Bobcat Book Club Earns Crystal Apple Award

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Over the summer, a group of parents and teachers met at Severna Park Elementary to create a new book club.

The school’s previous book club, the Black Eyed Susan Book Club, was not meeting the needs of students, and it needed to be revamped.

Now, the Bobcat Book Club is wrapping up its inaugural year. The new book club challenges students to read four books in the first marking period, and six books in both the second and third marking periods. Students are allowed a lot of choices: choices in what they read and choices in how they prove they read the book.

“Reading is so important with our kids, and keeping them interested and allowing them choices makes them want to read more,” said Melissa Connelly, the school’s media specialist, who helped create the book club. “When there’s not a lot of choice, they tend to do just what they have to and be done with it.”

Margaret Sullivan, whose children attend SPES, is a graduate student at the University of Maryland and has done research on reading groups and what motivates kids. Sullivan was part of the team that met over the summer to create the club.

“I wanted to be part of it when they were expanding beyond just reading for the numbers,” Sullivan said. “It’s important to associate reading with an intrinsically good feeling and the enjoyment part, not necessarily a physical reward.”

After reading a book, students have a “menu of options” to show they read it, Connelly said. They can have a lunch bunch with a teacher or parent volunteer to discuss the book; draw a scene or alternate book cover; or even write a diary entry, among other options.

“It’s a fun time that has a reading aspect to it,” Sullivan said. “We wanted to do more stuff like that.”

The program is optional for students. Roughly 40 to 60 students participate each marking period. Those who complete the program are rewarded at the end of the marking period, usually with extra recess. Those who completed all three marking periods will be treated to a field trip to the Severna Park Library, which will have an escape room based on one of the novels students read this year.

“I was super excited [to win] because a lot of time went into it,” Connelly said. “It was a very collaborative, and to have it be successful and be recognized for it is huge.”

The Crystal Apple Award recognizes exemplary programs within the Anne Arundel County Public Schools system. It was started by Nancy Mann when she was the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Representatives from the Bobcat Book Club will receive the Crystal Apple Award at the Volunteer Recognition Tea, which will be May 16 at Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie.

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