At Birchwood children not only learn to read, but become avid readers. They are immersed in an environment in which good literature is enjoyed and celebrated. All students read silently, aloud, in groups, with a partner, or curled up in a corner. They hear the language of good stories and the style of great authors as teachers read and introduce classes to the best in children’s literature. Classics and award-winning literature, from times past and today, foster a love of reading and respect for literature’s place in life and development.

Nonfiction reading allows students to discover the world outside and within themselves. Poetry is more than a unit of study once a year; it is a source of enjoyment and reflection throughout the year. Words are celebrated and discussion and reflection are cultivated. Each year students in grades 1-8 participate in an annual Poetry Show of choral speaking while preschool and kindergarten classes put on a Sharing Show of poetry, songs, and music.

Learning to read. It begins in the early years with an understanding that children learn at varying stages, rates, and styles. Teachers provide a solid foundation in decoding skills, the development of sight vocabulary, and the use of context cues. In the primary years, students gain comprehension strategies and widen their ability to comprehend fiction and nonfiction while learning to apply questioning strategies in the middle years. Junior Great Books teaches methods of interpretation and shared inquiry discussion skills throughout grades and helps students become familiar with test taking.

Reading to learn. This is developed through weekly reading opportunities. Students explore nonfiction including magazines, maps, and reference books as well as topics integrated with social studies, science, and other areas of interest, and are guided to see that writing accompanies reading. They write reflections as they discover their own awareness of the world. Students learn how to read a magazine article, derive meaning from poetry, study a textbook, and comprehend complex primary and secondary sources. In the upper grades students learn to think critically and apply reading skills to literature reviews for science fair, social issues for Future Problem Solving, and research for National History Day. Using a broad range of media, students learn how to approach information with judgment and discernment.

Reading for enjoyment. This view uplifts reading from mere subjective “liking a book” to seeing reading as a means to broaden the soul. Students read broadly from historical and realistic fiction, folk tales, fantasy, biographies, great authors, and books on enduring themes. Each literature unit has a particular focus that teaches forms of analysis and nurtures growth experiences for the reader. From this rich involvement comes intellectual stimulation and challenge, an appreciation for master writers, a knowledge of all literary elements, and inspiration from the lives and experiences of characters, vicarious experiences of places and time, and increased empathy and understanding for all aspects of the human experience.

Reading Days. Students in the third through eighth grade spend one entire morning each month reading. This is a practice enjoyed by schools around the country call Sustained Silent Reading or SSR. Read more about this research-based practice grounded on the understanding that uninterrupted times of reading cause deep learning which, in turn, is engaging.

Avid Readers Club (ARC). This is an elective for students in grades 1-8 who would like to broaden their foundation of books that are considered classics as well as “stretch” intellectually by reading complex text. Each quarter, a selection will be offered for students to read at home, on their own, or with parents. Participants take part in lunchtime discussions filled with probing, open-ended questions about the book. Students in grades 1-4 can participate with Mrs. Sprau, and grades 1-5 are led by Mrs. Debelak.

Avid Readers Club Selections:

Grades 5-6