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Passing On a Love of Reading

Jonathan Green is halfway through a spirited reading of Green Eggs & Ham when he poses a question to a group of kindergartners who are hanging on his every word. "What do you think is going to happen next?"

If Jonathan is acting more like a savvy reading specialist than your average 7th grader, there's a reason: for the past two years he's been part of a Boys Reading Club organized by Prince William Education Association member Bruce Smith, a reading specialist at Rippon Middle School in Woodbridge. Smith got the idea after attending a professional conference, and he says it's been a great way to focus middle school boys on their reading, as well as giving them an opportunity to shine with their younger peers.

Each of the past four months, members of the club (which has been joined by the Girls Reading Club for this project) trek from Rippon, through the local neighborhood, and on to Featherstone Elementary. During their May visit, Green and his reading partner, Marlowe Manis, were among a dozen Rippon students who dispersed into primary grade classrooms to read. The students were as attentive as they would have been with any teacher at the head of the class, and they clearly appreciated the enthusiasm the club members brought to the task.

Later, Green said he always asks his audience to predict what will happen next "because it keeps them active and alert." He learned the technique in Smith's class, he says, which is no surprise because Smith stresses the idea that reading is more complicated than merely voicing the words on the page. "When you read to someone else, to make it interesting you have to read ahead and really be involved in the story," he explains. "So it causes the reader to see more than words. What we're trying to do here is to develop critical readers."

Manis said he's an avid reader who's currently reading Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book of the Harry Potter series. "When I read, it keeps me in my zone-I'm just in my own little world," he says. And encouraging younger students to pick up a book is just part of the fun, he adds. "I love making little kids think that middle school is fun, and that reading is fun, too!"

Bonnie Klakowicz, president of the PWEA, says the Association supported the program with several hundred dollars to buy books. "It gives the middle school kids practice and confidence, and the kindergarten and first graders love having them read," she said. "It's a win-win situation."  


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