Fostering a Love of Reading

It all started with a simple question: “Can I read with you?” And with that, the Henderson Achievement Center book club was born.  

Ms. Kortney, Volunteer and Scholar Coordinator at Henderson, lightheartedly proposed the idea of a book club to her scholars one evening in the fall of 2019. When eight scholars jumped to sign up, she knew the idea had merit.  

The club met during study hall to read books by Black authors or centered around Black characters. “What they read in school is mostly just about historical figures,” says Ms. Kortney. “I wanted the scholars to see themselves in the characters and experiences in the books.  

The group began with “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia, reading 3-4 chapters a week and meeting during study hall for discussion.  

When program moved virtually, so did book club. Ms. Kortney sent scholars care packages with the books, sticky notes, highlighters, candy, pens, and markers for them to stay engaged and practice active reading. 

During the discussion time, scholars explored the motivation of characters. They spent time reflecting upon and relating with characters, thinking about what they would do in their shoes, and sharing how they felt while reading.  

Book club served as an outlet for some students who were not as vocal during other parts of center. “Virtual school has been intense for scholars,” says Ms. Kortney, “but at book club, they have a place to process their emotions and an opportunity to talk with their peers about literature even if they’re not all on the same reading level. 

The weekly meetings were also a time for relationship-building. Scholars from Henderson come from a variety of middle schools and were able to continue friendships with their peers from elementary school during book club. Mentoring relationships were also strengthened, as the group gathered before mentoring and acted as an icebreaker and bonding time before mentoring lessons.  

One Henderson mentor, Mr. Brandon, also participated in book club. His reflection questions sparked thoughtful discussions among the group and the experience helped him built relationships with scholars outside of his own mentoring group.  

This past school year, the group read and discussed three books together: “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor, “Out of My Mind” by Sharon M. Draper, and “Harbor Me” by Jaqueline Woodson. Over time, Ms. Kortney would like to empower scholars with ownership of the group by offering them opportunities to choose the books and lead discussions. “I want it to feel like their book club,” says Ms. Kortney.