Sixth graders at Westlake Middle School are engaging in age-appropriate literature while connecting with far-flung peers during the annual Global Read Aloud event that runs until mid November.
Since launching in 2010 with 150 participants, the Global Read Aloud has grown to include more than a million students focusing on a preselected title, said Westlake Middle School teacher Laura Israelsen.
“Teachers from all over the world come together and decide on books,” she explained. “Everyone agrees to read a certain chapter each week.”
This year sixth graders taking part in Global Read Aloud are plowing through “Thirst” by Varsha Bajaj, which was selected, in part, because the characters are from a similar peer group as students.
“As it has evolved most often the protagonist or the main character will be someone that age,” she said.
The book, which is set in India, details the ongoing water crisis from the perspective of pre-teens.
“They're able to follow these kids in India to understand the water crisis, and what that looks like for them everyday,” she said.
In addition to reading aloud in class, students also connect virtually with national and international peers, Israelsen said
“We’ve been on with the (U.S.) east coast, Mexico and Canada,” she said. “It just becomes this big, collective group and we share on a tablet so the kids can respond back and forth to each other.”
On Monday, Westlake Middle students connected with sixth graders in Ontario, Canada.
“This morning was really interesting because the kids in Ontario have an indigenous population that's having a water crisis,” she said. “So they shared that with us and we were able to share with them what's going on with the Colorado River.”
Keeping Global Read Aloud participants on the same reading schedule is also key to avoiding any inadvertent post reveals, Israelsen noted.
“When you do discuss things online, you're not giving it away because everybody's in the same part of the book,” she said.
Besides reading comprehension, Israelsen said the larger goal is having pupils make global connections.
“What starts to happen with these conversations is a little bit of magic,” she said. “You understand as a sixth graders that you are reading this book with all these other students around the world.”