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  • Bob Stephenson

Student Book Clubs

October 1, 2020

One of our student projects this year was to use clubs to support our students. We felt that just having them only in one-to-one sessions with tutors might make them feel as if they were the only ones tackling literacy problems. We hope that by giving them a chance to be in a small group with others would allow them to support and encourage each other. Then came COVID-19 and we scrapped those plans.

We did start two groups before we closed down and recently started one group up again. I am excited to tell you about the progress they are making. First, let me tell you how we designed this curriculum. We connected with a company called Gemma Media out of Boston who had books with diverse subjects and characters. Books are usually less than 100 pages and come with online audio that is slowly read so our struggling readers can follow along.

They each had a book and as they listened to the stories being read to them, they did not get bogged down on words they didn’t know. They also enjoyed the stories so reading became more than just a task they were trying to master. It became an entertainment experience and they saw how reading could take them to different times, different places, and allow them to see through different eyes.

We went through four books like this. Now we have begun echo reading. We no longer use the audiobooks but take turns reading a paragraph each. First, we had to understand what a paragraph was. This was not as easily understood as we had hoped but they eventually learned to recognize beginnings and endings of paragraphs.

Next, we worked on sentences. How you could relax and breathe between sentences rather than just trudging on until you have to breathe. They are learning about reading with pace, with inflection, as they begin to read with fluency.

It has been inspiring to watch them. They have struggled at times. They have helped each other with vocabulary. They have supported and encouraged each other and we can all see the improvement. Their attendance has been perfect. When asked what they thought about this method of reading instruction they agreed that is helping them. They say they enjoy coming to class. They laugh and tell us we should have been doing this a long time ago. We think they are right.

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