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Reading event brings book to life
Students use imagination
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Making a book come alive was front and center at Patrick Henry Elementary School on Tuesday. Clockwise from left are: Judy McDonald, Patrick Henry paraprofessional; Assistant Principal Stephanie Sedor; and students Cody Sedor, Julie Ann Nguyen, Joseph Nguyen, John Mguyen, Grayson Russell, Ainsley Russell and Heath Russell. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Monday, July 28, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Staff Writer

Children at a summer book-sharing event Tuesday at Patrick Henry Elementary School were asked to imagine they were inside a submarine and what they would see looking outside.

It was one of the activities to help make the book “The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester” by Barbara O’Connor come alive for the children.

Here’s a portion of the blog Sommer Reading’s synopsis of the book: “Owen Jester lives in Carter, Georgia and at the beginning of the book he has caught a big bullfrog that he decides to name Tooley Graham. But that’s just the beginning. Soon after catching Tooley, Owen hears the sound of something falling off a train which turns out to be a submarine — the Water Wonder 4000 … and Owen can’t wait to share his secret with his two best friends. Of course, the boys want to put the submarine in the water, but when Owen’s nosy neighbor, Viola, learns what they are up to, she wants to be part of their plans.”

Patrick Henry Assistant Principal Stephanie Sedor tried to help the children visualize what they would see outside a submarine. She asked them what creatures and colors they would see and what the water bottom would look like.

“We want to be really, really colorful. We need more excitement,” she said, as she clapped her hands to try to get the children pumped up.

The children used crayons and magic markers to draw on huge sheets of white paper covering two library tables pushed together.

The children (and some adults) drew smiling fish, sharp-toothed sharks that would like to eat them, octupuses, frogs, sand dollars, starfish, seaweed, various other marine life and plants, and scuba divers.

Another part of the hour-long activity involved Sedor and paraprofessional Judy McDonald asking the children about events in the book, characters and their relationships, and other things such as what their favorite parts of the book are.

When asked their favorite character, most of the children responding said Owen, but one child said Viola.

Only one child responded to the question asking about his or her favorite part of the book. Grayson Russell said her favorite part is a word: “niggle.” (It’s a verb meaning to worry or annoy someone, or to argue or make criticisms about something that is not very important.)

In an interview after the book sharing, Sedor delighted in Grayson’s answer, because vocabulary development is one of the aims of the reading program.

During the last part of the book sharing, the children made “submarines” out of cardboard boxes, cutting out holes for windows.

A few of the children sat inside their cardboard submarines after finishing them or even scooted across the floor in them.

Leanna Blevins, associate director and chief academic officer for New College Institute, said she brought her children — Grayson, Ainsley and Heath Russell — to the book sharing because, “I want them to have a deeper engagement than just our discussions at home — and just to get their feet wet, heading back to school in a few weeks.” Grayson is 9; Ainsley, 8; and Heath, 6.

Grayson said she likes to read but couldn’t say exactly why. “I don’t know. I just like doing it,” she said.

Ainsley, while sitting inside her cardboard box submarine, said she likes to read “sometimes.”

Dung Tran, who moved to the United States from Vietnam a number of years ago, brought her children, Joseph, 9, John, 7, and Julie Anna Nguyen, 5, to the book sharing.

Tran said she speaks a little English, but, “I tell the children, ‘Read, read, read every day.’”

“It’s fun to read,” John said.

Joseph said he also likes to read, especially “Wimpy Kid” books.

All the children interviewed said they had fun at the book sharing. Some indicated the activities helped make the book come alive by engaging them.

Sedor brought her son, Cody, a rising first-grader who is learning to read, to the book sharing.

Stephanie Sedor said she hopes the summer reading program “is helping them (children) develop a love for reading. I think it helps develop comprehension of stories and vocabulary.”

The summer reading program — called One Book, One School — had students from each school read the same book. Free books were given to all students. Students and families were encouraged to read and discuss books together at home, and to come to summer book sharing events at school media centers. Several book sharing events were held throughout the summer. The middle school-level book was “Belly Up” by Stuart Gibbs. The high-school-level book was “The Paladin Prophecy” by Mark Frost.

Pam Mason, Martinsville City Public Schools coordinator of reading and media services, said of the book sharings: “We’ve had some good activities planned. Unfortunately we haven’t had much participation.”

Among the activities that were held were making a hippo model and a frog mask, origami (paper folding), a talk related to computers, as well as discussions to prompt a deeper understanding of the books, according to Mason and Sedor.

Despite “pretty low” attendance at the book sharings, Mason feels the program has been successful from the standpoint of having students reading the same books and a “commonality of discussion.” A number of people have told her they enjoyed reading the books and discussed them with their families, she said.

She added she hopes activities and discussions related to the books or sequel books will continue during the upcoming school year.


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