For the joy of reading

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
Students in the Asbury Elementary Boys Book Club spend time after school twice a month discussing books they are reading and exploring elements of literature with Principal Jim Sullivan. Pictured left to right are Dakota Patterson, Ricky Clark, Bryce Tatman, Connor Pierce, Lamondo Edwards, Sullivan, Jimi Mock, and Thomas Gullatt.

While their peers head home to video games and television, a group of boys at Asbury Elementary School is discovering the joys of fiction, non-fiction, and comic books through an after-school book club.

"I was looking for more ways to give kids something constructive after school and get them more open to and involved in reading," said Asbury Elementary Principal Jim Sullivan, who leads the twice-a-month group of third, fourth, and fifth graders. "I want to expose them to more genres and even bring in comics that are more like examples of graphic novels.

"Sometimes publishers will take more traditional books and put them in a graphic novel format. We talk about books and they discuss books they are reading or have read. We also talk a lot about character, plot, and setting. I’m using comic books in our meeting this week, which are a great way to illustrate those points. In addition to discussing the contents of a book, we talk about the illustrations as well. I was an art teacher before becoming a principal and I plan on having the boys create their own comics sometime next year using ideas brought up in the book club."

Twenty students comprise the group-which Sullivan organized at the end of October-and meet for an hour in the school library or the Southeast branch of the Columbus Public Library. Time is also devoted to exploring different types of writing associated with Ohio achievement tests.

As varied as the selection of books piled before them, group members span the academic spectrum.
"We have a lot of students that like to read, but can get into trouble if they don’t have a creative outlet," said Sullivan. "We have a couple of members that are very gifted and at the same time, there are students who may have some discipline problems. There are high readers and then we also have average readers in the book club."

Sullivan said the all-boy environment helps students open up and share their comments, versus a traditional classroom situation where they may be more hesitant to speak up and voice their opinion regarding a book that draws their interest.

During a meeting on Dec. 16, students spent time discussing books they read over the last two weeks, perused classic comic books collected by the principal, worked in pairs on an activity, and then shared their results with the rest of the group.

"It gets me better at reading and better in group activities," remarked fifth grader Charles Towns. "I like to read comics, books about Martin Luther King, and books about football. The book club helps to make me a better reader."

Title I reading instructor Danielle Rinkes felt there are many boys attending Asbury who do not have the benefit of a strong male influence and said Sullivan was helping fill the gap by leading the book club.

"To have a principal take time out at the end of his day to take an interest in them is wonderful," continued Rinkes.  "There are so many boys in the book club and even ones who get in trouble still want to be in it."

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