Sixth-grade book club: Teacher- and student-approved

It’s hard to put down a good book.

Imagine a group of kids sitting around, talking about the book they’re all reading. In addition to having fun, they improve their reading skills and attitudes.

At the Jan. 2 school board meeting, four sixth-grade teachers from Forest Lake Elementary spoke about their popular sixth-grade book club program, which occurs three or four times a year.

The teachers, Kale Henry, Karl Holle, Bridget Johnson and Chris Kotys, offer their students synopses of four books. Each student ranks the titles based on how interesting they sound. The teachers then assign students to a book group, making sure the reading level is appropriate for the student.

“We tell them, we can’t guarantee your first choice, but we’ll never put you in your last choice,” Henry said.

Henry said the books are “student-approved and teacher-approved,” and the themes they address, such as overcoming obstacles, are tied in to the Ranger Reads curriculum.

Each teacher takes the students assigned to one book and leads the discussion, 45 minutes each day for two weeks. Many of the sixth-graders move to a different classroom for book club, depending on which book they are reading.

“We choose books we’re excited to teach,” Holle said. “We get new faces in our room, and they see different teaching styles.”

Other benefits of the program, Kodys said, are that the books can engage students more than their regular assignments. Reading a full novel gives them a chance to discuss the author’s themes and purposes. Reading time is increased, as the students also cover 20 to 25 pages at home.

Kodys said the program “targets intense reading time and intense reading discussions.”

Johnson reported that even students who are not in the club for a particular book will read that book, and then go on to read other books by the same author or in the same series. They gain exposure to quality literature with big themes.

“They ask each other questions and get higher-level questions from us,” she said.

A video showed sixth-grade students praising the program because they get to read the entire book, and to see their friends from other classes.

“Us sixth-graders get more from novels than we do from picture books,” one says in the video.

Principal Jeff Ion said kids from the full spectrum of reading ability appreciate book clubs. “Some I’ve known since kindergarten, and I swore I’d never see them read a book in the lunchroom,” he said. “They even ask me to read the books.”

School board member Julie Corcoran said parents also get involved, when a sixth-grader brings a book home and the whole family reads it.

  THE BOOKS

•Among the Hidden

•The Wreckers

•Maniac Magee

•Peak

•Freak the Mighty


The Watsons Go to Birmingham

•Transall Saga

•Hatchet

•Haymeadow

•Tuck Everlasting

•The Giver

•The Westing Game

•Holes

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