Monday, November 3, 2014

The Story Continues with Prajeeth and Aaron

Last year, I wrote an article for ETFO Voice magazine, the periodical of the provincial public elementary teacher union, about how our school is involved with the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading program. The article (which you can read here) began with a story and ended with a quote from two boys at my school: Prajeeth and Aaron. The dynamic duo are now in Grade 7 and their passion for the Forest of Reading has not dimmed. Their enthusiasm has hit new heights this year.

Like the year before, the pair had reserved all the titles they could from the public library so they could read them in advance. They returned to school to offer titles from their stash to other teachers so that they could get ahead and be ready to chat on the books when the program officially starts at our school - in January 2015.

This year, the boys took the initiative to begin their chats ahead of time ... three months ahead of time. The passports have not yet been prepared but they are using their school agendas and other tools to keep track of their talks. Their class teacher from last year is an especially voracious reader and they have already discussed two of the books from the list of nominees and collected her signature. They sat with me after school to chat about another book they lent me that I finished reading (My Name Is Blessing by Eric Walters) and they revealed one of their other tools: they printed off the charts with the nominated titles from the OLA website and were tracking which books they had received, read, and completed conversations about. I hadn't even realized that these charts were already available! I was so impressed that I dragged them into the principal's office to make a "good tattle". The administration needed to hear a good news story about our highly motivated and organized readers.

The boys obviously love all the routines and rewards associated with the program. I didn't even include all these details in the article, like:

  • how Prajeeth insisted on going to BOTH the Silver Birch AND Red Maple Festival of Trees events at Harbourfront and paid for both trips with money he had saved in his bank account
  • Aaron and Prajeeth were active members of the school's Silver Birch Quiz Bowl Team and stepped in when someone could not make it on the day of the local competition. Their knowledge of the books led our school to its highest results in our history of participation (runner up in the Non-Fiction category)
  • for the first time Grade 6 students were involved in the Red Maple Marketing Campaign - and the intermediate students accepted them in without question
  • how Aaron, in 2012, attended the Ontario Library Association Superconference and interviewed some of the winning authors from the year before for a podcast
I've offered a new opportunity for these incredible boys that they are excited about and is a natural fit. A neighbouring school with a new teacher-librarian would like to get involved with the Forest of Reading, but their staff is not as interested as mine in reading these books and communicating with the students about them. Aaron and Prajeeth will be acting as Skype consultants, talking with the students about the books they read and then giving their "verdict" on whether or not the student read and understood the book enough to earn a signature in their passports. That ETFO article was a great snapshot, but I'm so happy to report that the story doesn't end with the article - I'm so proud of them and I hope their love of reading (especially with the Forest of Reading) carries on into high school and beyond. 

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