From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Holly Mueller.  Holly is a 5th/6th grade ELA gifted intervention specialist with a wonderful husband who understands her O.B.B.D. (Obsessive Book Buying Disorder), and two talented, amazing daughters.  Holly loves to read, write, teach, travel, and hang out with friends and family. Holly’s family have a hilarious Cocker Spaniel, Ben, who keeps her laughing and encourages her to take lots of walks. Holly is a Choice Literacy contributor and frequent blogger. You can find her on Twitter and her blog, Reading, Teaching, Learning.



I knew when I read two special books to my classes last year, I wanted the experience to be something the kids would never forget.  I knew the books alone would take care of that, but I wanted to take it further.  I invited parents along for the sense of community it would create.  

The first book was Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  By now, every teacher has heard of this amazing book.  I read it aloud as our first book of the year and to accompany our unit on empathy.  At my fall orientation, I invited the parents to read along with us, and had gathered ten extra copies from our award-winning Cincinnati Public Library (they are wonderful about compiling multiple copies of books for classroom use). The copies were all quickly snatched up; parents then signed up on a waiting list.  

By the time I was done reading the book aloud, all the parents who wanted to join us had read it.  Throughout the experience, parents sent me e-mails about how they reacted to the book. I loved thinking about my students and their families talking about Wonder around kitchen ta
bles and counters, in the car running to practices, and in family rooms.  Even siblings got in on the reading.  I keep a classroom blog, and when I would post questions and student discussions on it, parents would join in on the conversations in the comments.  To culminate the experience, we held a Parent/Student book club gathering on a weekday evening at my school.  I prepared discussion questions, showed a couple of interview videos with R.J. Palacio, and then we talked and talked.  It was amazing to hear the interaction and see the enthusiasm the book created.

 It was such a great experience; I knew I wanted to do it again when we started the 2013 Newbery Award winner The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  Again, I gathered multiple copies for parents, and they were all eager to join us in the reading, but how could we top the first experience?  A student helped me with that!  Olivia and I were talking, and she was telling me about a new baby gorilla at The Cincinnati Zoo. As we chatted about his circumstances and how cute he was, it suddenly dawned on me where the perfect place for our next Parent/Student Book Club meeting should be – the zoo!!  
We planned the outing in the spring, and it turned out to be a beautiful, sunny day.  We met at the entrance where amazing tulips in every color bloomed.  Whole families came!  I had scheduled stops at the Elephant Encounter to honor Stella and Ruby and the Gorilla Encounter to celebrate Ivan, of course.  We learned all about those incredible animals from the excellent zoo staff and thought one gorilla looked an awful lot like Ivan!

When we ate lunch, I distributed discussion questions about the book to each table and floated around, listening to the wonderful conversations this book inspired.  

It was quite a day, and one that I know I’ll never forget.  I hope my students and their families feel the same way!
I got chills, too, Holly, thinking about your families all talking about the same book. What a fabulous idea! Thank you so much for sharing.

No Responses to “From the Office of the Future of Reading”

  1. Elisa

    This is a wonderful idea. I would love to do something like this but would need to figure out how to get multiple copies of a particular title since I teach in South America. Maybe having the kids read with their parents might be a good alternative. Thanks for sharing.