Hungry for good books

By on July 27, 2016

Summer of reading tasty task for Cocalico students

Recent graduate Rebecca Voler, left, watches as classmate Kayla Logar cuts puff pastries  withCindy Diehl, right. Diehl is the mother of music teacher Kristen Diehl, who led a book clubdiscussion of the cooking memoir “Julie & Julia.

Recent graduate Rebecca Voler, left, watches as classmate Kayla Logar cuts puff pastries withCindy Diehl, right. Diehl is the mother of music teacher Kristen Diehl, who led a book clubdiscussion of the cooking memoir “Julie & Julia.

About 165 Cocalico High School students are battling the summertime reading slump by participating in free school-sponsored book clubs.

The district launched the clubs — in which small groups gather at coffee shops, parks and even pottery studios to talk about a diverse selection of titles — this spring. Teachers volunteered to guide students entering grades nine through 12 in at least one discussion group before classes resume next month.

Denise Logue, former director of reading and now principal at Adamstown Elementary School, said teachers at the middle school and high school targeted students who needed encouragement to keep reading when it’s not required, but the program was open to everyone.

“We really wanted to create a culture of reading,” Logue says. “There’s no requirement holding them to this. We just wanted them to see reading in a non-school light.”

English teachers were recruited, but so were instructors from other academic areas. Coaches, sponsors, and counselors also signed up, allowing the district to offer a total of 21 clubs.

The titles range from Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken” (a non-fiction book about Olympic hero Louis Zamperini selected by football coach Dave Gingrich) to “Bronx Masquerade” (a fictional tale about students exploring poetry chosen by English teacher Lindsay Sigman) to “Leaving Time,” the latest from best-selling adult novelist Jodi Picoult (chosen by middle school language arts teacher Barb Conway).

Last week, six students joined high school music teacher Kristen Diehl to discuss the 2005 bestseller “Julie & Julia,” a bestselling memoir that later became a movie. The author attempts to cook her way out of a drab secretarial job, one Julia Child recipe at a time.

Diehl’s students discussed character development, the writer’s voice, and the big-screen adaption while they made cream puffs in the school’s family and consumer science classroom.

Incoming senior Alissa Martin said the book’s sometimes “salty” content and the author’s tone made the book fun to read. Classmate Vanessa Binkley thought the style, heavy on blog entries, made it relatable for teens who might journal or keep a diary.

“When I looked at this group, I thought we could have some good conversation,” says Diehl.

She leaned on book clubs lists culled from other schools to make her choice and hung a poster outside her classroom in May. Band director Robbie Trescavage hung a competing poster for “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden.” He planned to take his readers to the Udder Choice for discussion, an event Diehl coined “ISIS and ice cream.”

Offering a wide range of topics in different formats was critical to attract students who aren’t typically interested in reading in their free time, says Logue.

According to the National Summer Learning Association, low-income youth lose two to three months of reading skills while their higher-income peers make slight gains.

Logue wanted to combat that by getting students to read titles they were interested in, and to encourage connections with teachers who students admire.

The district paid for one book for each student, at a cost of $1,174. Students could join more than one club, but had to buy additional books or borrow them from the library. Teachers also received a $60 stipend for participating. Costs were covered by funds raised through annual student portrait sessions.

Logue said teachers and students will be asked to review their experience, but she hopes to grow number of clubs next summer.

“We’re really trying to drum up business,” she said. “If nothing else, at least we put a book in their hands.”

Senior  Vanessa  Binkley,  left,  and  recent  graduate  Rebecca  Voler, right, consult a recipe with music teacher and book club leader Kristen Diehl. Photos by Kim Marselas

Senior Vanessa Binkley, left, and recent graduate Rebecca Voler, right, consult a recipe with music teacher and book club leader Kristen Diehl. Photos by Kim Marselas

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