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First Love with a Book

Christopher Caruso

Christopher Caruso is TASC's senior vice president for ExpandED Schools.

As I was visiting with 6th graders (including Jenaba Sow, the "after-school convert" who led this Schoolbook article) at PS 109 in Flatbush, two themes kept cropping up. One was students' emerging love of reading. The other was their self-awareness regarding the importance of social intelligence.

The first came through a boy named Carlos, who currently spends an hour each day with three other students and a tutor in his book club, reading "The Skin I'm In."

"It was boring at first, like most books," he said. "But after I started reading it with everyone else, I didn't want it to end. And when the book was done, I wanted there to be more. That's never happened to me before."

Linda Parnes, the PS 109 librarian and Middle School Quality Initiative Coordinator, helps organize the tutoring in Carlos' expanded school day. "Before this year, many of our students would never think to pick up a book on their own. Now they look forward to working with their reading groups to choose what they might read next."

Principal Dwight Chase theorizes that students in the book clubs are beginning to understand that reading with deep comprehension is like learning to play basketball. "You have to practice." Once the muscles develop, it begins to feel natural.

Jenaba, who I mentioned earlier, is learning what it means to feel like a leader. She and her classmates take capoeira, digital game development and leadership classes led by Global Kids, PS 109's lead community partner. "I've learned to use my voice," Jenaba said. "I don't have to raise my voice for it to be a powerful tool. I have more self-control now than I had in elementary school, and I know getting angry isn't my only option."



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