender Equality Club at Oakwood), and shed light on her work and its significance. Efren shares that the high school students enjoyed this visit and appreciated the opportunity to talk with the author. Most recently, in celebration of National Coming Out Month, and, in partnership with the Rainbow Alliance, author Racquel Marie visited the library to discuss her book Ophelia After All. Efren adds that the library is dedicated to working with the Oakwood community and aims to coordinate displays and activities that spotlight current events and align with student passions and interests. 

For Native American History Month, Alejandra shares that the library has been working towards promoting Indigenous voices from all ages in its collection. Efren says that the library has been working with Oakwood’s Director of Community Engagement and Experiential Learning, Phu Tranchi, to include a section dedicated to the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. “It’s one of our missions to really put their voices out there and to have a special collection dedicated to them that includes the land acknowledgment,” Efren states. This effort encourages students to explore and support Indigenous stories, promoting cultural awareness and understanding of the local community.


Racquel Marie Author Visit
Aida Salazar Author Visit

Alejandra and Efren are committed to fostering a warm, inspiring, and inviting atmosphere in the secondary campus library. They are continuously devising fresh and innovative methods to engage students and support student life on campus. Alejandra shares that the library and books can serve a much greater purpose within our community. “Libraries are definitely more than just books, and we’re trying to share that with the students. Libraries are also community spaces and places where students can reach out to adults that are safe and want to help them.”