Ms. Emma Rashford
At the end of this past 2018-2019 school year, 4th through 8th grade teachers across the Champlain Valley District gave their students an optional book to read over the summer. The students came together on September 5th, 2019 at CVU in a celebration of the Common Read. At the day long celebration, students collaborated on their thoughts and ideas about this year’s topic, Social Justice.
Students were given a variety of books by different authors. Incoming 4th graders read Preaching to Chickens, written by Jabari Asim. Incoming 6th graders had the option of reading Ghost Boy, by Jewell Parker, or A Good Kind of Trouble, by Lisa Moore Ramee; incoming 8th graders had the choice of reading Ghost Boy or March, by Andew Aydin and John Lewis. Families were encouraged to help their child choose an appropriate book.
The goal of the CVSD Common Read is “to inspire and unify students and community members through envisioning, planning and collaborating on works of literature or art that educate about important themes of our time” as well as “to discover and learn interdisciplinary subject matter and real-life skills through collaborative design projects”. Participating in the Common Read will help kids achieve these goals and to be able to engage in the group discussion.
Debbie Donnelly, a 5th through 8th grade teacher at Williston Central School, attended the event with her students, “I am not sure if it will help kids read over the summer. With that being said, supplying students with books of their own, to keep, certainly promotes reading over the summer,” Donnelly hopes that giving students a book to keep will encourage students to utilize it, and it will help educate young people about important topics.
Kevin Hunt, a 5th through 8th grade teacher at Williston Central, also attended the event with his students, “I love that the district is putting more emphasis on teaching equity and empathy. I think these are so important for kids to have at the core of their learning,” he says. Teachers like Hunt recognize that teaching kids about equality has become vital in today’s classrooms.
Throughout the teaching staff, educators agreed that there was a need to bring awareness to Social Justice. “To me, it means bringing awareness to equity and biases (both implicit and explicit) and taking action when people are treated with hate or intolerance,” Hunt says.
Going into a summer reading assignment, the big question is always, “will students actually participate and read the books?”. This question can never be easily known, but the Common Read attempts to help promote summer reading by making it optional.
“It’s tricky to find that motivating factor for students to read over the summer- especially when it is a teacher-directed task or book. I think once kids get into the material, they will definitely like it and want to keep reading!” Hunt states, adding that providing intriguing topics may help kids be more motivated to read and to participate in the celebration.
Students who are intrigued and participate may be able to help in the future. It could make a shift for the better of society, especially with topics like Social Justice.