Summer Reading Comes Alive and Builds Community at CSUS

Summer Reading Comes Alive and Builds Community at CSUS
Posted on 10/06/2015
Identity ChartDuring the first week of school, scholars and staff at Cambridge Street Upper School had the pleasure of meeting in small groups to discuss literature. Each grade level was gifted a summer reading novel that they were expected to read as one of their five summer reading books. CSUS staff members volunteered to read the same text and meet with scholars to discuss themes and elements of the text. Melanie Morrison, Literacy Coach, organized facilitation guides that allowed for scholars who had read the book to analyze the text more deeply, while allowing for any newer scholars who hadn’t read the book to still discuss themes and connect the literature to their own lives. Each discussion was followed by a reflective activity inspired by the novel read.

Grade 6 scholars read Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. Discussions explored how we cope with difficulty in life and the power of words, writing, and poetry to express feelings, calm down, and make positive change. How we relate to others that are different from us and how to think like writers were also topics discussed. Scholars then explored their own identity more deeply, after exploring the identity of the main character, Lonnie.

Summer ReadingGrade 7 scholars read Wonder by RJ Pollacio. The difficult struggle around what makes someone kind in comparison to just being nice was grappled with by many groups. Scholars shared stories of difference, either from their own perspective of being different or when encountering others that were different from themselves. Questions without real firm answers were explored: How would we react to others being mean to someone who didn’t fit in? How do we balance the need to ‘stay out of drama’ when we are faced with doing the right thing and intervening? Scholars ended their hour long reading groups with an activity deciding if situations were bullying, or harmless teasing.

Lastly, Grade 8 read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. This text focuses on a main character who wrestles with various parts of his identity, and tries to achieve his goals despite the obstacles that these identities can present. Eighth graders also looked at what “tribes” they belong to and how these identities and aspects of being multi-tribal impact them. They bravely owned aspects of their identity in their small groups: Hispanic, a video gamer, autistic, a musician. They explored perspective taking as readers and also analyzed their own identity, asking themselves what may or may not change in five years, or ten.

Overall, authentic literary conversations abounded and scholars and staff alike were able to engage in community building that left us all inspired and sometimes struggling with the tough aspects of life.
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