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School Book Club Puts Families on the Same Page

Students and adults from book club“It was fun to read with my dad when he was done with work,” said Drew, a fifth-grade student at Pequenakonck Elementary School. The pair would start each reading session with a summary of the previous chapter and then take turns reading aloud to prepare for their first book club meeting. “There were a few words that I didn’t know that my dad helped me with.”

Fourth-grade teacher Michele Grossman and media specialist Natalie Koehler launched the school’s first book club in November. Their goal was to encourage families to enjoy books together and spark conversations at home. Fourth and fifth-grade parents selected the first two books by survey: “The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and “I, Cosmo” by Carlie Sorosiak. Students read one of the books at home with an adult before meeting at school for a multigenerational discussion.

“Beyond sharing the love of literature, it's an opportunity to have rich conversations about the characters and events that take place,” said Grossman, who still treasures these experiences from when her daughters were growing up. “There’s such a great sense of discovery when you can pause and talk about characters in books.”

“We started by reading the book independently, and then my mom read aloud to me, which I liked more,” said fourth-grader Paige. “She would ask me questions as we read about the characters or if I was surprised at what happened.”

“It’s a great way to make connections, but also to learn about the perspective of others, whether it’s a character in a book or the person you are reading with,” said Grossman.

“From a child’s perspective, sometimes the character is a mirror, while, for a parent the character is sometimes a window,” said Koehler, explaining that the former is a character with similar life experiences to the reader. The latter invites the reader to view the world through the character’s eyes. “Or vice versa, based on their experiences,” she said.

“I liked how we asked each other questions and we’d all answer without having to raise our hands; we could just talk,” said Paige about the evening group discussion. “I loved how everyone had a different perspective. I tried to convince the group that the mom in the book did change a little, even though she was still really rude.”

The school library remained open for book checkouts after the club’s meeting, and Koehler gave personalized recommendations. Some families had already purchased the sequel to Bradley’s book to continue the story at home.

“At the end of the day, you want to foster a love of literature,” said Grossman. “Through books, there is self-discovery and a chance to explore the world. This book club is another avenue to read great literature.”

“I would love to do this again with both my mom and older sister,” said Paige. Drew agreed, adding that it was a good bonding experience. “Maybe I’ll invite my mom next time.”

Keep an eye on January’s Tuesday Newsday emails for the upcoming book club survey.