Teams of "warriors" in sixth through eighth grade at Adams Middle School in Tampa, Florida, read and discuss young adult novels as part of the school's annual "Extreme Read." The experience not only supports the students' literacy skills but gives them the chance to see those around them -- peers, parents, and even the math teacher -- as fellow readers. Included: A few simple practices keep the Extreme Read a resounding, reading success!
"Many programs or initiatives in schools come and go or lose their appeal over time," observes Principal Odalys Pritchard. "That is not the case with Extreme Read--Warrior Style. It remains a popular program with students and parents, and in ways has become a tradition at Adams Middle School."
The Extreme Read--Warrior Style takes its name from school's motto, "Home of the Warriors." It began as a program exclusively for eighth graders and has grown into a school-wide initiative in which members of every grade-level team -- from the sixth-grade "Navajo Team" to the eighth-grade "Sioux Team" -- read one book from the spring book fair. The teachers make the selections, read the books, and encourage students and their parents to read the books as well. One month later, staff members, students, and their families gather in the evening to discuss what they have read.
Students at the Tampa, Florida, school are familiar with the Extreme Read and look forward to participating in it from year to year. The program is kept fresh through the selection of current, high-interest novels that appeal to all ages. Last year, The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti was chosen by several teams.
"Through Extreme Read, parents see that books middle school students read are interesting," reports Abigail Dyer, Adams Middle School's media specialist. "It opens up a line of communication between the two groups."
What has impressed Dyer most about the program has been the positive evaluations she so often receives from parents. One parent wrote that she had such a great experience with Extreme Read that it had changed her mind about middle school -- she wanted a "do-over"!
"Many people are frightened by the idea of participating in a group discussion, but they soon realize that our round table discussions are non-threatening," Dyer explains.
The evening meeting begins in the cafeteria where an agenda is handed out. Participants then go to assigned classrooms for teacher-led discussions about specific books. Each group returns to the cafeteria armed with four points or things they have learned from the book or the overall Extreme Read experience.
Students present the four points of each small group to the entire assembly, and evaluations are distributed to parents, students, and staff. Next, a light supper of pizza, salad, brownies, soda, and water is served. The evening ends with a few small door prizes of gift certificates.
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive since the program's inception," shared Pritchard. "Comments have included wanting to have Extreme Read more often. Parents frequently admit to being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing in the novels and by how much they enjoy the young adult books."
"Not only does the Extreme Read expose a math teacher, for example, to a young adult novel he or she would not typically have used in the classroom, but it allows students to see teachers and adults other than their language arts teacher as readers," she added.