Written By: Angie Jameson (Library Media Specialist - Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools)
When I read Craft's 2019 Newbery Award-winning graphic novel, New Kid, featuring a middle school student who starts off the school year at a new school, I thought about how frequently students who are new to our school district gravitate to the library as a safe zone. Many new students become my best readers of the school year. I wanted to share the book with all of our middle school students, but I didn't want to add anything to the classroom teachers' plates. I decided to offer a book study with our new students in the fall.
At the beginning of the next school year, students new to Chagrin Falls Middle School participated in a walk to town event to introduce them to the beautiful village of Chagrin Falls. During this event, the group visited the Chagrin Falls Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, where they learned about all of the helpful resources and programming available to them. The public library provided students with goody bags, including library card applications, program brochures, and Jerry Craft's New Kid.
Throughout the first semester, we offered a book study for our new students to provide the space for them to share challenges and successes as new students in the district. Our guidance counselor and building principal participated in the group, and we held sessions during a time in the school day when many of our new students had a study hall. We also reserved our library meeting space so students would feel more comfortable opening up to the group in a private setting.
During our first meeting, we discussed the metaphors used at the beginning of the graphic novel. As a group, we wrote metaphors about how it feels to be a new student in school. Students in the group shared advice their parents gave them before starting at the new school.
For our next meeting, Jerry Craft joined us on Skype to discuss the autobiographical elements of his graphic novel. He answered questions from our students and asked questions to each student about their experiences starting at a new school. Craft also shared his plans to publish a sequel for New Kid set to release in fall 2020.
To wrap up our program, we had a third meeting where we discussed the rest of the book and made predictions about where Jordan's life will take him in high school. Students recorded their responses on Flipgrid, and we shared our responses to the group. Overall, we believe the book study was a success. At our last meeting, students filled out an evaluation and recommended that for our next group, we incorporate more interactive activities and offer more sessions.
When we return to school in the fall, we plan to offer this programming again. We will invite students who participated in 2019-2020 to attend meetings, so we have a large enough group to provide more activities. We will also extend the program for the entire school year for any students who are interested in reading Craft's next novel, Class Act, throughout the spring semester.