By William Croyle
FORT THOMAS - Beth Pelgen, 12, loves to read books in her free time. Jason Lewis, 11, says reading is his hobby. Alicia Bjelland, 12, reads nearly 20 books a month during the summer.
"I love reading. I'm a read-aholic," Alicia said. "I read everything as soon as possible."
7th grade math teacher Paul Winkler comments during the "Oprah Club" book club in the Highlands Middle School library Monday.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
These students are three of about 20 sixth- through eighth-grade members of the Highlands Middle School Book Club, a club patterned after the Oprah Book Club.
The Highlands club began in 2001 when some students suggested the idea to their librarian after hearing about Winfrey's club.
"Book clubs have been around for a long time at all age levels, but for a group of kids to want to start one themselves is very exciting," said Fran Roscello, president of the American Association of School Librarians in New York. "They must have a love of reading to do it. And it's bound to help them with the assessments and testing they have."
The club started the same year the middle school opened. Before that, the sixth-graders were at the district's three elementary schools while the seventh- and eighth-graders went to Highlands High School.
"Since we took these kids out of the high school environment, they've been coming in the library and haven't stopped," said librarian Missy Hatt, who has been with the district since 1985. "We buy books based on the age of these kids, and I think that has contributed to their interest in reading."
Six of the books read by club members are selected by local language arts teachers who run a one-day program called BookFest each year at Northern Kentucky University.
All middle-school students in Northern Kentucky who read the six books are invited to the seminar in May, when they will hear speeches from authors and participate in reading games and writing workshops.
The Highlands club meets on the first Monday of each month. Members discuss the book they've just read and select the book for the next month.
Hatt participates in the discussion, but usually asks a teacher to read the book and lead the group.
"I think it makes it more exciting for the kids," Hatt said. "I think it means more to them when they see their own teachers reading what they're reading."
The club will continue the pattern of reading and discussing a book every month throughout the school year. Once they've read the six books from the BookFest list, the club will vote on a couple others to read to close out the school year.
Books in the club
These books have been chosen for the 2003-04 year. Two more books will be selected early next year.
A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck (October).
Streams to the River, River to the Sea, by Scott O'Dell (November).
Star Girl, by Jerry Spinelli (December).
Miracle's Boys, by Jacqueline Woodson (2004).
Here and Then, by George Ella Lyon (2004).
Spirit Seeker, by Joan Lowery Nixon (2004).
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