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Thoreau Park Book Clubs boost reading time for fourth-grade students

Thoreau Park Elementary Book Club students January 6, 2020


Thoreau Park Elementary School fourth-graders are exploring new books through newly-created book clubs at the school‭. ‬

Each Wednesday‭, ‬a group of students and a fourth-grade teacher eat lunch and read a few chapters of a book together during their‭ ‬lunch and recess time‭. ‬

Rachel Kaczmarek‭, ‬one of the fourth-grade teachers at Thoreau Park‭, ‬said teachers wanted to get the book clubs started to help students foster the love for reading‭. ‬

“I just wanted a big push for reading‭ ‬‮–‬‭ ‬reading for enjoyment‭, ‬reading to learn new things‭, ‬reading to inspire creativity and use‭ ‬imagination‭,‬”‭ ‬she expressed‭. ‬“It’s also good to have them talk about these books with other kids‭, ‬which lets them relate and connect with each other‭.‬”

There are four groups lead by Amy Haws‭, ‬Kaczmarek‭, ‬Sandy Maderka and Anne-Margaret Wells‭. ‬

When the clubs started at the beginning of the year‭, ‬students could sign up to be part of the book club if they wanted to‭. ‬Then‭ ‬they could select from a list of books chosen by the teachers‭, ‬one that was of most interest to them‭. ‬The name of the teacher leading the club was not listed so students could choose the book‭, ‬not the teacher‭. ‬

“We were charged with how can we help our students grow‭,‬”‭ ‬Maderka shared‭. ‬“One of the things we wanted to support was a love of reading‭. ‬These clubs are really the brainchild of Rachel Kaczmarek‭, ‬but we‭ ‬all jumped on board because how often do we get to just sit and read together‭, ‬especially with all the standards in place‭.‬”‭ ‬

Ted Bickley‭, ‬principal at Thoreau Park‭, ‬sponsored the cost of the books‭, ‬and was proud to see so many students involved‭. ‬About 35‭ ‬to 40‭ ‬students are currently in the book clubs‭, ‬with more interested in joining when the next books are announced‭. ‬

“I think this is pretty awesome‭,‬”‭ ‬he shared‭. ‬“It shows that students have a good relationship with their teachers and are really looking to belong to a group‭. ‬This was 100%‭ ‬teacher created and I was happy to support it‭.‬”

Currently‭, ‬Maderka and Wells’‭ ‬clubs are reading‭ ‬“Fourth Grade Rats”‭ ‬because of the large number of students who wanted to read the book‭. ‬Kaczmarek’s club is reading‭ ‬“Escape from Mr‭. ‬Lemoncello’s Library”‭ ‬and Haws’‭ ‬club is reading‭ ‬“Crenshaw‭.‬”

‭ ‬“Each teacher did their own research‭,‬”‭ ‬Kaczmarek explained‭. ‬“I liked this book‭ (‬‘Escape from Mr‭. ‬Lemoncello’s Library’‭) ‬for my girls‭, ‬who are in high school now‭, ‬and it was one of the books I enjoyed reading with them‭. ‬I know Mrs‭. ‬Haws picked‭ ‬‘Crenshaw’‭ ‬because she read it with her family‭. ‬So I think having those connections help you fall in love with books and their characters‭.‬”‭ ‬

All types of reading happen during a book club‭, ‬including the teacher reading aloud to the class‭, ‬students taking turns reading‭ ‬aloud and independent reading quietly‭. ‬Students also participate in games‭, ‬trivia‭, ‬discussions and activities that go along with‭ ‬the book‭, ‬too‭. ‬

Kaczmarek’s club even wrote a letter to the author of their book‭, ‬Chris Grabenstein‭, ‬who sent a letter back and signed bookmark‭. ‬

“I didn’t expect him to write back and I was so excited‭,‬”‭ ‬she expressed‭. ‬“The kids were so excited‭. ‬I really don’t ever do things like that‭, ‬but I do it and have this club because I love my kids‭.‬”

Maderka’s club is thoroughly enjoying their book‭, ‬“Fourth Grade Rats”‭, ‬with students describing the book as‭ ‬“really good‭,‬”‭ ‬“super funny‭,‬”‭ ‬and‭ ‬“amazing‭.‬”

“We do spend a lot of time laughing‭,‬”‭ ‬Maderka admitted‭. ‬“We have also been inspired by Mrs‭. ‬Kaczmarek’s club and we are reaching out to our author‭, ‬Jerry Spinelli‭. ‬We were talking about writing to him as a group and decided to learn more about him‭.‬”

Students reading‭ ‬“Crenshaw”‭ ‬with Haws said they joined the book club for a variety of reasons from‭ ‬“we love cats”‭ ‬to‭ ‬“we were bored at recess”‭ ‬to‭ ‬“it sounded like French fries‭.‬”‭ ‬But‭, ‬they all agreed that they like reading and the club is really fun‭. ‬

“I even have one student’s grandfather who bought the book so he can read along and discuss it with him‭, ‬which I thought was really cool‭,‬”‭ ‬Haws expressed‭. ‬“I think this club is awesome because I only have three of these students in my class‭, ‬so I get to meet with other students from‭ ‬classes to share the love of reading‭.‬”

Teachers are hoping to complete two to three books by the end of the school year‭. ‬

“I want my students to develop a love of reading‭,‬”‭ ‬Kaczmarek shared‭. ‬“In school it’s a lot of read‭, ‬respond‭, ‬read‭, ‬respond‭, ‬but there is so much more to reading when you are just reading‭. ‬You let yourself be more comfortable‭.‬”


PHOTO CAPTION:  As part of Thoreau Park Elementary School’s Book Club‭, ‬fourth-grade students recently teamed up with teacher Sandy Maderka to read‭ ‬“Fourth Grade Rats”‭. ‬The Book Club program help students gain a love of reading‭.‬