How boring would it be to go to a school where they made you read the same book at the same time on the same page as everybody else? Ruidoso Middle School students had a chance last week to find out.
Turned out it wasn’t boring at all. It was fun!
For six days every class in each of the six periods of the day, regardless of subject, took five minutes to read one chapter of Schooled by Gordon Korman. Everybody read the same chapter at the same time.
The program under which this happened is called One Book, One Community, an idea originally hatched in Seattle that has spread across the country. The community-based reading initiatives it has spawned are designed to build excitement around reading, and RMS Principal Anna Addis says it certainly has worked here.
“It was so wonderful to see them going to class, carrying the books,” she said as the program ended last Friday. “They loved the book. They were excited by it.
“They’d tell me, ‘I wish those chapters were longer,’” said language arts teacher Robyn Draper, who coordinated the program. “They couldn’t wait to get to their next class so they could find out what happened next.”
Obviously, the success of the program has to start with selection of the right book. A committee of teachers and parents picked Schooled, and they seem to have scored a bullseye.
It tells the story of a 13-year-old boy, same age as many RMS students, who’s been raised and home schooled by his grandmother in a hippie commune but has to enroll in a public school after his grandmother breaks her hip falling out of a plum tree.
He’s an odd duck to begin with, and a stranger in a strange land when he first arrives at Claverage Middle School, where he immediately becomes an object of curiosity, then ridicule and then malicious pranking.
It’s full of teachable moments on the subjects of diversity, tolerance, bullying and more. But it’s also a great read, fast-moving, well written and full of interesting characters.
Draper said teachers had no trouble getting students to talk about it or organizing lessons around it. Language arts classes put some of the pithier quotations on posters and papered classroom walls with them. Students added their own thoughts on each poster and then talked about what they’d written.
Addis said there were also school-wide prize drawings, book giveaways and other activities. The week culminated in a sort of festival in which students followed the book’s main character back to the commune culture of the 1960s.
They tie-dyed head scarves, played Twister and chess, and festooned the halls with peace symbols.
Addis and Draper said this was about the sixth time RMS has had a One Book, One Community week and may have been the most successful.
The students got the books at no charge. The lion’s share came through regional coordinator Janice Bickert at Building Communities that Support Children Reading, a non-profit organization that distributes free books and underwrites teacher training and student tutoring nationwide.
Addis said an anonymous donor chipped in $1,000 and other community members made small contributions to fill the rest of the book quota and help defray other expenses.
So for a week, RMS was running by far the biggest book club in town. For some of the younger students, Draper said the whole thing was an eye-opener because they didn’t know they had it in them.
“They had a revelation,” she said. “They found out they could read a whole ‘chapter book’ in a week.”
Tomlin, D. (2016, December 13). Last week RMS was the biggest book club in town. Retrieved March 12, 2017, from http://www.ruidosonews.com/story/news/education/2016/12/13/last-week-rms-biggest-book-club-town/95355868/