Book Club Offers More than Reading

Every Friday, a group of students at Locust Valley Intermediate School voluntarily bring their lunch to ENL teacher Kristi Van Vleet’s classroom to read, talk and, of course, eat. The book talk program not only includes reading a book together throughout the year, but these voracious readers have the opportunity to communicate with the author through videos they create asking her questions and videos she sends back with the answers. 

There are 10 fifth-graders and three staff members participating in the program, which was organized through #KidsNeedMentors, a free program that matches authors with educators in a literary partnership that lasts throughout the school year. Ms. Van Vleet was paired with author Jodi Kendall and the group is reading her book, “The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City.” 

Each week, the students bring their lunches and share snacks while the book is read aloud, offering their thoughts on questions that Ms. Van Vleet poses to them regarding the book’s themes. Sometimes, the group takes turns reading aloud, and no matter who is reading, the conversations that spark from the story’s content is impactful. 

The book club is a safe place and the participants feel comfortable talking about things that they can relate to in the book,” Ms. Van Vleet said.  “They often speak about their personal experiences and can easily relate to Josie, the main character in the book.”

Having access to the author has been a valuable experience, as their interactions with her validate for the students that their thoughts and opinions matter. They can ask any questions about the book and Ms. Kendall has been very generous in answering them all.  

Reading teacher Diana Oromaner and ENL teaching assistant Cyndy Ergen have become honorary members of the book club, reading along, commenting and bringing snacks. 

Assistant Principal Amy Watson said the book talk is a wonderful academic opportunity for the students. “They are learning so much and sacrificing their free time to do so,” she said. “Ms. Van Vleet is providing a unique opportunity and likely instilling a love of reading in her students.”