Clockwise from lower left, Brooke Tullis, Ashley Smith, instructor Beth Wagoner, and Hannah Cheetwood discuss a book in one of 14 groups that study reading at Gateway Middle School.
At Maumee s Gateway Middle School, talking about books doesn t happen only in English class.
The school started 14 small book clubs in February. The student groups, led by parents or staff members, each selected one of about six books to read and have been meeting once every week or two to talk about the stories.
On March 15, two groups discussed Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff and a third group discussed Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.
The students discussed the writing and the stories, as well as the similarities between their lives and the characters lives.
We try to relate it to their experience, said Beth Wagoner, curriculum director for the district.
She s leading one of the groups reading Make Lemonade, which is about a poor teenager babysitting for a teenage mother. That s an experience the students can relate to.
I like how LaVaughn is watching out for somebody else s kids, Hannah Cheetwood said.
Last week they talked about the part of the book in which the mother, who doesn t have a high school education, loses her job, putting the other girl s babysitting income in jeopardy.
The three girls in Mrs. Wagoner s group, all seventh-graders, said they chose the book because they d heard it was good and they wanted something more challenging to read. The book is written in stanzas rather than paragraphs, student Ashley Smith pointed out.
The club is part of a two-year Ohio Reads literacy grant the school is using to improve reading scores. They plan to continue the club next year. It s also about showing them that reading can be fun, Mrs. Wagoner said.
In the clubs, the students can interact more with each other and the leaders than in class, and they get to choose which book they read.
Assistant Principal Jim Wilson, who is leading a group through Cornelia Funke s The Thief Lord, said the school tried to get people who were not regular classroom teachers involved in the clubs.
It gives the students a chance to interact with adults they might not otherwise, and it gives the staff the opportunity to work directly with the students.
Building engineer Marty Micka leads a group reading Al Capone Does My Shirts, about a boy whose family moved to Alcatraz in 1935 so his father could work as an electrician and guard.
Last week they were talking about family size and siblings. The boy in the book has to take care of his older sister, who is autistic.
The students related that to their own siblings. One said his older sister takes care of him. Eighth-grader Sheila Kamer said it takes a while to let parents know that you can take care of your siblings.