Rosemary Ford’s Sunshine State Book Club meets on Zoom to discuss books and foster a love of reading.
| 1:00 p.m. July 22, 2020
West Orange Times & Observer
By Ruby Berthole Foundation Academy
For many parents, it’s been a challenge keeping their kids engaged over the summer — and even more of a challenge getting them to read.
On top of that, solutions have seemed fewer now considering COVID-19 safety measures.
Rosemary Ford, a Sunset Park Elementary teacher and mother, understands this struggle and has made a way to help.
This summer, Ford has encouraged kids to explore their books and their minds through Mrs. Ford’s Sunshine State Book Club. This club gives children the opportunity to discover books, exercise their responsibility and discuss their thoughts and learnings virtually with other students.
As a mother, Ford knew how hard it can be to motivate kids to read books over the summer. After having classes online for the last nine weeks of school, she knew how to teach virtually and saw it as a safe opportunity to get kids into books.
“I thought this (club) might be a nice way to take that accountability or take that responsibility off the parents a little bit,” she said.
She also said it was a great way to teach kids to be accountable for their own work and to learn with their peers, which is what she thinks the kids enjoy the most. They feel more motivated to get their work done, and it keeps their brains moving during the summer while having fun with friends.
Throughout the summer, club members have read one of the Grades 3-5 Sunshine State books. As the kids read through the chapters, they are given vocabulary and comprehension assignments and meet on Wednesdays through Zoom.
Although these meetings are done virtually, Ford still tries her best to make them productive and fun. During the meetings, they do review activities such as virtual Jeopardy! and have in-depth conversations on the books’ themes. In the past, participants have discussed topics such as friendship in the book “Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker,” and delicate topics such as foster care and death in “Planet Earth is Blue.”
“It makes us more empathetic to different situations,” Ford said. “That’s sort of why I love the Sunshine State books. They are always super thought-provoking.”
Ford keeps her reading groups at a maximum of five students so every kid can have their voice heard without too much distraction.
Even for the students who found it more challenging to read the books, after being able to slow down and dissect the text, they were able to learn new vocabulary and aspects of the story. Students interacting with and learning from books that push them has made one of the most memorable moments for Ford. Overall, her favorite part about being able to host this club has been watching the kids learn new things and connect to the stories. She especially loves the creativity the kids show in their work. For an assignment, one of the students created a movie trailer for the book “Planet Earth is Blue.”
Participating in this club has inspired kids to go further in their reading. Some of the kids enjoyed the books so much, they told Ford they wanted to participate in Battle of the Books, a reading program for public schools.
Ford said she has been thrilled to hear this from the children; a big goal of hers was for them to develop a love of reading from this experience. As the students went deeper into the book, they all began to grow closer to the story’s perspective and to their peers’ perspectives.
Connections like Mrs. Ford’s Sunshine State Book Club can make a lasting impact on children and their views on reading.