SHELDON—In Bailey Hennings’ fourth-grade class at East Elementary, Accelerated Reader is out and Book Shares are in.
Six of Hennings’ students presented their recent reading projects to the Sheldon School District Board of Education May 12.
Their projects — called Book Shares — summarized the main ideas of free-reading books the pupils read and demonstrated their comprehension of the story. The students show their Book Shares to their classmates, which gives the latter potential ideas for books they could read in the future.
Hennings said the idea for the Book Shares came about while brainstorming alternatives to the school’s Accelerated Reader program, which tracks students’ reading progress using a point system.
She introduced Book Shares at the start of the third quarter of the 2020-21 academic year and plans to replace Accelerated Reader with the alternate system next academic year.
“My goal of a program that’s not based on Accelerated Reader was just to put love of reading back, to have them read because they found a book they love and not because it’s worth a certain number of points or because they’re going to get a prize at the end of the quarter,” Hennings said.
For her Book Share, fourth-grader Norah Bunkers created a book commercial video about “Space Case” by Stuart Gibbs. The video, which starred Bunkers and a few of her classmates, gave a brief description of the book’s premise and encouraged the audience to pick up the mystery tale to find out how it ends.
“We had a lot of fun making it,” Bunkers told the school board after playing the video.
Brooke Jonas also created a book commercial to describe the book “The Boxcar Children” by Gertrude Chandler Warner. The book follows the story of orphans Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny.
“I left them with a cliffhanger so they had to read the book to find out what happened,” Jonas said. “One reason I like Book Shares was because when we did AR, it felt like I was forced to read. Now I feel like I have more choice in the books I pick to read.”
Andie De Groot and Dawson McKenna also liked the flexibility Book Shares give them when it comes to choosing which books they can read.
De Groot’s Book Share was about “The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane’’ by Julia Nobel and gave information in alphabetical order about the story, such as the main character, setting and conflict. McKenna opted to make a diorama for his project, which showed a scene from “Hazardous Tales: Raid of No Return” by book by Nathan Hale based on a World War II event.
Another Book Share option students could do was write a letter to the author of the book they read in which they react to the story and ask the writer questions about it. That’s the route Delaney Brennan took for her presentation of “The Baby-Sitters Club: The Truth about Stacey” by Raina Telgemeier.
Board vice president Susan Rensink asked about how deadlines for Book Shares were assigned, since some students may read at different paces than others.
Hennings said her students read more than one book by themselves during the quarter, so they could pick one they have completed for their Book Share.
The fourth-graders in Hennings’ class also did a joint reading project with Heather Keizer’s seventh-graders in which the younger students partnered with an older peer to choose a book to read together. The partners then created a Book Share about the story they read.
“They have to e-mail their fourth-graders and tell them, ‘Hey, remember, this is due. This is when we’re coming back over there,’” Keizer said of the collaborative project.
The projects ranged from videos to designing book covers of the novels the students read, which detailed information about the story.
Keizer echoed Hennings’ point about how the reading projects helped promote a love of reading among the students by giving them more freedom in what they read on their own.
“When it’s their free-reading time, they should be able to read whatever they want to read because that’s how you learn to love reading,” Keizer said.