Starbooks brings stories to life

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Stories are springing to life at Sara Harp Minter Elementary. Their Starbooks initiative, a collaboration between media specialist Amanda Lane and 5th grade teachers Jodii Gorski, Kayla Brown, Katy Phillips, Shelby Garner, and Wendy Sparrow, has students doing deep-dive novel studies with the help of special guest readers and an immersive experience.

“We work together to choose novels which enhance our curriculum while broadening students’ perspectives,” said Gorski. “We strive to ensure student representation, diverse authors, various genres, and challenging texts with an emphasis on social emotional connections.”

A recent Starbooks launch saw Sara Harp Minter Elementary counselor Mesha Bolton read “Bud, Not Buddy.”

Lane hosts “Sip and Say” events in the media center where she does a lesson on genre, reviews specific elements in the novel, and then reveals the next book to the students. For each book launch, a guest reader reads the first chapter aloud, and students are given a copy of the novel, along with a pacing guide. A choice board is provided with current literary focus skills and standards emphasized to complete during the course of the book study.

A recent reading saw school counselor Mesha Bolton read “Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis. Because a pivotal scene in the novel takes place in a soup kitchen in the 1930s, there was a simulated soup kitchen, complete with era-appropriate music, set up in the media center.

“They were served rolls and broth as they waited in line,” said Gorski. “As students waited, they were informed that there may not be enough food, asked if they were able to find work, and, if they did get food, were limited to one roll.”

Past guest readers have been Sara Harp Minter Principal John Gibbas, who read “The Night of the Spadefoot Toads” by Bill Harley; Assistant Principal Cindy Holland, who read “Pie” by Sarah Weeks; school nurse Donna Lawrence, who read “Fever, 1793” by Laurie Halse Anderson; special education teacher Erik Falkenhagen, who read “The False Prince” by Jennifer Nielson; gifted teacher Amy Hudson, who read “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate; special education teacher Donnie Bates, who read “The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo; and Flat Rock Middle instructional coach Jaime Vandegrift, who read “Out of My Mind” by Sharon Draper.

“This initiative was started as a way to foster a love of reading again. Ideally, we wanted students to discuss the books among themselves, with their families, and with us. One of the best ways to promote these types of discussions is for all of us to be reading the same novel at the same time,” said Gorski. “We have found thatm since beginning Starbooks, students’ lexiles, writing skills, and desire to read has improved dramatically. Students look forward to every other Friday when we launch a new Starbooks. As teachers working with our media specialist, we have sought out quality literature to continue to meet and challenge our students.”

The success of Starbooks has spread throughout the school.

“The impact of Starbooks has gone beyond just our classrooms,” said Gorski. “Other teachers and grade levels have begun doing similar activities to increase student buy-in, which has created a ripple effect of reading, engagement, and participation.”

A pivotal scene in the novel takes place in a soup kitchen, so there was a simulated 1930s soup kitchen, complete with era-appropriate music, set up in the media center.