Newly formatted summer reading program offers more than just increased literacy skills
Ascension Episcopal School
In a world where screen-time has replaced storytime, getting students to read is more important than ever, and Ascension Episcopal School is leading the way.
“Cultivating a love of reading is a job for everyone, not just our ELA teachers,” says Stephanie Fournet, founder of Ascension Episcopal School’s new summer reading program. “Getting our STEM teachers, fine and performing arts teachers, and coaches on board drives that message home,” Fournet comments. Ms. Fournet, Director of College Counseling, began the faculty-sponsored book club in 2020 to provide an enriched literary experience filled with engagement, representation, choice, and expression.
Students in 8th - 12th grades choose a book from the faculty-sponsored book catalog and complete the reading over the summer. The new school year begins with students participating in three book discussions with faculty and fellow students. Having a common literary interest enables students to interact and exchange ideas more freely, thereby encouraging critical thinking. Multiple students commented on the sense of community created when they are allowed to share thoughts with a group of people with similar interests.
Freshman Noah Trawick read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis because he enjoyed other C.S. Lewis books. “I like the discussion time during our meetings, and I enjoy how everyone is passionate about the book. It helps the conversation if you have a group full of people that know what they are talking about and can discuss the book to its fullest.” His club leader and math teacher, Taylor Ducote, commented, “The conversations were so deep and meaningful that I wish we had more than the three scheduled meetings to keep the discussion going. I am pleasantly surprised at the level of interest these freshman boys are exhibiting.”
Book club discussions also present opportunities for meaningful conversations and valuable life lessons in the context of literature, all while building relationships, respect, and trust. After reading A Year of Less by Cait Flanders, Karen Ladmirault, a 44-year educator, opened up with her students, “When I was a young mother, we didn’t have the money to buy my daughter the $200 outfit she saw in the latest teen magazine. Instead, we pieced together the outfit at local stores and enjoyed spending time together. After sharing this with my students, we were able to discuss the true meaning of happiness.”
As a culminating project, students could choose from a wide range of book-response vehicles. Some decided to cook dishes featured in the novel, mock up a news article based on events in the plot, and build a Minecraft world to take readers on a 3D tour of significant story events. This choice allowed students to rely on their talents to demonstrate and present their understanding of the book.
By enhancing student engagement, faculty-sponsored book clubs foster community, encourage critical thinking, deepen relationships, and facilitate creative expression.
When it comes to our children, one of the most important gifts we can provide for them is opportunity. It not only prepares them for their future but also gives them the independence to discover and define who they are: who they want to be. Our faculty and staff focus on developing the whole child, with a curriculum designed to teach lifelong learning skills.