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A novel idea: 5th grader turns whole class into book club

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - You might belong to a book club at your local library, or follow the reading recommendations of a big celebrity. But Oprah isn’t the only one with a book club. There’s a 5th grader in Plymouth who’s turned her entire class into readers.

“Basically, all of my free time has been spent reading and I’ve found a lot of great series through that,” said Jane Gottschalk.

Jane, age 11, is a voracious reader. She can be spotted with a book at home, on vacation and of course at St. Michael school in Plymouth.

“Mystery, for sure. Fantasy. Anything fiction, I love all of that,” said Jane.

Jane has a love for reading that she just can’t keep to herself.

“To this day I just love it. And I wanted everyone else to feel that way too,” said Jane.

So, just before spring break, Jane asked her teacher if she could start a book club, using her books from home.

“It just means to me so much more when she said, ‘I have a book picked out for everybody.’ I said, ‘Everybody in the classroom?’ She said, “Yeah. Even you Mrs. Kolter,” said Mary Beth Kolter, St. Michael’s 5th grade teacher. “So we just went with it.”

Here’s how it works: Jane loans a book to each of her 17 classmates and switches it out when they’re done.

This novel idea is producing surprising results.

“I feel like everyone wasn’t a reader at the beginning, but now that everyone’s gotten a book that they love, they just keep wanting to read,” said Lainey Rader, 5th grader.

Even the reluctant readers found themselves turning pages.

“Before Jane came up with the book club, I usually did not read at all,” said Lucas Aquila, 5th grader.

Lucas is now hooked on the Virginia Mystery Series; something Jane borrowed from her brother.

“I thought I wouldn’t read unless I had to, but these books, interest me so much that it got me into like reading. And I thought I would never like, read until Jane,” said Lucas.

Mrs. Kolter expects to see improvements across the board in end of year assessments. These kids aren’t just reading, they’re writing book reports and holding in-depth discussions.

“I love listening to them talking to each other, saying ‘Omigosh, I really love this book, do you have another one like this?’ It is just the cutest thing to see,” said Mrs. Kolter.

May 27 is their last day of school and Mrs. Kolter thinks they’ll continue to read all summer. This class has been spending twenty minutes of free time every day, reading.

“I just love these twenty minutes because I mean it’s an opportunity to learn other books, explore other books, and just have fun,” said Kayla McGowan, 5th grader.

In her 25 years of teaching Mrs. Kolter has tried all the tricks to get kids to read. From pushing the classics, to trendy titles. This year, all it took was Jane.

“I love books, but I only know so many. She knows all of the books,” said Mrs. Kolter.

“Based on my own experience, I recommended a book to everybody. And I hope they all really enjoyed them,” said Jane.

Story suggestions from a kid who cares.

“I have really enjoyed doing this for the class and I hope some of the people in here will also recommend books to people they know and it can grow bigger that way,” said Jane.

By the way, Jane wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Are you looking for books for your young readers to try this summer? Here is Jane’s favorite book recommendation list:

Read With Jane!

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Geimenhart

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

The Ickabog by J.K. Rowling

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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